Memorial Hospital Board votes to take MaineHealth unification concept to local community

NORTH CONWAY — Memorial Hospital’s Board of Trustees voted to move forward to bring to the public the concept of Memorial being part of a unified MaineHealth with a single consolidated governance model. Memorial now joins other MaineHealth member organizations in doing so.

While Memorial plans to hold a community forum on the topic in October, the board plans to continue its ongoing due diligence process which began in 2016. Board President Laura Jawitz stated, “This is still a work in progress. We want to run this along a parallel path to give us time to do additional financial modeling.”

Jawitz continued, “Before any final decisions are made, we need to hear from our community stakeholders. We believe we’ve found a balance that allows us to leverage our system resources to deliver care across our service area while maintaining significant local decision making, and we want to engage our community on that plan.”

President and CEO Scott McKinnon added, “Our board takes this process very seriously. We are fortunate to have such a dedicated group of trustees who have the best interests at heart for the health of our community.”

The proposal under discussion would create a single, system-wide board of trustees for MaineHealth. It would also leave in place local boards that would retain significant responsibility for the hospital services and other care delivered in local communities.

Memorial is different than other MaineHealth members in that it is located in New Hampshire. This is important in that the regulatory oversight is much different in New Hampshire than in Maine. If the board decides to proceed with the unification process, the N.H. Charitable Trust will review the proposed change to the hospital’s governance structure.

The inability to deploy resources across the system has become a significant problem for MaineHealth’s community hospitals such as Memorial in recent years, which is under increasing financial pressure because of changes in the way health care is being delivered.

“The good news,” said Bill Caron, president of MaineHealth, “is that, overall, MaineHealth is in strong financial shape. We believe that MaineHealth is positioned, as a system, to deliver the right care in the right place at the right time for all our patients.”

Still, while unifying MaineHealth members under a single budget overseen by a system board of trustees will strengthen local health services and help preserve community hospitals, the proposal has stirred thoughtful discussion with Memorial Hospital’s board members. The new structure being considered leaves in place a strong role for local boards and includes safeguards aimed at making sure communities will continue to receive the services they need.

The governance proposal under consideration includes local oversight of care quality and the credentialing of doctors and other providers, a continued relationship with local donors, a defined role in the budget and planning process and oversight of community health initiatives. The proposal also guarantees local representation on the system board for at least the first five years and requires any significant changes in local services be approved by 67 percent of the system board’s members.

Memorial’s community forum will be scheduled for October with details to follow. For more information about MaineHealth’s unification dialogue visit www.mainehealth.org/about/unification.