Belfast hospital to join MaineHealth

Posted Sept. 16, 2008, at 7:33 p.m.

NORTHPORT, Maine — Incorporators of Waldo County Healthcare Inc. overwhelmingly approved bylaw changes that allow Waldo County General Hospital to join MaineHealth, the corporate parent of Maine Medical Center in Portland.

The decision means the Belfast hospital will be affiliated with the state’s largest health network, MaineHealth, after a century of independence. Incorporators approved the move during their annual meeting at Ginley Hall in Northport on Monday.

The Belfast hospital’s executive director, Mark Biscone, said that the health care system is in crisis with growing numbers of uninsured and an increasing elderly population, so that it has become too expensive to have a series of independent hospitals.

The affiliation was unanimously endorsed by the board of directors this summer after nearly two years of study. Board members said that working together with MaineHealth was the best way to improve the care provided to the community while keeping costs as low as possible.

“We need to pull in the same direction and work together, and MaineHealth is the premier system in the state,” Biscone said.

Waldo County General Hospital has had experience with MaineHealth through the Electronic-Intensive Care Unit program, which has been in place for more than a year and has proved successful, he noted.

Listed among the benefits of joining MaineHealth were:

    Savings of more than $1 million in annual operations because of decreased expenses from the purchasing power of MaineHealth.

      Discounts on the purchase of major pieces of equipment, up to $500,000 annually, and access to capital at lower rates.

        The board of directors will continue to maintain local control of the day-to-day operations of WCHI with a goal of providing the best health care as close to home as possible. No existing health care service or program offered by WCHI may be terminated or relocated without the approval of the local board.

          All current assets and future gifts or donations stay with the hospital and related corporations.

            Participation in MaineHealth’s clinical improvement and community health programs, such as Asthma Health for Children.

              Assistance in dealing with the shortage of health care workers, including having some internal medicine doctors from Tufts medical school train at the Belfast hospital.

              State and federal regulatory approvals of the plan are pending.

              State and federal regulatory approvals of the plan are pending.

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