MCMH upbeat after a difficult year

Maine Coast Memorial Hospital’s Employee of the Year, respiratory therapist Scott Nelson, acknowledges the standing ovation that greeted the announcement of his distinction.

ELLSWORTH — The message at Tuesday night’s annual meeting was frank and sobering: expenses had exceeded revenues by $4.9 million over the past fiscal year.

On the other hand, the spirit of the briskly paced session at Ellsworth High School was optimistic, even celebratory.

“If we all move forward together, success will take care of itself,” said Dr. Sheena Whittaker, chief medical officer, quoting Henry Ford.

Adin Tooker, chairman of the hospital’s Board of Trustees, told the large gathering that the past few years had been a time of “cataclysmic” change for the health care industry — “radical, painful, scary change.”

The health care delivery model has changed, he said, from a focus on “taking care of illness to avoiding illness.” One result of this concentration on prevention has been fewer admissions and the loss of the revenue that follows a hospital admission. Reduced reimbursement rates from government and private insurers continue to exacerbate an already difficult situation.

Board Treasurer Jeff Dow said the hospital is shifting its focus to ambulatory care in this era of declining admissions. Walk-in clinics and a dental clinic have been established to deliver these services. Contracts with suppliers have been renegotiated to secure better terms. Administration costs have been held to less than 6 percent of the budget. A greater focus on matching staffing to patient volume has helped contain costs. Still, Dow noted, the hospital provided $2.4 million in charity care over the past fiscal year. Also, according to its annual report, MCMH covered more than $13 million in Medicare and Medicaid service shortfalls where the federal programs failed to cover the full cost of services rendered.

At the moment, Dow said, the picture at Maine Coast Memorial is “bleak but hopeful.”

Tooker, acknowledging that it was a bad year, remained positive. “We are strong,” he said. The hospital is looking to expand services and access in order to “keep patients close to home.”

But Maine Coast Memorial can’t do it alone.

“The day of the small, rural, community hospital is on the decline,” he said.

He reminded the gathering that in August the hospital entered a non-binding letter of intent to join Eastern Maine Health Systems. That process is still in the “due diligence” stage.

Tooker said the hospital is “hoping to establish a relationship to build on the relationship we already have with Eastern Maine Health Systems.

After upbeat reports from the Development Committee and the Maine Coast Healthcare Foundation, President and CEO Charlie Therrien, Tooker and Whittaker joined in congratulating members of the hospital community for outstanding service. Singled out were Care Giver of the Year, Roberta Kennedy, RN, BSN; Quality, Colleen Lemon, RN; Spirit, Debra Jackson, LPN; Financial Stewardship, Kimberly Haley; Fire Starter, Charlotte Stephens, PT; Employee of the Year, Scott Nelson, registered respiratory therapist; Outstanding Volunteer, Jean Lyons and Partner in Health and Wellness, Stanley Subaru.

Stephen Fay

Stephen Fay

Managing Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Fay, managing editor of The Ellsworth American since 1996, is a third-generation Californian. Starting out as a news reporter in 1974, he has been an editor since 1976, working in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont before settling in Ellsworth with his wife and two daughters. [email protected]
Stephen Fay

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