Mayo Regional Hospital in Dover-Foxcroft Credit: Stuart Hedstrom | Piscataquis Observer

The board of directors at Northern Light Health unanimously voted Wednesday to merge with Mayo Regional Hospital in Dover-Foxcroft, which would make the small Piscataquis County hospital the health care system’s 10th.

The afternoon vote was one of several approvals that are required before the 25-bed facility can join the Northern Light system. Formerly known as Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems, the Brewer-based organization includes nine other hospitals stretching from Portland to Presque Isle.

Leaders of Mayo have said that affiliating with the larger organization is critical to the hospital’s survival after years of operating losses. The hospital’s board, whose members are elected from 13 Piscataquis County towns, previously voted to approve the merger agreement on Feb. 27.

[Dover-Foxcroft hospital officials say Northern Light merger is crucial to survival]

Northern Light has said the merger will allow the organization to keep offering health care in a rural part of the state where it already runs one other hospital, Northern Light CA Dean Hospital in Greenville.

“As the major healthcare provider in this part of the state, we feel an obligation to help ensure that the delicate fabric of the delivery system can be maintained,” Michelle Hood, Northern Light’s president and CEO, said on Wednesday. “This vote allows us to proceed with plans to bring Mayo into our integrated healthcare system. We look forward to continued discussions about ways that we can work together on our common goals of providing care close to home.”

However, the merger agreement only requires Northern Light to keep running Mayo Regional Hospital at its current capacity for five years. The 161-page agreement would also place a number of other restrictions on the hospital in the months between the approval of the agreement by both organizations and when the merger formally takes effect, such as limits on how much money it can lose and the size of contracts it can enter into or terminate.

[Subscribe to our free morning newsletter and get the latest headlines in your inbox]

Now, Mayo officials are pursuing several other approvals that are required for the merger to go forward.

State regulators must approve the deal. Under the terms of the merger, the Legislature must also agree to eliminate the charter of the quasi-municipal entity that owns and oversees Mayo, Hospital Administrative District No. 4.

That charter was first approved by state lawmakers in the 1970s, and it requires residents of the district’s 13 communities to vote to dissolve. The legislation hospital leaders are pursuing would dissolve the hospital administrative district without the public vote.