BRUNSWICK – A new $3.5 million urgent care and diagnostic center proposed to the state by Mid Coast Hospital as an alternative to an affiliation between Central Maine Healthcare of Lewiston and Parkview Adventist Medical Center is an “unfortunate” use of time, energy and resources, Parkview spokeswoman Sheryl McWilliams said.

Central Maine Healthcare’s spokesman, Chuck Gill, was more blunt.

“It’s yet another dumb idea from Mid Coast,” he said.

On Tuesday, the State Department of Health and Human Services’ Certificate of Need Unit received a letter from Mid Coast Hospital President and CEO Herbert Paris proposing that instead of approving the Parkview proposal, the state consider the Mid Coast project because it “provides assurance to the state that the mid-coast region can be better served with a single integrated health-care system and can avoid the costly duplication that CMHC is proposing for our community. With very little incremental investment, Mid Coast is prepared to meet the health-care needs of the entire Mid-coast region.”

The cost of the project, said Robert McCue, vice president of finance for Mid Coast Hospital, “will be, we estimate, almost $18.5 million per year less than what it would cost CMHC to continue to operate the Parkview hospital.”

Gill called Midcoast’s assertion “absurd,” saying that hospital’s proposed urgent care and diagnostic center isn’t about integrating care and saving the community money – it’s about running Parkview out of business.

“They should grow up and stop acting like a whining child,” he said.

McWilliams said the “financial challenges” Parkview experienced in 2007 are turning around, and the hospital’s finances are “tracking extremely well compared to how we had projected. We are improving. We put measures into place to ensure we would improve. We made changes in our services to better meet the needs of our community.”

In February, citing “an extremely challenging” 2007, Parkview closed its maternity unit. Reasons included a legal battle between Parkview and two of three obstetrician/gynecologists who resigned from Parkview Women’s Healthcare in 2006.

That suit ultimately was settled in June of this year. Three days after the maternity unit closed, Parkview and Central Maine Healthcare announced the proposed alliance.

“Joining the CMMC family ensures our continued ability to meet current and future health-care needs in our community,” Parkview CEO Ted Lewis wrote in a statement at the time. “Our commitment to providing quality health care continues and it will have added resources as a result of joining the Central Maine Medical family. We will now be able to tap into the specialized management expertise and clinical resources of a tertiary medical center such as CMMC.”

In a financial report dated May 23, 2008, independent auditors of the hospital said that from December 2006 to December 2007, Parkview lost $7.5 million, leaving its assets $9.1 million short of its liabilities, and raising “substantial doubt about the medical center’s ability to continue as a going concern.” The year 2007 was the fourth of five years the hospital’s expenses exceeded its revenues, according to information from the Maine Health Data Organization, the agency that receives the financial audit results.

In response to the audit, Parkview pointed to the pending affiliation with Central Maine Healthcare, as well as a $5.6 million loan from CMHC and asked the state for $3 million in MaineCare back payments.

Paris alluded to Parkview’s finances as a reason to favor Mid Coast’s competing proposal.

“Given that Parkview is not a viable entity, we believe that Central Maine Healthcare’s proposal should be viewed in the same context as if they were proposing to build a new hospital,” Paris wrote, adding that the CMHC proposal “is inconsistent with the State Health Plan, is unnecessary, and will significantly increase the cost of health care in the region. … This is a question as to whether it is in the public interest to allow CMHC to subsidize a failing hospital for the sole purpose of gaining access to a new market that will provide referrals to Central Maine Medical Center.”

Gill said Mid Coast is simply upset by the Parkview/Central Maine Healthcare affiliation.

“Parkview has decided to become part of Central Maine Healthcare just like Bridgton Hospital and just like Rumford Hospital. Mid Coast Hospital just can’t stand that, and so they’re trying every possible thing to discredit Parkview, to make outrageous statements, to make that not happen,” Gill said.

Full-page ads for both hospitals appeared in Wednesday’s edition of The Times Record. On page 3, a Parkview advertisement stated, “Take me to Parkview” and touted the specially trained board-certified physicians and nurses at its emergency room, as well as its ability to provide “quality and compassionate care, quickly.”

A page 13 advertisement for Mid Coast Hospital bluntly stated: “The Mid Coast Region Can Support Only One Full-Service Hospital.” The advertisement also stated “the proposed takeover of Parkview will mean travel to Lewiston,” and warned that Parkview is “saddled with debt.”

CMHC has proposed to acquire PAMC but not invest in services or facilities, the ad states, adding, “What the takeover means is that Parkview patients will need to travel to Lewiston for specialty care instead of getting advanced health-care services here at home in the Mid-coast region.”

“That could not be further from the truth,” McWilliams said today. “We are working collaboratively with CMMC. This is not a takeover, this is not a buyout. We are joining the CMMC family. The community very clearly wants to have a choice. The path (Mid Coast) is following is to remove choice from the region and the people from this region. Our best years lie ahead and we will continue to make that choice available, and a high-quality choice at that.

“We won the Avatar award this year. We were the best in the nation, and that was on page 4 of the paper,” McWilliams continued. “We were the best in the nation for patient satisfaction for hospitals 50 beds to 100 beds. For several years in a row, we have been the best in the state for medication safety. We’re doing great things here.”

McWilliams said an example of CMMC and Parkview “working together and not wanting to shift things to Lewiston” is Dr. Adam Owen, M.D., a pain specialist, who now practices at Parkview. “They’re not sticking him up in Lewiston,” she said. “They’re bringing him right here.”

Steven Keaten, health care financial analyst at the Certificate of Need Unit at DHHS, said Wednesday that such battles between hospitals are not unheard of in the state.

“It’s been awhile since I’ve seen it, but it has gone on in the past,” he said. “Before Mid Coast built their current hospital, it was in the courts for four years being fought out between them and Parkview.”

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