Editorial merits clarification

Posted:  Monday, January 15, 2018 - 3:30pm

It is rare that we feel compelled to respond directly to editorials and letters in the paper, but we believe that some of Editor Emerita Mary Brewer’s comments in her Jan. 4 editorial, “Relinquishing precious controls in 2019: A hard pill to swallow,” merit clarification.

Ms. Brewer writes that, “For several years, LincolnHealth, which operates Miles and St. Andrews, has been a part of MaineHealth, one of 16 (we think) statewide medical facilities under the leadership of Maine Medical Center.” In fact, St. Andrews and Miles were the first two community hospitals to join MaineHealth in 1997. MaineHealth consists of 10 healthcare organizations serving 1.1 million people in southern, western, central and coastal Maine as well as Carroll County, N.H. Maine Medical Center is one of these 10 organizations, albeit the largest.

Contrary to the assertion that, “We’ve always maintained our own board of trustees, handled our own finances, and made our own decisions,” MaineHealth members have always been interdependent. While each MaineHealth member has had its own board of trustees, all trustee elections, annual budgets and major financial decisions, (including any changes in the services we provide), have required approval from the MaineHealth Board of Trustees since 1997.
Ms. Brewer then goes on to write, “that’s all about to change come 2019. All of the participating MaineHealth hospitals will pool their finances and be governed by one board of trustees, which will determine what’s good or bad for the individual hospitals.” In fact, the proposal to unify MaineHealth members would retain a significant role for our local board, overseeing the quality and safety of care here, the credentialing of providers and the development of local budgets and strategic plans, which, just as before, will require approval from the MaineHealth board.

Ms. Brewer then goes on to say the following: “We’re not at all happy, either, that all of the hospitals will be pooling their finances, and hospitals experiencing financial difficulties can draw money from those with more stable bottom lines.” It’s been many years since St. Andrews and Miles had truly healthy bottom lines, and while it’s true that MaineHealth member organizations are pooling their finances, it’s important to know that Maine Medical Center is one of those participating organizations. MMC’s financial strength is significantly stronger than the other nine member organizations combined. MMC’s contribution to the pooled fund will be used (in part) to maintain access to health care in small communities like those in Lincoln County.

Healthcare is complicated and is changing very rapidly. That’s why the LincolnHealth Trustees and management would like to encourage Ms. Brewer, anyone else she is including as “we,” and residents throughout Lincoln County who have questions and concerns to contact me. Or, please consider joining our monthly St. Andrews Community Committee. The breakfast is great, and the discussion helps us focus on the care the community needs and wants.