Northern Light Health plans to spend more than $60 million replacing two of its hospitals and adding rooms to a third, according to information the hospital system has filed with the state.
The information recently posted to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services website offers more details on the Brewer-based system’s plans for hospitals in Bangor, Greenville and Blue Hill. In Bangor, Northern Light plans to add 50 rooms at Acadia Hospital, one of two private psychiatric hospitals in Maine. And in Greenville and Blue Hill, Northern Light will replace the existing hospital buildings with new structures.
After a year in which Northern Light lost tens of millions of dollars during the COVID-19 pandemic, the hospital system is in varying stages of updating half of its 10 hospitals throughout the state. In addition to the work in Bangor, Greenville and Blue Hill, Northern Light is planning a new birthing center and additional patient rooms at Maine Coast Hospital in Ellsworth, and it’s in the process of consolidating Mercy Hospital’s two Portland campuses into one.
Work at all the facilities except Mercy, where work is already underway, is subject to a vote by Northern Light’s board of directors expected in March 2022.
The COVID-19 pandemic slowed down the hospital system’s planning for new and overhauled facilities, but the pandemic’s lessons led to a better final product, Tim Doak, Northern Light’s head of facilities, planning, design and construction, said earlier this month.
The additional information about the work at its hospitals come in letters of intent Northern Light filed with the state as part of the certificate of need process through which the hospital system will seek state approval.
The letters highlight the need for improvement at the hospitals, some of which are vital lifelines in rural communities with few other options for local health care. The letter of intent for C.A. Dean Hospital says the Greenville hospital is “aging, outdated, and must be replaced for core healthcare services to remain available in the community.”
That $15.5 million C.A. Dean proposal would replace the hospital and dental office with a new, 10,000-square-foot building with five inpatient beds in private rooms. It will have 10 other patient beds in a renovated space, an ambulance facility and emergency services, all on the existing hospital site.
The hospital’s east wing will be attached to the new building and contain patient rooms.
The letter of intent for Blue Hill also notes the hospital’s age and the need to continue helping the rural Hancock County population. The original hospital building is nearly 100 years old.
That $19.3 million proposal there would build a new 10-bed, 21,200-square-foot hospital facility that will have an emergency department and offer the services the hospital currently offers. It will replace the original hospital on the same site, though the original hospital will continue to serve patients during construction.
The Blue Hill and Greenville hospitals are both 25-bed hospitals that the federal government designates as critical access, meaning they serve patients in rural areas and receive greater Medicare reimbursement than more urban hospitals.
At Acadia Hospital, Northern Light plans to add a facility with 50 new single-occupancy rooms, as well as renovate 50 existing rooms. Hospitals officials estimate that the project will cost $26 million, which includes construction and new equipment.
All of the work will take place on the hospital’s Stillwater Avenue campus.
The letter of intent notes that Acadia operates at-capacity nearly all year, in a state where there is a shortage of inpatient mental health resources. Acadia is just one of two private psychiatric hospitals in Maine.
Northern Light has previously said that it’s often unable to use many of its beds on any given day, because they’re in semi-private rooms and the hospital often has patients who can’t share rooms with others.
Construction on all three hospitals would begin in April 2022 if approved by Northern Light’s board of directors and take 15-18 months for Acadia. Work at Blue Hill and C.A. Dean would take 18 months along with two months to remove the old buildings.