PORTLAND, Maine — MaineHealth, the parent organization of Maine Medical Center in Portland, announced plans Monday to add its first out-of-state hospital to its system of health care facilities.
The MaineHealth board of trustees last week approved a membership agreement with the North Conway, N.H.,-based Memorial Hospital after nearly 18 months of talks between the organizations.
The addition of a New Hampshire institution to one of Maine’s largest health care networks is the latest in a string of new hospital alliances across the state’s medical landscape, as health care providers gravitate toward partnerships in an effort to create efficiencies and save money.
Earlier this year, after a deal to join the Massachusetts for-profit chain Steward Health Care System fell through, the Portland-based Mercy Health System of Maine agreed to join Eastern Maine Health Care Systems of Brewer.
The Lewiston-based Central Maine Healthcare is engaged in a prolonged — and currently stalled — effort to acquire Parkview Adventist Medical Center in Brunswick amid heavy competition in that town with nearby Mid Coast Hospital, which itself once absorbed Bath Memorial Hospital.
With Monday’s announcement, MaineHealth became the first of Maine’s health care families to plan expansion of its footprint out of state. MaineHealth President Bill Caron said the partnership made sense, as the 25-bed New Hampshire hospital “already has a strong relationship” with MaineHealth’s 606-bed Maine Medical Center, the state’s largest medical facility.
“We are pleased to have Memorial Hospital one step closer to joining our family of high-quality providers,” Caron said in a statement. “Approximately 90 percent of Memorial’s inpatient referrals and the vast majority of its outpatient ambulatory referrals go to Maine Medical Center.”
Memorial President and CEO Scott McKinnon said his hospital comes to the Maine system with sound finances. But he acknowledged that changes in medical technology and the uncertainties in hospital payment systems moving forward make it important for smaller institutions to partner with larger organizations, where costs can be dispersed and efficiencies found.
“We’ve achieved a positive operating margin over the last few years,” McKinnon said in the statement. “However, we feel strongly that Memorial can’t continue to go it alone. That’s why Memorial’s board of trustees has selected a strong partner that we believe is the best fit for Memorial strategically, and one that shares our values.”
After a public meeting on the proposed agreement on Thursday at Memorial Hospital, the deal will be forwarded to the New Hampshire attorney general’s office for review.
Since 1996, MaineHealth has brought eight hospitals, two home health agencies and a hospital support organization into its system. Most recently, it acquired Goodall Hospital in Sanford last fall.