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Maine Health's hospital members orgs consolidate into single nonprofit system

Combining will help MaineHealth "build a system of integrated care," notably including a common electronic medical records system.

Beth Jones Sanborn, Managing Editor

All member hospitals of MaineHealth will fully consolidate as of January 1, the system announced after final approval was given to unify into a single not-for-profit organization. The plan, which has been in the works for the past two years., will add strength and efficiency to the system, officials said. This means that Maine Medical Center, Southern Maine Health Care, LincolnHealth, Coastal Healthcare Alliance, Western Maine Health, Franklin Community Health Network and Maine Behavioral Healthcare will all be governed by a single Board of Trustees. Each local organization though will still maintain a local board that will help oversee the care delivered in each community.
The MaineHealth Board of Trustees will have the final word about what occurs at each hospital.

THE IMPACT

Consolidation will help MaineHealth "build a system of integrated care," notably including a common electronic medical records system to serve local health systems across the state and 1.1 million people. The new combined health system will comprise 19,000 employees and more than $3 billion in annual revenues.

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THE TREND

Rural hospital closings have been rising in recent years due to regulatory changes, reimbursement cuts and more than half operating on negative margins. Earlier this month, in fact, the U.S. Department of Health Human Services Government Accountability Office predicted that rural hospitals owned by for-profit entities are more likely to close than their nonprofit brethren.

A major driver of mergers and acquisitions has been the boost in resources that comes with being part of a larger system. That is true for stand-alone hospitals and physician practices.

In North Carolina, for instance, community challenges, state and local government policies and demographics have shone a light on struggles common across the nation.

MaineHealth said the inability to deploy resources across a system consisting of independent member organizations had proven problematic for community hospitals, with many under growing financial stress thanks to changes in the healthcare landscape.

ON THE RECORD
"Two years ago MaineHealth members began a dialogue on how they could better leverage the strength of the whole system to make sure each community got the services it needed," said George Hissong, Jr, Chair, Southern Maine Health Care Board of Trustees. "We are pleased with the final decision and look forward to seeing the benefits of unification in our communities."
Nate Howell, CEO, Southern Maine Health Care, added: "Unification strengthens Southern Maine Health Care from a healthcare delivery, financial and sustainable perspective. By bringing the members together, resources can now flow more easily between various parts of the healthcare system."

Twitter: @BethJSanborn
Email the writer: beth.sanborn@himssmedia.com