FORT KENT, Maine — Officials at Northern Maine Medical Center are looking at all options to deal with a record budget shortfall.
Declines in the overall economy coupled with the hospital’s loss of key health care providers have created the fiscal crisis, Martin Bernstein, hospital chief executive officer, said Friday afternoon.
“We are working the numbers right now. This is the first time in 25 years I’ve seen it like this,” he said.
“We’ve experienced a marked decline in patient activity,” Bernstein said. “We’ve taken a big hit because of that, and the economic situation has not helped.”
In fact, the hospital suffered a loss of $300,528 between 2007 and 2008 because of “bad-debt, charity” losses — outstanding bills from patients unwilling or unable to pay their outstanding accounts.
In addition, Bernstein said, the state of Maine owes the hospital $7 million in MaineCare payments.
NMMC also has been without one general surgeon and an oncologist for nearly a year, and a few months ago the hospital’s one orthopedic surgeon left the area.
“We are now looking at all avenues to decrease our expenses,” Bernstein said, including a hiring freeze, decreasing employee hours and curtailing travel.
“There is cause for concern,” he said. “At the same time I do have to say I have been getting tremendous support from our department heads.”
Northern Maine Medical Center is a not-for-profit community hospital and employs about 600 people in facilities that include an acute care hospital, a long-term care facility, wellness clinics and a psychiatric unit.
Bernstein said he anticipates making a detailed announcement of specific cost-saving measures next week.