Western Maine Health Care Corporation to take dialogue about a unified system to local communities

June 11, 2017

Contemplates change in governance model and financial structure and seeks community feedback

The member organizations of MaineHealth over the past eight months have been in preliminary discussions about reorganizing themselves under a single Board of Trustees and combined financial structure, have decided to take that conversation to the communities they serve. Western Maine Health Care Corporation, which includes, Stephens Memorial Hospital, is a member of MaineHealth.

In a series of board votes at nine of the 10 entities that make up Northern New England’s largest healthcare system, MaineHealth members decided over the course of the past month that the time was right to engage their communities in a dialogue over what the organization calls “unification.” One organization, Memorial Hospital in North Conway, N.H., will be slightly delayed in its outreach and procedural votes so that it can address a regulatory process specific to New Hampshire.

The proposal under discussion would create a single, system-wide Board of Trustees for MaineHealth. It would also leave in place local boards that would retain significant responsibility for the hospital services and other care delivered in local communities.

The inability to deploy resources across the system has become a significant problem for MaineHealth’s community hospitals in recent years, which are under increasing financial pressure because of changes in the way health care is being delivered.

“The good news,” said Bill Caron, president of MaineHealth, “is that, overall, MaineHealth is in strong financial shape. We believe that MaineHealth is positioned, as a system, to deliver the right care in the right place at the right time for all our patients.”

“The new structure being considered leaves in place a strong role for local boards and includes safeguards aimed at making sure communities will continue to receive the services they need,” said Timothy A. Churchill, Western Maine Health President and Chief Executive Officer. “The governance proposal under consideration includes local oversight of care quality and the credentialing of doctors and other providers, a continued relationship with local donors, a defined role in the budget and planning process, and oversight of community health initiatives.”

“It is very important we preserve local identity and don’t lose the input of people in our communities,” said Susannah Swihart, chair of the MaineHealth Board of Trustees. That’s why, Swihart said, the member boards across MaineHealth decided they needed to turn to their local communities for a dialogue about the proposed changes. “Before any final decisions are made, we need to hear from our community stakeholders. We believe we’ve found a balance that allows us to leverage our system resources to deliver care across our service area while maintaining significant local decision making. But we’re anxious to hear if the people in the communities we serve think so as well.”

Throughout the summer, MaineHealth member organizations will be meeting with individuals and community groups to explain the unification proposal and gather feedback. Each member organization also plans to hold one or more community forums open to the public between now and the end of August. Stephens Memorial Hospital will hold its panel-based community forum on Wednesday, June 28, in the Harper Conference Center (193 Main Street, Norway, Maine) from 5:00-6:30 p.m. The public is invited to come, learn more, and ask questions.

Find out more about MaineHealth's Unification Dialogue