Sangerville

Twelve of 13 towns vote in favor of Mayo/Northern Light Health merger

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Residents and/or town officials of 12 of the 13 Hospital Administrative District 4 member communities have voted in favor of the proposed merger between Mayo Regional Hospital in Dover-Foxcroft and Northern Light Health, a statewide system comprised of hospitals across Maine.

The non-binding town meeting votes on the plan were scheduled across the communities last month to help area legislators make a decision on submitting a bill to amend the hospital district charter to pave the way for a merger.

Sangerville citizens voted in favor of the plan via a 78-4 count during a Tuesday, April 30 special town meeting to become the 12th and final community to do so.

The evening before the proposed merger was OKed in Atkinson at 8-0, 48-4 in Guilford,14-5 in Parkman and 29-13 in Sebec.

Residents of Dover-Foxcroft approved the plan by a count of 136-7 during the annual town meeting on April 27. That same day a similar question passed 11-8 at a Willimantic special town meeting.

A majority of citizens in Abbot and Monson OKed the proposal via respective special town meeting votes of 23-13 and 20-6 on the evening of April 25.

The Dexter Town Council unanimously approved the plan with councilors’ votes on April 11. In Bradford the tallies were 20 residents in favor and one opposed on April 22 and the next night the measure passed 25-0 in Milo.

Cambridge is the lone community to vote down the merger plan, doing so via a 22-12 count at the first of 12 special town meetings April 20.

The combined tallies between the dozen communities with selectmen’s/town meeting governments was 434 to 73, about 85.6 percent.

In February directors of HAD 4, the quasi-municipal entity that owns and oversees the hospital, voted 15-3 to proceed toward a merger agreement. In March Northern Light directors unanimously approved the merger. Those involved have cited finances and a continuation of services — such as primary care, inpatient, OB, ER, ambulance and oncology — as key reasons for pursuing the merger.

During the Dover-Foxcroft town meeting at the Morton Avenue Municipal Building Rep. Norm Higgins, I-Dover-Foxcroft explained he, Reps. Paul Stearns, R-Guilford and Steven Foster, R-Dexter and Sen. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville started meeting with Mayo Regional Hospital officials in November as well as meeting with other legislators in Augusta.

“HAD 4 is the last hospital administrative district in the state of Maine and it was formed by a special law,” Higgins said. “Basically it comes down to the charter needing to be amended.”

He said the HAD 4 charter describes the process for dissolving the district but there is not language for a merger. Such an amendment would need to be done via an amendment approved by the Legislature.

“As legislators we were asked if we would consider legislation and we said we would consider it,” Higgins said.
The representative said he and his colleagues asked that four public forums be held across HAD 4 and Davis submitted a bill requiring town meetings be held in the 12 communities with a selectmen’s/town meeting form of government prior to May 7 to see what residents thought about the proposal.

“We are going to need to look at all the votes that have taken place,” Higgins said. “And try to figure out exactly what the votes have told us and make a decision on legislation.”

“We expect to have a draft of the bill this week to review and then our local legislators will review as well as the results,” Higgins said in an email the day after the Sangerville vote. “The results from the towns speak clearly the direction we need to proceed. The 12 towns in support of the merger represent 97.4 percent of the residents in HAD 4.”

“I have been asked on what are the next steps on the merger between HAD 4 and Northern Light Health,” Higgins said in a Facebook post on May 2. “The legislation directing towns to vote established May 7 as the deadline for towns to act. To ensure we respect that legislation new legislation to proceed will not occur until after May 7.”

The head of Mayo said the votes should provide a clear path forward for legislators.

“The number of people who came out to these town meetings to cast their vote shows us that this issue is so important to people in this region,” Mayo Regional Hospital President and CEO Marie Vienneau said in a statement. “The overwhelming amount of support for keeping quality care close and moving forward with this merger is an important step forward in the entire process. The next step moves to the Legislature, but we are hoping that the show of support for the merger locally is being heard loud and clear in Augusta.”

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