HOSPITAL HOLDS SECOND MEETING ABOUT MAINEHEALTH MERGE

by Gair on April 12, 2013

MORE THAN 100 PEOPLE TURNED OUT THURSDAY EVENING IN NORTH CONWAY TO GET THE LATEST UPDATES ON MEMORIAL HOSPITAL’S PLAN TO MERGE WITH MAINEHEALTH, THE PORTLAND BASED NOT- FOR-PROFIT ORGANIZATION THAT OWNS MAINE MEDICAL CENTER AND NEARLY A DOZEN OTHER HEALTH-RELATED ORGANIZATIONS IN MAINE.

MEMORIAL TRUSTEE CHAIR GENE BERGOFFEN WELCOMED AUDIENCE MEMBERS TO THE RED JACKET MOUNTAIN VIEW RESORT AND QUICKLY TURNED THE MEETING OVER TO MEMORIAL PRESIDENT AND CEO SCOTT McKINNON, WHO ASSERTED THE MERGER WOULD IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF HEALTH CARE – INCLUDING PREVENTIVE CARE – MEMORIAL CAN PROVIDE TO ITS PATIENTS.

McKINNON IN TURN INTRODUCED THE CEO OF MAINEHEALTH – WILLIAM CARON, JR. – WHO SPOKE ABOUT THE BENEFITS OF THE PROPOSED PARTNERSHIP – SAYING THE GOAL WILL BE TO ACHIEVE THE HEALTHIEST COMMUNITIES IN AMERICA. CARON SAID MAINEHEALTH AND MEMORIAL SHARE THE SAME VALUES AND VISION – AND THAT MORE THAN 500 PATIENTS FROM THE VALLEY GO TO MAINE MEDICAL CENTER FOR TREATMENT EVERY YEAR.

THE CEO OF STEPHENS MEMORIAL HOSPITAL IN NORWAY, MAINE – TIM CHURCHILL – SPOKE OF THE POSITIVE BENEFITS – INCLUDING THE ABILITY TO PROVIDE MORE EFFICIENT SERVICES – HIS HOSPITAL HAS ENJOYED SINCE IT PARTNERED WITH MAINEHEALTH IN 1999.

AUDIENCE MEMBERS ASKED ABOUT HEALTH INSURANCE PLANS, PATIENT ACCESS TO SPECIALISTS, HOW THE QUALITY OF CARE IN THE VALLEY WILL IMPROVE, WHETHER MEMORIAL WOULD CONTINUE TO OWN ITS OWN BUILDINGS AND ASSETS – AND WHETHER THE MAJORITY OF MEMORIAL’S BOARD MEMBERS WOULD STILL BE SELECTED FROM THE VALLEY AREA. CARON EXPLAINED THAT MAINEHEALTH OPERATES UNDER A SELF-GOVERNANCE MODEL WHERE MEMBER ORGANIZATIONS NOMINATE THEIR OWN BOARD MEMBERS.

MOST OF THOSE WHO ASKED QUESTIONS SEEMED TO BE SATISFIED WITH THE ANSWERS THEY WERE GIVEN – ALTHOUGH ONE ATTENDEE CALLED THE PUBLIC MEETINGS QUOTE “A SHAM.”

THREE DOCTORS AT MEMORIAL – INCLUDING CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER DR. RAY RABIDEAU – ENTHUSIASTICALLY ENDORSED THE MERGER PLAN AND SPOKE OF THEIR POSITIVE EXPERIENCES IN DEALING WITH MAINEHEALTH.

FORMER MEMORIAL TRUSTEE GEORGE EPSTEIN – AN OUTSPOKEN CRITIC OF THE PLAN – TOOK THE MICROPHONE FOR SEVERAL MINUTES, AS HE DID AT THE FIRST PUBLIC MEETING IN NOVEMBER – TO DENOUNCE IT. HE SAYS THE PLAN WOULD END THE INDEPENDENCE OF MEMORIAL, CALLING IT A “BUSINESS DECISION THAT’S BEEN SHOVED DOWN OUR THROAT… THAT WE HAVE A RIGHT TO CHALLENGE.” EPSTEIN ’S BASIC ARGUMENT AGAINST THE MERGER IS THAT MEMORIAL WILL NOT GET ANY ADVANTAGE – OR ADDED VALUE – BY JOINING MAINEHEALTH.

AS OTHERS HAVE DONE BEFORE, MEMORIAL BOARD MEMBER JANICE CRAWFORD REFUTED EPSTEIN’S ASSERTION MEMORIAL HAD NOT EXPLORED MERGER OPTIONS WITH OTHER HOSPITALS.

THE BOARDS OF MEMORIAL AND MAINEHEALTH HAVE APPROVED A DEFINITIVE AGREEMENT FOR THE MERGER, WHICH NOW GOES TO THE NEW HAMPSHIRE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR REVIEW.

A FINAL AGREEMENT COULD BE REACHED SOMETIME THIS SUMMER. WRITTEN COMMENTS ON THE PLAN CAN BE SUBMITTED TO MEMORIAL HOSPITAL. FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT IT, SEE THE WEBSITE AT www.memorialhospitalnh.org.

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