KENNEBUNK, Maine — Two York County hospitals, both with strong roots in Kennebunk, will merge at the start of the new year to offer sustainable health care for the region.
On Jan. 1, 2014, Southern Maine Medical Center, based in Biddeford, and Goodall Hospital, based in Sanford, will merge to become Southern Maine Health Care.
“A few miles may separate our buildings, but we are remarkably close in sharing values,” said Patsy Aprile, president and CEO of Goodall Hospital, adding that the merger will make for increased efficiencies to help control the rising costs of health care. “We’re excited. We’re making strides, we’re on track and we’ll be there for Jan. 1.”
Aprile and Ed McGeachey, president and CEO of SMMC, met with members of the Kennebunk community during an information session held on Oct. 9.
SMHC will become the fifth largest health care system in the state, with 46 locations in York County and widespread layoffs are not expected. Combined, the two hospitals currently lease 90,000 square feet in town, though some changes may come in the future.
McGeachey said the merger may lead to the closure of some facilities, for instance the offices at 72 Main St., but said the hospital has not made any decisions and is “certainly aware of how important it is not to leave a lot of vacant space in our wake.”
“We need to rely on experts to tell us how to structure all of this,” he said. “It makes sense to use as much of the Livewell Drive building as we can.”
The mission of Southern Maine Health Care, McGeachey said, is to “improve the health and health care of the communities we serve.”
“Ten years ago we would have just talked about taking care of people when they are sick,” he said. “We are talking about keeping people healthier. The vision is that our community will be among the healthiest in America. We put health first because we see that as our primary mission. ”
Both hospitals were established in the early 20th century and both Aprile and McGeachey acknowledged that Goodall has struggled financially in the past decade.
“The reason is because it’s small-scale compared to what you need to be today,” McGeachey said. “The scale and scope of our large organization will enable us not only to do things better, but to be more cost-effective which in the long-run will be a good thing for folks in the community.”
With the merger, both hospitals will continue to offer medical and surgical inpatient care and maintain full-service emergency rooms in Biddeford and Sanford. Mental health care will be expanded in Sanford and sleep labs in Biddeford and Kennebunk have already consolidated into one lab in Kennebunk.
One service that will be consolidated is labor and delivery, with all births to be done at the SMHC birthing suite in Biddeford, while pre- and post-natal care will remain in Sanford. McGeachey said this change will save approximately $2.1 million.
Kennebunk Town Manager Barry Tibbetts said the creation of SMHC is a “good opportunity” for the town to work with the hospital “to develop its campus approach and division of services.”
The offices located at 81 Main St. are an “important space” Tibbetts said. As the hospitals evaluate their options, he said, “they are sensitive to making sure our downtown is complete,” and that the town would work with SMHC “if any transition were to take place.”
“I’m optimistic that we can work with the hospital to keep the downtown looking whole,” he said.