BRUNSWICK, Maine — Mid Coast Hospital will purchase Parkview Adventist Medical Center as part of a “prepackaged bankruptcy plan” after Parkview filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy relief Tuesday morning.
Boards of both hospitals approved the sale of the 55-bed Parkview facility, which began diverting ambulances to other hospitals Tuesday morning. Throughout the week, as patients are discharged — the census was eight at noon Tuesday — Parkview will “wind down” its emergency department, intensive care unit and medical/surgical department departments, Parkview Chief Executive Officer Randee Reynolds said Tuesday.
As part of its transition plan, Parkview will enter a contract with Bluewater Emergency Partners, which operates Mid Coast Hospital’s emergency services. Bluewater will assume Parkview’s emergency services contract with Central Maine Medical Center starting at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Reynolds expects Parkview to close its doors at 8 p.m. Thursday and reopen the next morning as a walk-in clinic similar to the clinic already operated by Mid Coast Hospital in downtown Brunswick. The site will also serve as home to physician practices, radiology, laboratory, ambulatory testing and surgery, oncology, hematology, infusion services, physical, occupational and speech therapy services, and community health and wellness programs.
For 15 days after the ER closes, security personnel and an ambulance and paramedic will be stationed at Parkview from 8 p.m to 8 a.m. in case any patients arrive seeking emergency treatment.
But both Reynolds and Lois Skillings, president and chief executive officer of Mid Coast Health Services, said Tuesday, “We’re not closing Parkview.”
“The legacy of the Adventist health care system” will continue at the Parkview facility, where faith-based services such as a full-time chaplain will remain available. Mid Coast Hospital will not offer the same services, but will provide chaplain services and remains able to accommodate any dietary needs of Seventh Day Adventists who formerly received care at Parkview.
Pending approval by a bankruptcy court, Mid Coast Hospital and the new Parkview facility will operate under a new parent company, Midcoast-Parkview Health System.
Two members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church will serve on a new Midcoast-Parkview Healthcare Board, and a board committee will oversee the faith-based aspects of the Parkview site.
Skillings said the “realignment of services” is part of an effort to reduce “unnecessary duplication” while keeping health care affordable and local.
“The right thing is for the local health care system to come together to sustain vital services,” she said. “Together we will be stronger. This is a vision for a healthy community.”
Employees were notified of the sale by midday Tuesday, and Skillings was adamant that no jobs would be lost. Nurses will be offered positions at Mid Coast Hospital — “They don’t need to apply,” she said — and physicians will be invited to apply for privileges at Mid Coast.
Reynolds said he expected a seamless transition and no missed days of pay.
“Orientation begins on Friday,” he said.
Neither Skillings nor Reynolds would divulge the purchase price Mid Coast paid for the smaller hospital, although according to court documents, Mid Coast has agreed to provide Parkview a $2 million line of credit through the bankruptcy reorganization, $1.5 million of which may go toward Mid Coast’s ultimate purchase of the smaller hospital.
Parkview’s board of directors voted to seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection at a three-minute meeting Monday, which started at 4:25 p.m., according to its bankruptcy filing.
Parkview claimed it owes slightly more than $1 million to its 20 largest unsecured creditors and between $10 million and $50 million in total debt to between 1,000 and 5,000 total creditors.
Attorney George Marcus, representing Parkview, said Tuesday he expects a dispute to arise over secured debts stemming from loans Parkview received from TD Bank, Central Maine Healthcare Corp. and the Maine Health and Higher Educational Facilities Authority.
CMHC had loaned Parkview $8.6 million before the Central Maine health care network’s failed attempt to acquire the Brunswick hospital.
Marcus wrote in a filing Tuesday that Parkview intends to dispute CMHC’s ability to be first in line for payment as a secured debtor, saying a proper security interest wasn’t transferred to CMHC by a vote of the nonprofit Parkview’s board of directors. Such a vote is required by state law, Marcus wrote, and “neither CMHC or MHEFA have enforceable security interests in the Debtor’s accounts receivable …”
The proposed deal between Parkview and Mid Coast — two longtime competitors — highlights the challenges smaller hospitals face in Maine and throughout the country, according to Andrew Coburn, a rural health expert and chairman of the master of public health program at the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine. Independent hospitals struggle to access the capital and resources they need to survive, with dwindling payments from government health insurance programs and the need to update and improve their facilities.
“Small- to medium-sized hospitals are having greater and greater difficulty going it on their own,” he said. “We’re seeing consolidation throughout the country, hospitals joining larger entities or merging together to make larger entities.”
The planned merger raises questions for communities throughout Maine, which will struggle to support all of its 37 hospitals in the coming decades, Coburn said.
“There may be a canary in the mine here, in the sense that I don’t think all of the shoes have dropped with respect to consolidation of health services in Maine. … We just have too many smaller hospitals that probably aren’t going to be able to survive without greatly reframing who they are and what they do,” he said. “What that’s going to look like is a really important question that communities are going to have to face.”
Joining forces with Parkview will rally Brunswick behind Mid Coast as the community’s sole hospital, and rid the system of duplication that fuels higher health care costs, Coburn said.
“All of those facilities have to recruit doctors, they have to maintain facilities, they have to acquire technology — it just goes on and on and on,” he said.
The closure of Parkview comes as a blow to those who invested in its success, but Maine’s health system will be better for the deal in the long run, Coburn said.
“Ten years from now, I think we will look back and say this was really something that needed to happen and that there will be better benefits derived from consolidation,” he said.
Reynolds said he hopes a court will resolve the bankruptcy within 120 days.
While he said the board is confident in its decision, Tuesday was an emotional day, and Reynolds said many employees were still absorbing the news.
“We’re very comfortable with the end result,” he said. “It’s the getting there that’s hard. Some people have worked on these floors for years. They need time to process.”