Construction on a new building for Northern Light Blue Hill Hospital is expected to begin next year. RENDERING COURTESY OF NORTHERN LIGHT HEALTH

New hospital building coming to Blue Hill

BLUE HILL — Northern Light Blue Hill Hospital turns 100 years old in 2022 and is getting a new hospital building to better serve its patients. 

“People understand that it’s our desire to keep care local,” said John Ronan, president and chief executive officer of Northern Light’s Blue Hill and Ellsworth hospitals. “I think that’s an important part of this project for the people who depend on Blue Hill hospital to be there for them. This commitment from Northern Light is to keep health care as local as it can be.”

The new hospital will have a full-service emergency department, laboratory, imaging, rehabilitation services and primary and select specialty care.

A new hospital will enable hospital patients to have their own rooms, according to Ronan.

“Patients are often at their most vulnerable when they’re in the hospital,” said Ronan. There are conversations between patient, physician and family about the patient’s health, well-being and future plans. “Those conversations are difficult to have. A private room allows those conversations to be private and confidential.”

“We’re a small community,” Ronan said. “People know people. It’s an uncomfortable situation.”

The new hospital building will be smaller, the president said.

While design work is still being completed, the hospital anticipates having 10 patient rooms. 

“When we look at our average daily census, we should be able to handle our patients with that capacity,” Ronan said. “We’ll still be licensed for 25 [patients]. We’re not giving up those licenses.”

“We don’t have 25 beds available for patients,” he said. “We usually peak at around 15 or 16 patients.”

Another reason for a new hospital building is the age of the main hospital building itself, which was built in 1922. 

“As we looked at the cost to upgrade the current building, it’s cheaper to build new than renovate,” Ronan said. “The building is 100 years old with the original part of the building and it’s old.”

Of course, other improvements will be made such as better signage and making it simpler to get into the hospital campus, the president said. The project will not affect the Sussman Medical Office Building — that will stay where it is. 

Ronan declined to share an estimated project cost. 

“We can’t price it out fully until we get the design done,” he said. 

Funding the new hospital will be a partnership. 

“Any time we do a project like this, we have a philanthropy component,” said Ronan. “We’ll be meeting with our community partners, both individuals and businesses, as well as pulling money from Northern Light off the balance sheet.”

As far as permitting and town approval, Ronan said the hospital had advised the town of its plans. 

In Maine, sometimes hospitals need to acquire “a certificate of need” from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to go forward with major projects or mergers.

Ronan said this project may not require going through the certificate of need process — it will depend on the final cost estimate. 

Business will continue as usual during construction of the new hospital, Ronan said. “There will be no disruption of care on our campus while we do the project.”

All services will be available from the emergency department to imaging to medical providers. 

WBRC Architects/Engineers in Bangor is designing the project.

“Assuming that the designs get done, we would like to break ground sometime next year — 2022,” Ronan said. “It’s very interesting to me because the original hospital was built in 1922. It’s a new century of care.”

Ronan anticipates the construction to take 12 to 18 months.

Hospital spokeswoman Kelley Columber said there are plans to celebrate the existing hospital’s history.

“The old hospital building has served generations of year-round and seasonal families for nearly a century, and it will continue to hold a special place in our hearts,” said Columber. “We will remember and honor the hospital and the caregivers who made a difference in countless lives over the years by creating a history wall in the new hospital. We look forward to sharing more details as these plans progress.”

Correction: An earlier version of this post misstated the name of the medical office building at the hospital. It is the Sussman Medical Office Building.

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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