LEWISTON — Central Maine Medical Center's loss is MaineGeneral Medical Center's gain.
CMMC's four trauma surgeons are going to work for MaineGeneral in Augusta, doubling that hospital's staff of surgeons, according to MaineGeneral CEO Chuck Hays. The four doctors had made up CMMC's entire team of trauma surgeons. Three left earlier this year; the fourth is scheduled to leave this month. They weren't fired.
It is unclear exactly why the doctors decided to leave Lewiston. Chuck Gill, spokesman for Central Maine Healthcare, CMMC's parent organization, has said the hospital and surgeons had "a professional disagreement." On behalf of the doctors, surgeon Carlo Gammaitoni declined to talk about their reasons for leaving.
Gill said CMMC's trauma center continues to run, staffed with visiting surgeons.
Trauma programs care for the most severely injured emergency patients. Maine has three trauma centers, with one each in Lewiston, Portland and Bangor. Although MaineGeneral is building a $300-plus million hospital in Augusta, it currently has no trauma center. Hays said it has no plans to start one, and state officials say they have received no request from MaineGeneral about implementing such a program. Instead, the four doctors will perform general surgery and will be available for trauma surgeries that can be performed outside of a full trauma program.
"We are very excited about getting into that system," said Gammaitoni, who had served as director of CMMC's trauma program. "We're very excited about the prospects of the new hospital and its location, and their vision that they have. We're very happy that they've included us in their vision."
The three surgeons who left are Gammaitoni, Anita Praba-Egge and Ian Reight. The doctor slated to leave this month is Kevin Price. Hays said MaineGeneral had been looking to expand its surgical team when the four surgeons approached the hospital about working there.
"They've got an excellent reputation for quality and patient satisfaction. We're thrilled to have them," Hays said.
He said he had no concerns about hiring four surgeons who left another Maine hospital en masse.
"We certainly have the demand, so we were looking for general surgeons. We're actually ecstatic to have this group coming to MaineGeneral," Hays said.
The doctors will all start at MaineGeneral this summer.
CMMC has hired a consultant from Massachusetts General Hospital to oversee trauma program development, educational programs, quality improvement and physician recruitment. It is interviewing trauma surgeon candidates and candidates for trauma program director, a position now temporarily filled by Larry Hopperstead, who founded the program and served as its director for years before Gammaitoni took over.
CMMC is recruiting for that director jointly with Massachusetts General Hospital so that the surgeon will live and work in the Lewiston area but will have joint medical staff privileges at the Massachusetts hospital and may be able to teach at Harvard Medical School.
CMMC's trauma center verification by the American College of Surgeons — similar to certification — was set to expire June 11. CMMC has asked to put off its reverification.
"At our request, the June survey date is postponed," Gill wrote in an email. "We are in dialogue with the American College of Surgeons and we anticipate the new survey date to be set within the next six months."