BREWER and PORTLAND, Maine — Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems’ bid to expand its footprint into southern Maine has cleared a final regulatory hurdle.
Nearly a year after the Brewer-based EMHS announced plans to add Portland’s Mercy Health System of Maine to its network, the state issued final approval Tuesday, according to a joint press release from the health organizations.
The Maine Department of Health and Human Services’ certificate of need unit recommended the approval in August with two conditions — that for three years EMHS report any cost savings from the merger and that Mercy notify the state of any changes to its charity care policy, which governs free and discounted care for people who can’t pay their medical bills.
Both conditions have been addressed and the deal now moves toward an official closing, according to EMHS spokeswoman Karen Cashman.
EMHS, parent organization to Bangor’s Eastern Maine Medical Center and six other hospitals throughout northern and eastern Maine, will bring into its fold the 230-bed Mercy Hospital in Portland, as well as VNA Home Health Hospice in South Portland, an addiction treatment center in Westbrook and Mercy’s primary and urgent care centers.
The merger brings EMHS into the backyard of MaineHealth, Maine Medical Center’s parent system and Mercy’s main competitor in Portland. The deal is expected to buoy the financially struggling Mercy while giving EMHS its first foothold in southern Maine.
“We look forward to strengthening the continuum of care for patients and families and harnessing our collective strengths for the greater good of those we serve,” M. Michelle Hood, president and CEO of EMHS, said in the press release. “EMHS is committed to preserving Mercy’s Catholic identity and to extending the legacy of dedication to the local community that has been a Mercy hallmark and proud tradition of the Sisters of Mercy.”
Mercy struck a deal with EMHS after its planned merger with Steward Health Care System, a for-profit Massachusetts hospital chain, fell through in late 2012.
The EMHS deal won federal approval in March, with regulators raising no concerns that the merger would stifle competition. Because Mercy is a Catholic health organization, the deal also needed Vatican approval.
A local board will continue to be involved in the oversight of Mercy after the merger. The Mercy name will remain in place.
“As we knew at the outset and can repeat with certainty today, EMHS is the perfect match for Mercy Health System on every level,” Eileen Skinner, president and CEO of Mercy Health System, said in the release.