How We Lost Our Hospital
As many of our loyal readers know, I have been involved in the effort to try to save my local Maine community’s hospital for over a year. Unfortunately, on October 1st, our efforts were defeated when our beloved St. Andrews Hospital, which had served our local fishing, tourist, and retirement community so well for over 100 years, closed its doors. The “customer” spin on this sad story is this: if you are a large organization that is attempting to rationalize and improve your operations to be more efficient and deliver better quality and keep profits high, you can’t do that rationalization without engaging with the customers you serve. If MaineHealth, which has owned our community’s hospital for 17 of its 105 years, had engaged with its patients and customers to redesign service delivery options, we might have wound up in the same place—with a walk-in daytime clinic instead of a 24-hour local ER and hospital. But we would have collaborated on reaching that conclusion and in designing the services offered. Instead, the “parent” nonprofit healthcare system surprised its customers by announcing the hospital closure as a fait accompli, triggering 13 months of outraged protests and community activism. The result: a group of customers who are likely to boycott as many of MaineHealth’s newly merged LincolnHealth subsidiary’s services as they possibly can.
The good side of this story is that several hundred people on the Boothbay, Maine peninsula have now become quite expert in healthcare options. And our entire community is determined to regain control over the kinds of services that are delivered locally and the priorities for those services. So we are now informed and educated customers! We have formed a nonprofit Foundation to identify the gaps in customer needs and service delivery and to incubate and support local organizations to fill those gaps. The other silver lining for me personally is that I have had a wonderful opportunity getting to know and to work with people I never would have met without this catalyst. One of those new friends is Dr. Judy Stone, a physician who spends her vacations in a beautiful captain’s house overlooking Boothbay Harbor, Maine. Judy Stone jumped into our “Save St. Andrews” cause with both feet. This is the second time in 15 years that her local community’s hospital has been closed, causing a great deal of acrimony in the process. Judy has been amazed by the amount of effort and time that Boothbay region residents have all contributed and how much we’ve learned about healthcare in the process. She has become a core member of our “rising from the ashes” team of local customers and healthcare providers who are determined to design a more customer-centric and community-controlled healthcare delivery system for our region. You can read Judy’s account of our farewell to St. Andrews in this article which was adapted from a post in her Scientific American blog, Molecules to Medicine.
Requiem for a Community’s Hospital
How Customers Are Losing Local Healthcare Providers in Rural Communities
By Dr. Judy Stone, Infectious Diseases Physician and Blogger, Scientific American, October 10, 2013
(Read the short sample and download the full article in PDF.)