Health & Senior Living

Mayo initiates programs to provide community with more health care options

By Bill Pearson
Staff Writer

    DOVER-FOXCROFT — Providing quality care during a time of exploding medical costs and a $484 million unpaid Medicaid debt owed by the state has been a daunting challenge facing Maine’s 39 hospitals since 2009. Mayo Regional is owed $4.7 million due to the state’s decision to delay making those overdue Medicaid payments.

hsl-mayo-dc-po-12Observer photo/Bill Pearson

    NEW X-RAY DEVICE — Mayo Orthopedics x-ray technician Debbie Reardon shows the new Phillips diagnostic x-ray system at its Dwelley Avenue location. The $101,000 capital purchase allows the hospital to discontinue using film and replace it with images stored in a picture archiving and communications computer system.

    Mayo, like its counterparts, has postponed purchasing new medical equipment and has not given their employee raises. Mayo hasn’t been forced to lay off staff like other Maine hospitals, but Director of Marketing and Development Tom Lizotte reports the unpaid bills have placed a burden on the hospital.
    “We haven’t been forced to lay anybody off, but we haven’t given out raises for the last couple of years either,” Lizotte said. “We’ve reduce staff through attrition, but we are still operating on a thin margin. Being owed nearly $5 million makes it very difficult on us.”
    The financial challenge facing Mayo has resulted in the hospital instituting some innovative plans to provide more health care options and better care for their patients. Mayo has instituted a swing bed policy along with a patient-centered medical home to meet their patients’ needs.
    As a critical care access hospital, Mayo is limited to 25 beds. Ten beds have been designated as swing beds which will benefit patients who need a longer hospital stay to recover from surgery.
    “Someone who has had a joint replaced will need to go through some rehabilitation. Essentially they will need to learn how to walk again,” Lizotte said. “Instead of going into a nursing home to rehab, we can assign one of our acute care beds for this purpose. This will allow them to rehab without leaving the hospital.”
    The patient-centered medical home is a new way for hospitals to look at primary care. Instead of a patient seeing only their primary physician, they will see a variety of different providers depending upon their condition. During a routine visit, a patient may see a nurse practitioner or a physician’s assistant. For a patient with diabetes they may be treated by a dietician or a nutrition counselor. A patient with a mental health issue could see a therapist.
    “Your doctor’s office will become your medical home where you can get all sorts of services provided under one roof,” Lizotte said. “It is something that is responsive to our patients’ needs. This is something becoming more prevalent across the country.”
    Mayo is also looking to fill the medical coverage void in the Corinth area. MRH will be expanding their coverage by moving into the former Sunbury Clinic building. Mayo will be shifting their personnel from the Corinna Family Practice to Corinth. Mayo has operated the Corinna facility since 2002, but officials believe the change will end up serving more patients.
    “The Corinna operation has not been utilized by enough patients. It is located close to the one in Dexter as well as the new one in Corinth,” Lizotte said. “By expanding into Corinth, it fills a void for coverage. This will be the only medical practice located between Bangor and Dover-Foxcroft.”
    The new Corinth practice is expected to open on March 18. The Corinna Family Practice personnel will be splitting their time between the two centers until April. CFP will close and all the resources will be relocated to the Corinth operation.
    Mayo is also trying to fill a void at their practice in Guilford. Dr. Barnes retired at the end of last year which left the practice without a physician. The Lightbody Medical Center is currently being served by two nurse practitioners. A search is being conducted to bring in a full-time doctor. Mayo interviewed a prospective candidate last week to fill the position, according to Lizotte.
    Lizotte believes recent reports that Governor LePage and legislative leaders are close to coming to an agreement on paying the hospital debt is a good sign. While the nearly four year Medicaid bill is still unpaid, the state has begun paying their current obligations which has improved Maine hospitals’ financial situation.
    The incoming payments have resulted in Mayo making a decision to purchase a Phillips diagnostic x-ray system at its Dwelley Avenue location. The $101,000 capital purchase allows the hospital to discontinue using film and replace it with images stored in a picture archiving and communications computer system.
    Lizotte indicated that Mayo had put the purchase off for several years, but when the hospital started to receive some payments, it created an immediate opportunity for them.
    “Big ticket items like the PACS had to be put off for years,” Lizotte said. “In an ideal world, we would’ve had the money several years ago. Once we get all the money owed to us some of that will be put into our capital equipment fund to replenish that account.”
    Hospitals officials are in hopes that the state’s political leaders will agree to pay their debt this year. Even though the Democratic controlled state legislature and Republican Governor LePage have yet to forge an agreement, Lizotte is hopeful.
    Recent reports indicate the two sides are discussing the issue which according to Lizotte is a major improvement over past years.

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