Boothbay Health & Wellness Foundation

A plea to the St. Andrews Board

Posted:  Wednesday, September 11, 2013 - 1:00pm

We realize that there’s a very important board meeting and vote coming up. We want you to reconsider closing our ER and “relocating” St. Andrews Hospital to Damariscotta. As you know, this relocation will reduce the number of beds in Lincoln County from 63 to 25. We feel this will create a dangerous situation for the elderly population in our area.

In making your decision to close the ER (and, therefore our hospital), it’s clear that you weren’t given alternative staffing proposals. It’s not too late to ask for them. Other Critical Access Hospitals in rural areas operate with mid-level staff and family doctors on site or on call. They do not staff a rural hospital with full trauma teams. Instead, they use telemedicine to consult with specialists as needed.

We understand that this hospital closure has been orchestrated by a large urban corporation which has no understanding of rural communities. In hindsight, perhaps it would have been in MaineHealth’s best interest to have come to the community first and to ask for our help.

St. Andrews is, and has been, financially viable. In the past, our community has always been extremely generous and supportive in funding both capital campaigns and operating deficits through donations to St. Andrews Hospital. It’s obvious now to locals that a community-supported hospital was never in their plans.

MaineHealth just wants to herd a large group of patients to Maine Medical in Portland so they can capture a large portion of the $100 million of the total local healthcare spending on our peninsula (healthcare plus health insurance). The recent partnership between Anthem and MaineHealth dictates who we can have our healthcare with, where we’re going to go for those services, and how much it’s going to cost.

Board members, were you totally unaware of how this community would react to this decision? It seems as if the board members and management are astounded that our community has fought so hard. How does this come as a big surprise to everyone? This is what communities do! This is what this community has always done. It’s exactly why we all live here. We are family. We take care of each other. We help people in need.

We hope that at least one of you has the courage to make the following motions at the upcoming board meeting to:

  1. Reconsider closing the Emergency Department

  2. To not relocate St. Andrews’ Critical Access designation to Miles, causing Miles to reduce the number of hospital beds in our county to a dangerously low number

  3. To replace the sole corporate member, LCH, with community members, so we’d have a community-run board.

This would fulfill your fiduciary responsibility to the community members you are chartered to serve.

We’ve done the hard work. We believe that St. Andrews can still be viable with community support. Through our research we have learned that if you provide the specific services needed by our local population at competitive prices, enough people will use the local hospital. Simply put, we want our hospital and we know we could turn it into a state-of-the art rural health facility. If the people in Bar Harbor can do it, why not the people of Boothbay Harbor?

But we know that it takes the community and the hospital working together to make it successful. And, we can’t do this as a subsidiary of MaineHealth. Since we partnered with MaineHealth in 1997, what have we actually gained from this relationship? We’ve lost one service after the other in the name of better reimbursement. Have you been watching out for MaineHealth? Or for the people you are chartered to serve? Only you can answer this question.