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The project also took a step forward in the City of Portland’s review process.
PORTLAND, Maine – State regulators this week granted final approval to the proposed $512 million expansion and renovation project at Maine Medical Center. The project also cleared the first step in the City of Portland’s review process at a meeting of the Planning Board on Tuesday evening.
The Maine Department of Health and Human Services has issued a Certificate of Need (CON) for the project, the major milestone in the state’s regulatory review process. State regulators had issued a preliminary finding in support of the project in August, and Acting DHHS Commissioner Ricker Hamilton issued final approval in a letter dated Sept. 26.
“There has never been a doubt about the clinical need for this project. It has been clear to all that we need to expand and modernize to provide the best possible care for our patients,” said MMC President and CEO Richard Petersen. “We are very appreciative of the deliberative and professional work done by the state’s Certificate of Need Unit. “
The expansion project also moved forward with the City of Portland. On Tuesday, the Planning Board gave its approval to a new planning and regulatory framework for MMC’s main campus. That framework now goes to the City Council.
The city process has been marked by a thoughtful and ongoing dialogue among MMC, neighborhood representatives and city officials. Based on feedback from neighbors, MMC has made modifications to the parking plan for the project, eliminating the need to build a 13-story garage on Congress Street, and instead moving employee parking to a parcel on St. John Street.
“Working with the city and its staff, with representatives from each of our local neighborhood groups and other stakeholders, we have improved our original plan and created a solution that will serve the needs of our patients, our community and all of Maine,” said Jeff Sanders, MMC’s executive vice president and chief operating officer.
MMC officials say the need for the project in Portland is being driven by a combination of aging infrastructure and evolving standards of medical care.
Buildings on the hospital’s main campus date to the late 1800s, and more than half the patient rooms are in buildings more than 40 years old, with some in buildings nearly 80 years old. In some cases – as with the existing employee parking garage – facilities have simply reached the end of their useful life.
Adding to the hospital’s challenges is the changing nature of modern medicine. Single patient rooms are now the standard, and across the country any new hospital room that is built is “private.” This is because many of the less-complex procedures formerly performed in hospitals are now done on an out-patient basis. What this means is that the patients admitted to a hospital today are, on average, sicker than those in the past. Every day at MMC it is necessary to close beds in double, or semi-private, rooms because so many patients are just too sick to have roommates.
The hospital also needs newer, larger rooms for surgeries and other complex procedures to accommodate rapidly evolving technology.
In response to these needs, MMC plans to add 128 single patient rooms and 19 modern procedure rooms to its main campus. MMC also plans to replace the existing employee parking garage with a new one off of St. John Street. The project would create a new main entrance for the hospital facing onto Congress Street.
“This project is vital to our ability to continue to offer great, world-class care to the community,” said Joel Botler, senior vice president and chief medical officer at MMC. “Medicine is changing, and today Maine Medical Center plays a vital role caring for the most acutely ill patients. We are excited that this project is moving forward because it will allow us to continue to excel in that role.”
MMC officials expect the Portland City Council to take up the new planning and regulatory framework in November and they are hopeful that the city can then review the construction plans ahead of a March 2018 groundbreaking. Construction is expected to take approximately four years.
About Maine Medical Center
Maine Medical Center (MMC), recognized as a Best Regional Hospital by U.S. News and World Report for 2017-2018, is a complete health care resource for the people of Greater Portland and the entire state, as well as northern New England. Incorporated in 1868, MMC is the state’s largest medical center, licensed for 637 beds and employing nearly 7,500 people. MMC's unique role as both a community hospital and a referral center requires an unparalleled depth and breadth of services, including an active educational program and a world-class biomedical research center. As a nonprofit institution, Maine Medical Center provides nearly 23 percent of all the charity care delivered in Maine. MMC is a member of the MaineHealth system, a growing family of health care services in northern New England. For more information, visit www.mmc.org.
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