Northern Light C.A. Dean Hospital in Greenville. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

State officials have recommended approval for projects that would replace hospitals in Blue Hill and Greenville that serve over 50,000 Mainers with new structures, modernizing decades-old facilities in rural parts of the state.

Officials reviewing proposals for Northern Light Blue Hill Hospital and C.A. Dean Hospital in Greenville under the state’s certificate of need process made their recommendations earlier this month to Maine Department Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. They said the new structures would provide vital new services and increase the quality of care in their respective communities.

The hospitals are both linchpins of the health care infrastructure in Hancock, Piscataquis and Somerset counties. The Blue Hill and Greenville hospitals are both 25-bed facilities that the federal government designates as “critical access,” meaning they serve patients in rural areas and receive greater Medicare reimbursement than more urban hospitals.

The new projects are part of overhauls Northern Light Health is pursuing at half of its 10 hospitals across the state. Work at all the facilities except Mercy Hospital in Portland is pending a vote by Northern Light’s board of directors expected in March 2022.

Construction would begin shortly after that vote, with work at Blue Hill and C.A. Dean expected to take 18 months, along with two months to remove the old buildings.

The new facilities will both feature 24/7 emergency departments as well as lab and imaging services. Although the new structures have been years in the making, Northern Light says it plans to incorporate some of the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic into each new building. That includes the inclusion of several new single-occupancy rooms and enhanced telehealth infrastructure.

In Blue Hill, the new $19.5 million structure would feature 10 new single-occupancy inpatient beds on the front portion of the existing campus. That 21,200-square-foot structure will also house the emergency department and rehabilitation space, according to documents filed by Northern Light.

The new building at C.A. Dean Hospital would be an 11,500-square-foot structure behind the existing campus that will contain five new inpatient beds in single-occupancy rooms as well as the hospital’s emergency department.

The new hospital will also add a new helipad — the current hospital only features an H painted on the back parking lot pavement — and will also feature a new garage for the hospital’s ambulances.

Several of the hospital’s older structures will be demolished, according to DHHS documents, but the east wing — the newest structure in the hospital — will see 10 new nursing care beds in single-occupancy rooms.  

The cost of renovating each of the original structures would exceed the construction costs for new facilities, Tim Doak, Northern Light’s head of facilities, planning, design and construction, said in June. The oldest section of C.A. Dean was built more than a century ago.

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