BRUNSWICK – Parkview Adventist Medical Center is intensifying a 3-year-old effort to build a helipad on the northern edge of its Maine Street campus.

The proposal originated in 2006, but was delayed due to a variety of other projects, according to hospital officials.

The plan, which may draw resistance from neighbors, was submitted to the Planning Board last week. It is expected to be reviewed in December.

Parkview is seeking to merge with Lewiston’s Central Maine Medical Center, a move fiercely opposed by Mid Coast Hospital. The two Brunswick hospitals have been engaged in an increasingly bitter public relations battle as both angle for market share prior to the scheduled 2011 closure of Brunswick Naval Air Station.

Parkview Vice President Sheryl McWilliams insisted that the renewed pursuit of the helipad had nothing do with the proposed merger.

“This thing has never gone away,” McWilliams said. “We began the process in 2006. … There were periods where we were focused on other projects. … We began this process well before the process with CMMC.”

LifeFlight of Maine, which provides the airlift service, houses one of its helicopters at CMMC in Lewiston.

McWilliams said a helicopter would not be permanently based at Parkview. Rather, it would mainly be used to transport critically ill patients from Parkview to a higher-care facility, such as CMMC.

Mid Coast Hospital also has a helipad. Patients exceeding Mid Coast’s level of care are often transported to Maine Medical Center in Portland.

Several years ago Maine Medical Center opposed CMMC’s pulmonary unit expansion.

So far, Mid Coast officials are mum on Parkview’s helipad plan. Communications director Michael L’abbe said Mid Coast had no comment on the proposal.

The two hospitals have become increasingly hostile over the last two years. Parkview opposed Mid Coast’s $21 million expansion. It then sued two obstetricians for defecting to Mid Coast. The suit was settled earlier this year.

Mid Coast has vigorously opposed the CMMC merger with Parkview, and had conducted an advertising and direct-mail blitz that said the region could not sustain more than one full-service hospital.

Two Parkview doctors and a stakeholder responded by claiming Mid Coast sought a monopoly and accused its officials of “spreading lies, gossip and falsehoods.”

It’s uncertain if Parkview’s helipad will produce similar confrontations. It’s also unclear if Planning Board Chairman Charlie Frizzle will participate in deliberations.

Frizzle is the vice chairman of the Mid Coast Hospital Board of Directors.

Neighborhood opposition, however, is likely. Residents in the Meadowbrook neighborhood opposed the helipad when it was originally proposed in 2006.

McWilliams acknowledged concerns about noise, but stressed the helipad would only be used in life-threatening instances – approximately one to two times a month.

“The only time to justify using the helipad is a situation where minutes or seconds can mean the difference between life or death,” she said.

McWilliams added that unlike an ambulance, the LifeFlight helicopters contain mini-intensive care units.

McWilliams said engineers considered several locations for the helipad, but determined the area near the emergency room was the most effective place.

Parkview would have to make some alterations to its parking lot, should the plan be approved.

The Planning Board hearing for the proposal has not been scheduled. McWilliams said the hospital hopes to be on the December agenda.

The project will cost $50,000 and will be funded from a transportation bond that expires in June of 2009.


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