Sangerville

Public hearing on Mayo merger bill Wednesday in Augusta

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AUGUSTA — A public hearing on bill “LD 1708” to amend the HAD 4 charter to authorize the merger between Mayo Regional Hospital in Dover-Foxcroft and Northern Light Health, a statewide system comprised of hospitals across Maine, has been scheduled by the 129th Legislature’s state and local government committee for 11 a.m. on Wednesday, May 15 in Augusta at the Cross Building, Room 214. More information is available at http://legislature.maine.gov/committee/#Committees/SLG.

The bill is being presented by Rep. Norm Higgins, I-Dover-Foxcroft, who announced the public hearing in a Facebook post on May 10. The bill is cosponsored by Reps. Paul Stearns, R-Guilford and Steven Foster, R-Dexter and Sen. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville

Over the last month residents and/or town officials of 13 of the 14 Hospital Administrative District 4 member communities — Cambridge was the lone community to vote down the plan — approved the proposed merger between Mayo Regional Hospital and Northern Light Health. The non-binding town meeting votes were held to help area legislators make a decision on submitting a bill to amend the hospital district charter to pave the way for a merger.

The combined tallies between the dozen communities with selectmen’s/town meeting governments was 434 to 73, about 85.6 percent. The measure was also approved by a unanimous vote of the Dexter Town Council.

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.

HAD 4 is the last hospital administrative district in the state, formed by the Legislature in the mid-1970s. The HAD 4 charter describes the process for dissolving the district but there is not language for a merger. The addition of such a provision would need to be done via an amendment approved in Augusta.

As part of the process, the four representatives 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.

“The results from the towns speak clearly the direction we need to proceed,” Higgins said in an email on May 1 after all of the town meeting votes had taken place. He said the communities “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.”

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