Thursday, 19 October 2017 17:31

Bill proposes healthcare protection for patients in rural areas Featured

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BANGOR - Nurses Thursday showed support for a bill they say protects patients in rural areas.

But a spokesperson for Maine hospitals says the bill makes management decisions even tougher.

Members of the nurses union Thursday showed their support for a proposed bill, titled "An Act to Protect Rural Maine Healthcare".

"This bill will make it harder for hospitals to do away with services," said Rep. Stephen Stanley (D-Medway) who is sponsoring the bill.

This comes after the August closure of the Obstetrics Department at the Calais Regional Hospital

"It's very important for us as a state to look at the services in these rural areas and provide for the needs of the people," Rep. Stanley said.

The bill applies to hospital administrators thinking about getting rid of a major service. Healthcare facilities would be required to do an impact study on the effect of the closure, and hold public hearings.

"We can't perhaps prevent them from doing what they want, they need to at least be transparent. They need to tell the community and their workers what their plans are and why," said Cokie Giles, Maine State Nurses Association president.

Nurses say this would add accountability to the decision making process in hospitals. But the Maine Hospital Association says getting the government involved would just make the process that much more difficult.

"Obviously when a hospital is facing a tough situation, such as cutting back on a service line, it's very difficult. It's a hard decision to make," said Jeffrey Austin, a lobbyist for the Maine Hospital Association. "It's really impossible for us to see how legislative interference on that and legislative regulation of private businesses making these decisions is going to make it any better."

The nurses hope legislators will take up this bill during the special session next week.