Hospital Integration Done Right: CEO Explains How Two Maine Hospitals Merged, with Their Community’s Blessing

BRUNSWICK, ME – In August 2015, Mid Coast Health Services acquired Parkview Adventist Medical Center, halting what had been a decades-long medical arms race between the two Maine hospitals.  But this was no hostile take-over–this unique integration ultimately put the health of a community ahead of the hospitals’ long-standing and acrimonious competition.

Mid Coast–Parkview Health President and CEO Lois Skillings recounts the steps to finessing this hospital integration, which was ultimately embraced by the community as well as hospital employees, on a Collaborative Health Network’s HealthDoers Live Event at https://vimeo.com/149412710 The two hospitals, situated five miles apart in this small Midcoast Maine community, historically served a robust community that included Bath Iron Works and the Brunswick Naval Air Station. But BIW’s employment has contracted and in 2011 the air station closed, leaving the two hospitals competing to serve 75,000.

The two hospitals were locked in a race to the bottom, Skillings explained, as neither facility had the patients they needed to sustain their medical care services or facilities. In a historic move, last summer both hospital boards agreed to negotiate a merger. Skillings, who had worked at Mid Coast for more than three decades, and Parkview leaders collaborated and leveraged their personal and professional relationships to make the integration as transparent as possible to bring fearful community members on board.

“It was not about subsuming another entity, it was about bringing two cultures together,” Skillings explains in the webinar. Parkview’s dedication to preventive and spiritual health was preserved, while Mid Coast’s health network of primary care practices and emergency department facilities were tapped to provide the high-cost, acute care.

In addition to constantly speaking publicly to reassure Rotary, municipal, and business groups that they were not losing a hospital but gaining improved healthcare, Parkview and Mid Coast officials set up 17 transition teams to ensure quality patient care and promised no part- or full-time employees lost their jobs. The public forums gave the healthcare leaders an opportunity educate the community about the importance of preventive and primary care, and how a health system should work to support community health.

“Rather than think about losing or closing a hospital, we explained that this was actually a right-sizing and realignment of healthcare,” Skillings explained. Community pride is important, she noted, but at the end of the day having access to affordable, patient-centered care is paramount.

Listen to the webinar to hear Skillings detail her integration strategies, including the merger’s impact on the area’s hospital costs (already 25 percent below the state’s average–they expect no rate hikes in the next year), and also the human resource implication of the integration.

Their healthcare vision for 2020 is found at http://healthdoers.bravenew.com/c/healthdoers-open-community/i/the-mid-coastparkview-health-2020-vision-transforming/ and the webinar video is at https://vimeo.com/149412710.