Letter to the Editor

Thank you for placing the news release from the Maine State Nurses Assn/National Nurses United (MSN/NNU) on the opinion page.  For the information included is far more incendiary than factual.  I am a Calais Regional Hospital Board Member; however, I am writing this letter as a concerned citizen with a more complete understanding of what is facing our hospital. My statements are not on behalf of the board. 

For the umpteenth time, Quorum does not manage Calais Regional Hospital (CRH).  We hire professional services and consulting from Quorum.  The savings for bulk hospital materials purchasing and individual fees (when we need to hire specialized individuals in-house and/or consultants, professional staff searches, and access to financing), would cost CRH far more independently than through Quorum.  Our CEO and CEE are CRH employees and report directly to the CRH Board of Directors.  These are the facts.  End of that discussion.  

Previous and current service adjustments within CRH have nothing to do with the Board not caring about the community or putting profits ahead of compassion.  In fact, there ARE NO profits. Were the CRH Board NOT to make these hard but necessary financial decisions, there would no longer be a hospital in the future for our wonderful area.   It is more like a loving parent telling a child "No" because to give in would ultimately destroy the child's future.  This is exactly what the Board and CEO is going through:  Making heartwrenching decisions now, in order to ensure the hospital's very existence far into the future. 

Directly due to the bad press propogated by Calais City Council and MSN, we cannot attract good physicians for positions direly needed in this area (another general surgeon and additional orthopaedic physician) that the Board is attempting to fill.  We are trying to meet highly necessary services, while reducing/eliminating areas with minimal impact that financially drain us.  Additionally, people who are looking to relocate businesses and buy homes here also have doubts when they see City Council unfairly bashing the hospital management and services.  When medical professionals and individuals surf the net and read the egregious and ruinous assertions put out by City Council and MSN, they will not even consider interviewing for open positions at the hospital.  As to individuals relocating here -- Machias, Eastport and Lubec continue to attract businesses and seasonal resident real estate purchasers.  

City Council needs to get its own house in order before condemning and abandoning the future health and welfare of the community.  They need to work to fill the empty businesses on Main Street, fill the vacant and abandoned homes throughout town, and attract more businesses and residents.  These improvements would greatly impact the use and viability of services at CRH.  Not one of the hospital's greatest detractors has offered workable solutions to the problems.  Only a call to fire administrators -- we are already bare bones.  There is no more government money available to us, and unpaid funds are still owed us by Mainecare.  CRH continues to try to attract grants -- again bad press by the City Council and MSN have hurt these efforts as well. Sadly, the majority community position seems to be "don't bother us with the facts, our minds are made up."

CRH CEO, Rod Boula, has successfully turned around other rural hopsitals in situations similar to ours.  We are fortunate, indeed, to have leadership with the background, contacts and experience required to take us from near bankruptcy to eventual solvency and renewed vigor.  The current CEO and the Board did not "create" the unpaid $2.5 million owned us for a couple of years -- caused by unpaid services provided for one of the tribes, VA, self-insured individuals who do not honor their commitments and unrecovered co-pays.  We are attempting to collect the VA and Tribe debts through the assistance of Sen. Bruce Poliquin.  It is slow going; and because of these uncollected debts, it has greatly harmed the CRH cash position leading to our precarious finances.

It certainly would make a world of difference if CRH debtors would honor their commitments.  It also would make a huge difference if the community would get behind the efforts of the 'grown ups' working to keep the hospital afloat, no matter how much criticism the Board receives.  Listen to the cold, hard facts instead of hype.  Instead of the special interests who could care less about the future of CRH.   Like any other business, CRH must responsibly analyze finances and viability of service demands, and adjust accordingly in order to survive.  There may be more in the future if it means sustaining the presence of Calais Regional Hospital.

Everyone who is so ready to clobber the CRH Board for its painfully necessary decisions needs to consider Calais without a hospital.  How it would impact those now employed by the hospital, businesses, churches and quality of life in the greater community.  Calais would become a ghost town like others throughout Maine that have lost large employers.  Doesn't anyone understand that we do not enjoy making these dramatic decisions?  They are painful to us as we realize how painful they are to some residents.  However, this is truly in a fight for the survival of Calais Regional Hospital.  We cannot shirk our responsibility based on public opinion, no matter those who just don't want to face facts.

I appreciate our dedicated Nurses, Doctors and staff throughout the Hospital.  I admire and care deeply for these amazing people who make Calais Regional Hospital the respected medical facility that it has become.  The Board's efforts to save the hospital are also on their behalf.  The Board has nothing to gain by putting ourselves in this unenviable situation. It is for the benefit of the community and CRH employees that we struggle to make these hard, but necessary, decisions.  

Despite the viciousness, lies and humiliation directed at the Board, each of us has the well-being of the community and hospital's future at the very heart of all that we do.  This is excruciatingly difficult for each of us.  But, most hard decisions for the greater good usually are.  The Calais Regional Hospital's Board of Directors, administration and staff needs community support so that the hospital can survive and serve, providing the majority of needed services, for many years to come.    

Linda Baniszeski