Community forums on potential Mayo/Northern Light Health merger start next month

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DOVER-FOXCROFT – Mayo Regional Hospital has announced four community forums to provide updates and answer questions regarding the potential merger with Northern Light Health, a statewide health care system. The forums will be held in four of the 13 towns that make up Hospital Administrative District (HAD) 4 and will provide an opportunity for citizens in the district to learn more about what a merger might mean for the hospital and local access to quality care.

The forums will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on the following dates and locations:

Monday, April 1 in the Ridge View Community School cafeteria, 175 Fern Road in Dexter;

Tuesday, April 2 in the Morton Avenue Municipal Building gym, 48 Morton Avenue in Dover-Foxcroft;

Tuesday, April 9 at the Guilford United Methodist Church, 3 School Street in Guilford; and

Thursday, April 18 in the Penquis Valley School gym, 48 Penquis Drive in Milo.

“Now that the HAD 4 board of directors has overwhelmingly voted to proceed toward a merger agreement with Northern Light Health, the details of the potential agreement are public,” said Mayo Regional Hospital President & CEO Marie Vienneau. “With that, our hospital and Northern Light Health can provide details on what is contained within the agreement, and answer questions and address any concerns that might exist. This is an important part of the process and it is our hope that people who live in the district are able to visit one of these forums to learn about the opportunities ahead.”

In late February the HAD 4 board voted 15-3 to proceed toward a merger agreement with Northern Light Health. The vote was held citing Mayo’s progressively worsening financial situation, and the reality that Mayo Regional Hospital needs to partner with a larger organization. It followed months of due diligence, planning, and gathering public input, as well as a board review of the agreement negotiated between representatives for Mayo Regional Hospital and Northern Light Health.

In addition to community forums on the topic, several steps remain for the merger to be permitted. Among those steps: the Northern Light Health board needs to approve the agreement, which enables further due diligence of clinical and business models in advance of any closing transaction. A state review of the merger would be required through a formal Certificate of Need application and analysis process before a final board vote by HAD 4. These multiple steps provide additional opportunities for all stakeholders to examine the proposed restructuring.

“We are seeing more and more national news stories about the bleak outlook for small rural hospitals,” Vienneau said. “We certainly are not immune to the challenges faced nationwide. However, we have the opportunity to make a change by merging with an organization that understands rural health care in Maine. It’s our responsibility to take that opportunity on behalf of the people counting on that care.”

Similar to Northern Light Health arrangements with other hospitals, Mayo and its clinics would remain open under the merger and providers could continue providing quality care to people living in Piscataquis County.

Because Mayo Regional Hospital is owned and operated as a Hospital Administrative District, its board is made up of members who are elected by the communities served by the hospital. HAD 4 is the only HAD left in Maine and is a quasi-governmental agency with taxing power. The effect of the merger would be to transform the HAD into a Maine charitable tax-exempt nonprofit corporation that would have a community-based board but would not have taxing authority. This would relieve the towns in the HAD from potential liability for the certain indebtedness of the hospital.

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