LincolnHealth is exploring the possibility of building a $13 million family care center on its Miles Campus, a project hospital officials describe as equal in significance to the hospital’s construction.
The center would consolidate the physician practices and other services spread around the Damariscotta campus into one modern facility between the hospital and Schooner Cove.
LincolnHealth consultants will conduct a study in August and September to gauge interest and support for the project and ultimately determine the feasibility of raising $6 million of the project cost.
LincolnHealth expects to receive the results of the study in October, although several steps remain before a campaign would begin, according to LincolnHealth Vice President of Marketing, Development, and Community Relations Scott Shott.
“I think if you talk to most people in our organization, they will say, ‘This is going to happen at some point.’ The question is when,” Shott said. LincolnHealth’s senior leadership compares the significance of the project to the founding of Miles Memorial Hospital.
“This new facility is the single most important project on the Miles campus since the original hospital was completed in 1941,” LincolnHealth Chief Medical Officer Dr. Mark Fourre said in a document describing the center. “It is also the key to preserving health care services in Lincoln County for decades to come.”
LincolnHealth CEO and President James W. “Jim” Donovan draws the same comparison in a letter introducing the campaign.
Isabel Miles and other supporters of the hospital’s construction believed their investment “was vital for the future of the region,” Donovan said. “In the same spirit, LincolnHealth’s development of the family care center is no less profound in maintaining local access to health care services now and into the future.”
As Donovan and Fourre suggest, the success of the project could impact the long-term sustainability of the organization.
LincolnHealth leadership believes “our ability to continue providing services such as emergency and inpatient hospital care will largely depend on the quality, efficiency, and sustainability of our outpatient medical practices,” according to the document.
“The future of health care is primary care,” Shott said. “Our ability to provide efficient, sustainable primary care is the key to our future, and if we can’t do that, we don’t have much of a future.”
Quality primary care will ensure area residents continue to choose Miles, according to Fourre. If patients start to opt for primary care at another facility, those patients become more likely to also go elsewhere in the event of a hospital stay or surgery.
If Miles cannot “provide that advanced level of care that our colleagues to the south, especially, are able to provide, we’re not going to be able to maintain our emergency department or our operating room or the rest of our inpatient services,” Fourre said.
The family care center would facilitate a shift to a model of care known as the “patient-centered medical home” that relies on medical professionals working closely together to provide accessible, affordable, efficient care, according to the LincolnHealth document. The model emphasizes patient participation, preventive care, and wellness.
In this model, a patient can go to an appointment with his personal physician and the physician can connect the patient with a dietician, pharmacist, social worker, specialist, surgeon, therapist, or any number of other medical professionals as necessary. Fourre cites the Mayo Clinic as a famous example of the model.
“That kind of comprehensive care requires a different space and a different flow pattern for patients that really wasn’t built into the design of the buildings we currently have where we provide care for patients,” Fourre said.
Miles physicians are currently spread across the Dorothy B. White Orthopaedics Center, once a carriage house and later a nurses’ dormitory; the Miles Professional Building, formerly a private residence; and the Webster Van Winkle Medical Building.
With the family care center, LincolnHealth would also aim to improve the patient experience and recruit and retain physicians. The patient experience would improve as the family care center would consolidate services in one building, eliminating the need to shuttle from one building to another. Patients would also benefit from improvements in comfort, convenience, and privacy.
Shott points to the recruitment issue as one of particular importance. At a time when the U.S. is experiencing a shortage of primary care physicians, the facilities on the Miles campus place LincolnHealth at a competitive disadvantage.
The state-of-the-art family care center would stand 2½ stories tall with 34,000 square feet of floor space – adequate space for all Miles campus physicians, as well as the many other professionals necessary for a patient-centered medical home.
The family care center is part of a roughly 5-year-old master facilities plan for LincolnHealth.
Since developing the plan, LincolnHealth has been researching designs and financing options, and its physicians have visited similar buildings, including new facilities in Nashua, N.H. and Topsham.
The community has a history of supporting multimillion-dollar capital campaigns at Miles, including a $5 million campaign for a major addition and renovation project in 1999 to 2000.
Even if the feasibility study reveals high donor interest, however, several steps remain before the organization could start a public campaign.
The board of trustees needs to consider financing options, decide how much it might spend from “trustee-designated funds,” and look at patient volume, Shott said. Finally, the board of trustees of LincolnHealth’s parent company, MaineHealth, would have to approve the project.
If LincolnHealth does build the family care center, it would mean changes on campus. The Miles Professional Building and the Maine Behavioral Healthcare building, formerly the women’s center, would come down.
The Maine Behavioral Healthcare building lies within the footprint of the new building. The professional building would have to go because state regulations restrict the amount of development on the waterfront campus, Shott said.
The orthopedic center and the Van Winkle building would remain, and LincolnHealth would use the space physicians leave behind “in the most efficient way possible,” Shott said.