Opinion

Mayo Regional Hospital is at a crossroad

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It has been my honor and pleasure to serve our communities on two fronts over the last 32 years; as a physician and as a Mayo Regional Hospital board member. The hospital’s financial status is in serious peril, with an operating loss of $1.5 million through the first four months of the fiscal year we could potentially see an operating loss of $4.5 million by the end of the fiscal year. This trend is unsustainable and the genesis of consideration of a merger with Northern Light Health. This process has been addressed for several years and has culminated in the passage by the Mayo board of an “Agreement and Plan of Merger” between the two institutions last week. This is not a final contract of “incorporation.” Rather, the Mayo board will continue to address any questions put forth by the community in a transparent and factual manner via town educational sessions.

Mayo operates under a charter (HAD 4) that was created in 1973 by the Maine Legislature for the establishment of a regional hospital. Clearly stated within that document were the following excerpts regarding the responsibilities and powers of the board:

“The district shall be governed by a board of directors, composed of one member from each town or plantation, which member shall be elected by vote at the annual town meeting … The board of directors shall constitute the governing body of the district …”

The number of directors per town was amended in 1974.

The concept of the hospital boards’ powers have been challenged by a handful of citizens and questioned by some legislators. Hospital board members are elected officials with the authority to govern the hospital. This is parallel to the power we give any elected officials to vote on our behalf. When we elect government representatives to vote on bills, we do so without every citizen voting to approve their actions. Thus, the Mayo board of each town in HAD 4, can make decisions such as this. The people of HAD 4 have entrusted us to do what is best for the hospital and to ensure quality care for the region. That is our priority.

The merger and affiliation that the board overwhelmingly approved is dependent on a change in legislation. The change would amend the present charter to allow a merger to take place. Without it, we may not be able to proceed.

Based on the financial picture alone, a merger with Northern Light Health speaks for itself. Our institution is attractive to Northern Light today but if this downward financial trend continues, it may not be the case six months from now. Moving ahead expeditiously is critical.

This merger would bring a number of benefits. For example, the development of an aggregate Piscataquis County health care delivery system providing enhanced quality of care. Northern Light C.A. Dean Hospital in Greenville would become a “sister” hospital, allowing more provider choices and enhanced access and coverage. In addition, retention of specialty clinical services, recruitment and retention of providers, call coverage and access to care would be eased.

The alternative is the potential loss or significant downsizing of Mayo Regional Hospital. With almost 400 full-time employees and their families, the effects on our local economy would be devastating. Even more importantly, many clinical services that we depend on would vanish, Finding a provider would become more challenging and access to local care and reliable coverage would be compromised.

I do not present these comments to enhance fear in our community, but to present to you the reality of healthcare in our region, we are not alone. The national trend for rural hospitals shows financial challenges and a search for hospital system affiliation. The gloomy picture has already struck close to home with the bankruptcy of Penobscot Valley Hospital in Lincoln, An affiliation with Northern Light is imperative.

Over the last 30 years, as a surgeon, so many of you have trusted me with your lives. Today I write to you as vice chairman of the Mayo Regional Hospital board of directors and a fellow community member. Together, we must assure that Mayo Regional Hospital remains viable and continues to deliver comprehensive quality care.

Dr. Cabot is vice chair of the Mayo Regional Hospital Board of Directors, representing the town of Sangerville.

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