Blue Hill Hospital closes surgical unit

BLUE HILL — Northern Light Blue Hill Hospital will no longer provide surgical services, according to President and Chief Executive Officer John Ronan.

“We’re closing down the surgical services,” Ronan said Wednesday. “That would include scopes, which would include colonoscopies.”

“This was a local management decision,” Ronan said. “We had a discussion with the board about what we were doing.”

Blue Hill is a member hospital of Northern Light Health, which used to be called Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems. The hospital has a local board of trustees.

Ronan said the reason for closing the surgical department is complex.

The president said Blue Hill’s proximity to Maine Coast Hospital in Ellsworth, which has two operating rooms, raised the question “is there a better way to do this?”

Ronan said there are four areas the hospital considers before making a decision about eliminating or adding a service. They include accessibility for patients, a program’s quality, the “sustainability” of the service and the “financial perspective,” he said.

“Putting those categories together, it makes sense to do surgeries at Maine Coast,” Ronan said. Maine Coast’s surgical program performs about 3.5 times the volume of Blue Hill’s surgical department, he said.

Blue Hill’s surgical program employs 13 support staffers, all of whom have been given a choice to stay at the hospital and work in a different position or join Maine Coast’s surgical unit.

“A priority for us is making sure those who wanted to move into a different position would have the opportunity to do so,” Ronan said. “We actually created some new positions to get people into so they will stay employed.”

A date has not yet been set for the closure.

The surgeons who perform procedures at Blue Hill already practice at other hospitals.

“We’re working right now with our surgeons and our patients with what we currently have scheduled at Blue Hill,” said Ronan. “That will define what the last day of surgery will be.”

“Running rural health care hospitals is harder and harder to do,” Ronan said. “Recruitment continues to be a challenge for smaller hospitals.

The impending surgical department closure is one more narrowing of the services the hospital offers in Blue Hill.

The hospital closed its obstetrics department in 2011.

Then acting president Dr. Erik Steele said the closure was an effort to rein in costs.



Jennifer Osborn

Jennifer Osborn

Reporter and columnist at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Jennifer Osborn covers news and features on the Blue Hill Peninsula and Deer Isle-Stonington. She welcomes tips and story ideas. She also writes the Gone Shopping column. Email Jennifer with your suggestions at [email protected] or call 667-2576.

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