2017-07-08 / Front Page

SMHC to integrate more with MaineHealth members

Public forums on proposal to be held later this month
Associate Editor

BIDDEFORD — Southern Maine Health Care is one of the dozen or so Maine health care providers that are considering greater unification in order to meet growing health care challenges and better serve patients. The providers, all members of MaineHealth, are evaluating whether to create a single operational and governance structure, and are inviting the public for their input at two forums this month.

The push for this greater collaboration is because the current health care environment is “challenging,” said SMHC President and CEO Edward McGeachey in an interview at the Biddeford campus last week.

Challenges include the growing number of people without insurance or the ability to pay for health care, the uncertainty regarding the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, and changes in how health care is delivered and how reimbursement is being made.

The plan, if approved later this year, would create a single board of trustees and a combined financial structure, allowing the the entire $2.4 billion nonprofit MaineHealth organization to direct resources where they are most needed.

“This is important to York County and SMHC, the second largest member of MaineHealth, because in order to sustain our strong, excellent health care system that serves most of York County, we must continue to invest significant resources,” say SMHC officials.

Being a member of MaineHealth since 2009, has provided a number of benefits said McGeachey, such as: creating a fully integrated information system that allows all MaineHealth caregivers to access patient information; saving millions of dollars through group purchasing; keeping cancer care close to home by having both SMHC oncology and Maine Medical Center (another MaineHealth member) chemotherapy grouped together in both Biddeford and Sanford; as well as developing integrated service lines, such as streamlining emergency care and procedures between SMHC and MMC for cardiac care.

Monica Salamone was a beneficiary of the streamlined emergency care between the Biddeford and Portland hospitals. On Nov. 4, 2010, Salamone, who was living in Saco at the time, had recently delivered her second child and wasn’t feeling well. Because of her ill health her husband stayed home with her one day and when she went to the bathroom feeling nauseous her toddler followed her to the bathroom.

“The last thing I remember was telling my toddler to get out of the bathroom, I didn’t want him to see me vomit,” said Salamone. “I woke up three days later in the hospital.” 

Saco Fire Department Paramedic Eric Lane said she was barely breathing when he and his partner Sarai Briggs arrived at the scene. They brought  her to SMHC where her condition was assessed. Salamone was then brought to MM where she had aortic dissection (open heart) surgery.

It turned out a tear in the wall of her heart caused blood to pump into her paricardial sac. “My heart didn’t have room to pump,” Salamone said.

Luckily “every single person did everything right,” she said she was told by her heart surgeon.

From her toddler following her to the bathroom to alert her husband so he could call 911, the Saco Fire Department paramedics who assisted her with ventilation helping her breath on the way to the SMHC emergency room, the SMHC staff that figured out what was wrong and stabilized her so she made it to MMC where her surgery was performed.

“My cardiac surgeon told me I was very lucky, that I only had a about a 10 percent chance of survival,” she said.

Salamone credits the teamwork of the two MaineHealth members with her recovery.

After receiving her surgery in Portland, she was able to receive follow-up care closer to home.

SMHC Senior Vice President and Chief Planning Officer Sue Hadiaris said Salamone’s story is a classic example of how the members of MaineHealth can work together to provide the best services to patients, without duplicating efforts.

“By working together we’re able to make sure people can get what they need,” said Hadiaris.

If the unification takes place, all MaineHealth members will continue to have their own board of directors and be responsible for coming up with funding to finance their budgets, McGeachey said. What unification will provide is consistency of care at each health care provider, so people know they will get the same quality of care wherever they go and can get most of their care close to home, only traveling to MMC if they have a specific need for the tertiary care that hospital provides.

If will also allow for less competition of resources, fewer duplications, and the ability to direct resources where they are needed most, he said.

One example of how the current MaineHealth member system already works in concert, said Hadiaris, is a new opioid treatment system to roll out later this month or next month. Without the financial backing of the MaineHealth system, she said, if would be difficult for SMHC to offer such a program.

If all goes as planned, the MaineHealth board will vote to unify this fall and  it will take one to 11/2 years for the process to be completed.

The public is invited to two panel discussions regarding whether MaineHealth members, including SMHC, should reorganize under a single Board of Trustees and combined financial structure. The first takes place at 6 p.m July 13 at the Nasson Gym, 457 Main St., Springvale, and the second will be held 6 p.m. July 18 at SMHC Medical Center, 1 Medical Center Drive, 2nd floor classroom, Biddeford.

— Associate Editor Dina Mendros may be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 324, or dmendros@journaltribune.com.

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