York Hospital Credit: Ioanna Raptis | The York Weekly

YORK, Maine — The acting commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services has approved the certificate of need application for Northeast Rehabilitation Hospital Network to build an acute rehabilitation care facility at York Hospital.

The decision by Bethany Hamm comes two months after the DHHS staff recommended approval of the CON, and sets the stage for construction to begin on the $13.5 million facility by as early as March.

“This is fantastic news,” said York Hospital President Jud Knox. “If you look at the commissioner’s decision itself, it’s extremely positive. It very comprehensively supports Northeast Rehab’s points (in its CON application). This is great news.”

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“We are very pleased by the Commissioner’s approval,” said John Prochilo, CEO of NRHN. “We also appreciate the comprehensive review performed by the CON Unit staff (at DHHS). We look forward to working with Jud Knox and the team at York Hospital in planning for this much needed clinical service in York County.”

The New England Rehabilitation Hospital of Portland contested the viability of the project, first seeking a public hearing and then submitting a document that point by point refutes the York project’s viability. In her three-page letter, Hamm essentially states the Portland facility had not met its burden of proof.

Among the NERHP’s concerns were potential nursing shortages, the project’s economic feasibility, the need for a facility in York County including duplication of services, and other factors. In each and every instance, Hamm said, the Portland hospital did not make a compelling case while Northeast Rehab successfully countered these concerns.

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According to Knox, there is still outstanding approval needed of the stormwater management system by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, but there have been no flags thus far by the DEP and he expects to have a permit in hand within three months.

With the CON, architect Altus Engineering of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, will now undertake complete construction drawings, said Knox, which will take as long as two months. The project would then be put out to bid, with an award expected in three months.

“If we can make this all work, the end of March is the best guess” for start of construction, he said. Although he had hoped for a decision from Hamm earlier than this, the project will just be slightly delayed.