Twelve communities served by Mayo Regional Hospital have voted in favor of the proposed merger between the Dover-Foxcroft hospital and Northern Light Health, a statewide system that comprises hospitals across Maine.
The non-binding town meeting votes on the plan were scheduled across the communities last month to help area legislators make a decision on submitting a bill to amend the Hospital Administrative District 4 charter to pave the way for a merger.
Sangerville residents voted in favor of the plan 78-4 during a Tuesday special town meeting to become the 12th and final community to do so.
On Monday evening, the proposed merger was approved in Atkinson by a vote of 8-0, 48-4 in Guilford, 14-5 in Parkman and 29-13 in Sebec.
Dover-Foxcroft residents approved the plan in a 136-7 vote Saturday during the annual town meeting. That same day a similar question passed 11-8 at a Willimantic special town meeting.
In Abbot and Monson, residents voted 23-13 and 20-6, respectively, in favor of the merger during special town meetings on Thursday.
The Dexter Town Council unanimously approved the plan on April 11. In Bradford, residents approved the merger in a 20-1 vote on April 22, and the next night, the measure passed 25-0 in Milo.
Cambridge is the lone community to reject the merger in a 22-12 vote at the first of the 12 special town meetings on April 20.
In February the health district’s directors, the quasi-municipal entity that owns and oversees the hospital, voted 15-3 to proceed toward a merger. Last month, Northern Light directors unanimously approved the merger. Those involved have cited finances and a continuation of services — such as primary care, inpatient, OB, ER, ambulance and oncology — as key reasons for pursuing the merger.
During the Dover-Foxcroft town meeting at the Morton Avenue Municipal Building Rep. Norm Higgins, I-Dover-Foxcroft explained he, Reps. Paul Stearns, R-Guilford, and Steven Foster, R-Dexter, and Sen. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville, started meeting with Mayo Regional Hospital officials in November as well as meeting with other legislators in Augusta.
“HAD 4 is the last hospital administrative district in the state of Maine and it was formed by a special law,” Higgins said. “Basically it comes down to the charter needing to be amended.”
He said the HAD 4 charter describes the process for dissolving the district, but there is not language for a merger. Such an amendment would need to be approved by the Legislature.
“We expect to have a draft of the bill this week to review and then our local legislators will review [it] as well as the results,” Higgins said Wednesday in an email. “The results from the towns speak clearly the direction we need to proceed. The 12 towns in support of the merger represent 97.4 percent of the residents in HAD 4.”
The head of Mayo hospital said the votes should provide a clear path forward for legislators.
“The number of people who came out to these town meetings to cast their vote shows us that this issue is so important to people in this region,” Mayo Regional Hospital President and CEO Marie Vienneau said. “The overwhelming amount of support for keeping quality care close and moving forward with this merger is an important step forward in the entire process. The next step moves to the Legislature, but we are hoping that the show of support for the merger locally is being heard loud and clear in Augusta.”