Northern Light plans overhauls in half of its 10 hospitals

Northern Light Health is planning or working on revisions at half of its 10 hospitals across the state, with recent announcements of new or updated facilities after a year in which the Brewer-based hospital system lost tens of millions of dollars.

The hospital system is in various stages of updating Acadia Hospital in Bangor, its Hospital in Blue Hill, Maine Coast Hospital in Ellsworth, CA Dean Hospital in Greenville, and Mercy Hospital in Portland.

After more than a year of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, including treating patients as the virus was rife in the winter of 2021 and the opening of mass vaccination sites in the spring, Northern Light is applying to the building many of the lessons learned during the pandemic. redesigns, including the need for patient privacy and expanded digital healthcare capabilities.

“While that might have slowed things down for a few months, we’re going to end up with a much better product,” said Tim Doak, Northern Light’s facilities, planning, design and construction manager.

Work at all facilities except Mercy is awaiting a vote by Northern Light’s board of directors slated for March 2022.

Construction would begin in April 2022 if approved by the board of directors and would take 10 months for the Maine coast and 15 to 18 months for Acadia, where the system provides for revisions including the addition of private rooms. for patients. Work at Blue Hill and CA Dean, where Northern Light plans to replace buildings, would take 18 months, as well as two months to remove the old buildings.

Improved telehealth infrastructure, including better internet, video cameras, audio hardware and software in all facilities is a development to emerge from the pandemic. Telehealth is not only about patient interactions with their providers, but also allows Northern Light doctors to consult with specialists across the country.

The creation of several new private patient rooms also stems from the lessons of COVID-19. Shared patient rooms provide less privacy and may increase the risk of disease spread between patients. Patients strongly support such changes, Doak said.

Most of the plans were announced a year after the COVID-19 pandemic caused losses in the healthcare sector due to the cancellation of non-essential medical procedures in the first months of the pandemic.

The pandemic has prompted other hospitals across the country to climb behind construction projects due to lost income.

Philanthropy will play an important role in funding each of these efforts, Doak said. He said he was encouraged by the early funding, especially for the new Blue Hill and CA Dean hospitals.

New developments like these typically take two to five years from when planning begins until the site becomes operational, Doak said.

This is why the work at Mercy Hospital is by far at the most advanced stage. Officials started working on it four years ago, Doak said, about three years after Northern Light acquired the facility.

The changes to Mercy will consolidate the hospital’s two campuses on State Street and Fore River Parkway into one on Fore River. A 50,000 square foot addition to the hospital will add an emergency department and new patient rooms. There will also be a new 35,000 square foot outpatient surgery center that will also house an endoscopy practice. The final product will also include an outpatient and inpatient imaging center on this campus.

Staff will move into the new developments in the fall.

Other projects will take longer to materialize. The new birthing center at Maine Coast Hospital in Ellsworth is currently in the design phase and will likely not open until late 2022 or early 2023. The addition of private rooms at Acadia Hospital, the most recently announced all upgrades, will take a few years too.

Northern Light’s Blue Hill location and CA Dean Hospital in Greenville will be completely rebuilt and replaced with facilities with a smaller footprint. The cost of renovating both would exceed the cost of construction, Doak said. Each building is quite old. The oldest section of CA Dean was built over 100 years ago.

“It has served us well, but it’s quite old and tired,” Doak said.

The smaller design of the new hospitals is intentional, Doak said. Advances in technology, including decreasing the likelihood of hospital stays after medical procedures, allow for a more efficient building.

The new CA Dean will also be equipped with a helipad. The current hospital only has an H painted on the sidewalk of the rear parking lot.

The smaller size will also be possible as many hospital support staff, who do not physically interact with patients, will be working from home.

“We have really embraced the work from home model,” Doak said. “We find in most cases that our staff can be just as efficient, and in some cases more efficient, working from home. ”

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