Mayo Regional Hospital should merge with Northern Light, state regulators say

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State regulators have given preliminary support to a proposed merger of Mayo Regional Hospital in Dover-Foxcroft with Northern Light Health, the statewide health care system that includes Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.

In a 72-page report released this week, staff from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services said that because of financial difficulties, the Dover-Foxcroft hospital probably wouldn’t be able to survive in the long run without affiliating with a larger organization.

The hospital has had operating losses every year since 2010, but leaders of it and Northern Light Health have projected that they could reduce those losses to zero within three years of merging, according to the report.

In the preliminary report, which must now undergo a 10-day public comment period, staff recommended that Maine DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew approve the merger.

After the public comment period ends, it could take at least three or four weeks for the department to review the report and make a final decision, according to Maine DHHS spokesperson Jackie Farwell.

By law, all Maine hospital mergers must receive a so-called “certificate of need” demonstrating that they will improve the availability of health care in the state.

The proposed merger has received several other approvals, including from the boards of Northern Light Health and Hospital Administrative District 4.

The merger also required a legislative change that was signed into law by Gov. Janet Mills in June. That’s because HAD 4 is a quasi-municipal entity that was formed under state law to own and run the hospital. Twelve of the 13 communities in HAD 4 have held local votes endorsing the merger. Just one, Cambridge, opposed it.

The other member communities of HAD 4 are Abbot, Atkinson, Bradford, Dexter, Dover-Foxcroft, Guilford, Milo, Monson, Parkman, Sangerville, Sebec and Willimantic.

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