June 24, 2018
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Blue Hill hospital announces plans for expansion of village campus

By Mario Moretto, BDN Staff

BLUE HILL, Maine — The Blue Hill Memorial Hospital has approved a long-term plan that calls for an expansion and a new approach to providing health care.

The hospital’s plans for the future have been a concern for some residents since it bought two adjacent residential properties last summer, provoking concern about how growth at the medical campus might affect the village’s quiet aesthetic.

On Thursday, officials shed some light on the contents of its strategic plan, which was approved by the hospital’s board of trustees this week.

Part of the scheme is a master facilities plan, which will include not only new construction, but several relocations.

According to Greg Roraff, BHMH’s chief executive, the heart of the plan is a new two-story medical facility attached to the main hospital. Specifics about the expansion are not yet available.

But Roraff said the expansion “will house not only our primary care providers in a much more efficiently designed space, but also give a home to our oncology center, our infusion therapy department, cardiac rehabilitation and general rehabilitation services.”

The hospital needs the new space because the building at the center of campus, the Sussman Building, is poorly designed for the evolving needs of the hospital, Roraff said. The approach to medical care is changing, Roraff said, and that drives the need to change the space where care is provided.

“The driver is really the idea of a ‘patient-centered medical home,” said Sally Mills, vice chairwoman of the board of trustees. “It’s reconfiguring how we do everything so that all the staff are working collaboratively. It’s not that we’re bursting at the seams, but we need to rethink how we use our space.”

Both officials said the new approach to health care, as incorporated in the Affordable Health Care for America Act, or “Obamacare,” means shifting how medical facilities deal with patients. Instead of patients turning to their doctor for every need once they are sick, patients will consult with teams of professionals to maintain health in the first place.

That means bringing in nutritionists, social workers, psychiatrists and others, Roraff said.

To that end, other changes are being made to create the team atmosphere that Mills said is “the way of the future.”

After the new expansion is built, administrative offices will be moved from the original hospital building, built on Water Street in 1922, into the Sussman Building.

The 1922 building will be leased to a variety of community nonprofits.

Another Water Street building, currently vacant, will be leased by Healthy Peninsula and a local day care, starting in April.

The two properties bought on Parker Point Road last summer will be subdivided, with a portion of the backyards being taken by the hospital to make room for the expanded hospital. The hospital will continue to rent the home at 18 Parker Point Road, and is under contract to sell the former Leighton Gallery.

Another major factor in the strategic plan is a goal of “improving community relations.” Roraff and Mills said the hospital already has made advancements toward those ends with the creation of its Community Advisory Council and Neighborhood Advisory Council.

“CAC is a peninsula-wide organization, with community leaders who can give general feedback,” Mills said. The NAC is a new organization, dedicated to involving residents of the Blue Hill Village in the hospital’s decision-making.

That group was formed in the wake of last summer’s public forum, at which many residents complained about the hospital buying the Parker Point Properties.

In a release, the hospital’s chief operating officer, John Ronan, said the community groups had been crucial in developing the current master facilities plan, and would continue to be consulted in decision-making.

“We are committed to developing facility plans that are sensitive to the neighborhood aesthetic, and engage the community,” he wrote.

Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.

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