Franklin Community Health Network opts to join MaineHealth

Posted Dec. 19, 2013, at 5:23 p.m.

FARMINGTON, Maine — Franklin Community Health Network, which includes Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington, has decided to seek a merger with MaineHealth, the largest health care system in the state.

The Franklin Community Health Network board of directors voted earlier this week to seek the necessary approvals to join MaineHealth’s network, which includes Maine Medical Center in Portland, Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport and Waldo County General Hospital in Belfast.

Franklin Community Health Network includes the 65-bed Franklin Memorial Hospital; Evergreen Behavioral Services, an emergency mental health service; NorthStar, the region’s ambulance service; Healthy Community Coalition of Greater Franklin County; and medical practices that represent more than 50 physicians and other clinicians who provide the vast majority of the region’s primary care and specialty services.

The health network’s board spent six months analyzing its options for the future and concluded that membership in the MaineHealth system would be its best option, Joseph Bujold, who chairs the board, said in a statement.

“This decision best positions our organization to assure health-care services for our communities for the next generation,” Bujold said.

Fewer than 15 percent of all hospitals nationally remain independent, and with the downturn in the economy and health care reform, many independent hospitals are in merger discussions, according to a news release from the Farmington-based health care organization.

“The changing landscape of government reimbursement, the increasing costs to deliver health care, increasing regulation and a drive to improve quality is paving the way for many small hospitals to seek membership in larger systems,” Rebecca Arsenault, CEO of Franklin Community Health Network, said in a statement.

“By coordinating resources and collaborating on health care delivery, we’ll be able to deploy resources more effectively and better serve our community today, and well into the future,” added Arsenault. “MaineHealth’s access to technology and specialists will help our hospital to more fully develop quality health care models. We’re thrilled to be bringing the resources of Maine’s premier health system to our community.”

A vote to join MaineHealth is not all that is required. Both organizations will prepare an application to the state’s Certificate of Need unit and request an antitrust review. Assuming no issues are found, the merger is expected to be complete by late 2014, according to the release.

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