Lincoln County Healthcare has formally asked the state for permission to build a 12-unit, $2.8 million expansion of the Gregory Wing at St. Andrews Village.
The application for a Certificate of Need was delivered Monday, Dec. 1 to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.
It calls for a 7,500-square-foot addition that would feature 12 private rooms, each dually certified for either long-term (nursing) care or skilled (rehabilitation) care. The Gregory Wing, which is part of St. Andrews Village, currently has 30 dually licensed beds.
The expansion is designed to address a present and future need for skilled care and long-term care beds in Lincoln County, the county with the oldest median age in Maine, the oldest state in the country. The number of people 65 or older is expected to grow in the next five years.
Providing access to these services locally is an important part of Lincoln County Healthcare’s mission, according to Lincoln County Healthcare Senior Vice President of Home Health and Senior Living Judy McGuire.
McGuire said the health care services provided at St. Andrews Village have always offered high quality care with a personal touch. There is currently a waiting list for rooms at the Gregory Wing.
When people receive long-term care or rehabilitation close to home, family and friends can visit more often. Maintaining relationships helps combat the feelings of isolation and depression that can affect as many as a third of residents in nursing homes, according to studies.
The expansion is also part of Lincoln County Healthcare’s effort to improve the accessibility of health care services.
In the past year, that effort has included the opening of a new Wound Care Center at the Lincoln Medical Partners Family Care Center in Boothbay Harbor, a complete renovation of the Wellness and Rehabilitation Center on the St. Andrews campus, and a first-of-its-kind pilot paramedicine program designed to offer services to people who are unable to leave their home.
The paramedicine program is a partnership between Lincoln County Healthcare and three ambulance services: the Boothbay Region Ambulance Service, Waldoboro Emergency Medical Services, and the Central Lincoln County Ambulance Service.
Lincoln County Healthcare has also lowered charges for many hospital services over the past year to make health care more affordable.
The submission of the application follows the decision by the Maine Department of Human Services to rescind an earlier requirement that would have forced the St. Andrews Urgent Care Center to remain open 24 hours a day.
The Urgent Care Center is now open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Keeping it open overnight would have resulted in a $700,000-a-year operating loss during those hours of operation while serving an average of only one or two patients per night.
By allowing the Urgent Care Center to remain open only 12 hours a day, the state’s decision removes a significant source of financial unpredictability.
As part of the Certificate of Need process, Lincoln County Healthcare will have to prove to the state that the project is not just necessary, but economically sustainable over the long run, said McGuire.
MaineCare and Medicare are the two largest payers for nursing home residents and skilled care patients in Maine and both offer reimbursement well below the cost of providing the services.
“We still have a few steps in the process before we make the final decision to build,” said Lincoln County Healthcare President Jim Donovan. “But this important milestone signals our very sincere intentions (to both the state and the community) to expand these services in the Boothbay region.”
Lincoln County Healthcare officials anticipate a final decision on the application will be made in three to four months.