The debate over the future of Parkview Adventist Medical Center came to a head on Wednesday, when over 300 community members attended a public hearing to discuss a proposed “acquisition of control” agreement between the hospital and Central Maine Healthcare Corporation.

Central Maine Healthcare is a non-profit parent organization that oversees a healthcare delivery system comprised of Bridgton Hospital, Rumford Hospital, and Central Maine Medical Center, based in Lewiston.

The application submitted to Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) would transfer control of Parkview to Central Maine Healthcare. Opponents of the measure, however, are largely in favor of a “consolidation of services” plan between Parkview and Mid Coast Hospital, questioning the cost efficiency of two Brunswick hospitals located within six miles of each other and funded separately.

Overseen by the DHHS, Wednesday’s public hearing at Brunswick’s Knights of Columbus Hall gave community members a chance to offer testimonials in support of or in opposition to the proposal. The hearing began with a presentation led by Central Maine Healthcare’s Vice-President for Public Affairs Chuck Gill, who clarified the misconception that Parkview is being sold.

“It’s a very simple transaction, it’s a paper transaction,” said Gill. “There is no money changing hands.”

Mike Ortel, board chairman of Parkview’, spoke next and made it clear that the only proposal under review is between Parkview and Central Maine Healthcare. He described the positive relationship between the two healthcare centers, and said that Mid Coast’s proposal to absorb Parkview was not up for consideration.

“Parkview is not to be sold to Mid Coast Hospital. This is a decision that has not even come up on the board or entered anybody’s mind,” said Ortel. “Control of Parkview has never been out to bid. We have told Mid Coast ‘no’ a multiple of times over the last 30 years because of who we are and what we stand for.”

Mid Coast, on the other hand, calls attention to the inefficiencies of two Brunswick hospitals, claiming that a merger between the two could save $24.3 million a year and that currently, the occupancy rate between both hospitals is only 44 percent on an average day.

Mid Coast’s founding in 2001, out of a merger of Bath Memorial Hospital and Regional Memorial Hospital, has saved millions of dollars per year.

“Maine has one of the highest per capita costs for health care in the entire nation, over $8,700 to take care of every man, woman, and child in the state. The national average is about $6,700,” said Mid Coast’s Dr. Carl DeMars, who has worked in Brunswick for 12 years. 

He explained that this is due to the fact that Maine is primarily rural, but questioned the use of Brunswick’s resources.

“Parkview is not a critical access hospital. We have another hospital four miles down the road where we provide excellent, high-quality, low-cost care right here in our community,” said DeMars.

However, many community members protest a merger of the two hospitals in favor of preserving choice. Marsha Penhaker, a switchboard operator at Parkview, testified in support of the proposal between Parkview and Central Maine Healthcare.

“Patients should have a choice of where they can go,” said Penhaker. She urged the community to “keep choice alive in Brunswick.”

According to DeMars, however, the cost of two hospitals in Brunswick far outweighs the value of choice.

“By keeping two full-service hospitals together in this community, we’re duplicating the cost of providing health care, said DeMars. “We have two CAT scanners, two MRI’s, two emergency rooms, two full staffs.”

One third option was proposed by Judy Warren, who suggested that “Mid-Coast could go along the way it has all these years, doing a wonderful job, and Parkview—with its 55 beds—could become a free-standing hospice center that we could use in this area of Maine.”

Her proposal received applause from the entire room.

Warren, who has lived in Brunswick since 1965 with her husband Harry Warren, former Secretary of the College, noted the contentious history between the two hospitals in a follow-up interview with the Orient. She does not support the proposal between Parkview and Central Maine Healthcare, since it doesn’t eliminate the inefficiency of having two hospitals within the same town.

“Parkview’s one mile down the road, and then there’s Mid Coast four miles down the road,” said Warren. “It’s just a duplication of services.”

Over the next 30 days, the DHHS will continue to accept written testimonials for or against Parkview and Central Maine Healthcare’s proposal. DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew will decide on the proposal after all testimonials have been considered.

“Regardless of the outcome, Parkview is here to stay,” said Ortel.