LincolnHealth has submitted an official request to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to reconsider one of the three conditions placed on the approval of the recently submitted Certificate of Need application for the creation of Lincoln County Healthcare and LincolnHealth.
That condition would require the hospital to operate its St. Andrews Campus Urgent Care Center 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is currently open 12 hours a day, seven days a week.
The Certificate of Need process allows interested parties up to 30 days to request a reconsideration of its decisions.
“We respect the commissioner’s office and are working to comply with conditions of her decision,” said Lincoln County Healthcare CEO Jim Donovan. “Over the last few weeks we have carefully reviewed the ramifications of operating a 24-hour Urgent Care Center and we believe this one condition will result in a significant financial loss and seriously stress our limited resources.”
As part of the 24-hour urgent care condition, if the additional hours create a loss of at least $500,000 per year for two years, the hospital will be allowed to request a reduction of hours from the DHHS.
Using the average patient volume of two patients per night between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. when the department was operating as an emergency department, LincolnHealth officials expect to lose an additional $692,000 a year under the new operating hours, or about $1.4 million over the required two-year period.
“It is vitally important for everyone to understand the difference between urgent care and emergency care,” said LincolnHealth Hospital Operations Senior Vice President Cindy Wade. “Emergency care is for life-threatening situations that require a clinical team of experts to save lives. Urgent care is for minor illnesses and injuries.”
“There are no 24-hour urgent care centers in Maine or in New England because generally patients do not seek these services late at night or early in the morning,” Wade said. “And we are very concerned that patients who need emergency care are going to waste precious time by going to the St. Andrews Campus instead of calling 911.”
The leadership of the LincolnHealth Board of Trustees is very concerned that the projected operating loss for this service will jeopardize the organization’s ability to provide affordable care and to invest in other new services the community wants and will use.
“Our mission is to ensure access to high-quality, patient-centered, and affordable care,” said Chairman Jeff Curtis. “We reduced our overall charges last year by 7.2 percen, we have opened a new wound care center on the St. Andrews Campus that serves all of Lincoln County, we just opened our new wellness and rehabilitation center and we are working on expanding skilled care beds at St. Andrews village.
“These are services people need and have strongly supported during community meetings over the past two years. We hope the people of the Boothbay Region will understand that we do not have unlimited resources, and that we need to fund services the community needs, not conveniences like a 24-Hour Urgent Care Center.”