Reprinted by permission of The Times Record. Originally published Wednesday, March 30, 2011.
2020 Vision: An essential next step
When Herb Paris, president of Mid Coast Health Services, “passes the torch” on July 1 to his replacement, Executive Vice President Lois Skillings, it will mark the end of one era and the beginning of a new one.
Given their long careers at Mid Coast—33 years for Paris and 30 years for Skillings—this change in leadership, in many respects, is not so much a sea change as it is, in Skillings’ words, “an evolution of the path that we’re on.”
The obvious point is that when she succeeds Paris on July 1, Skillings won’t need the kind of extensive briefing an outside candidate would have required. Not only has she been a key player in many of the initiatives undertaken during Paris’ tenure as president and CEO, she grew up in the region served by Mid Coast Hospital and its various offshoot services.
She won’t need a GPS tracker to find her way around the 18 communities served by Mid Coast Health Services.
Skillings’ appointment, then, ensures there will be continuity of Paris’s vision, achieved over almost a quarter century, of creating a top-flight health care institution to meet the needs of Mid-coast Maine.
And that’s a credit to Paris, who over the years pulled together an amazing team of community leaders and hospital co-workers to create what we have today.
Step by step, he and his team coordinated the necessary merger and eventual consolidating of services formerly provided by two hospitals, the former Bath Memorial and Brunswick Regional hospitals, which became Mid Coast Hospital in 1991.
The construction of a brand-new hospital in East Brunswick. CHANS Home Health Care. Thornton Oaks Retirement Community. Mid Coast Senior Health Center. The 50-physician Mid Coast Medical Group. These health care providers saw 294,000 patients in 2010, with a coordinating of care that obviously is made easier and more efficient by the fact that they all are under the umbrella of Mid Coast Health Services.
At the same time, notes Skillings, Mid Coast Hospital has been recognized for providing high quality care at a cost 35 percent lower that any other hospital in Maine its size.
So, that’s a good solid foundation on which to build.
Skillings challenge will be to navigate the tricky waters of the health care industry that itself is changing rapidly in respond to the continuing debate in Washington over costs and ensuring that all Americans have access to the care they need. The plan unveiled earlier this month, Mid Coast Health Services’ 2020 Vision, strikes us as a sensible road map for the next decade, in that it maximizes the local assets already in place and explicitly states “traditional thinking is no longer relevant.”
Here’s why: The cost of health care per capita in the United States is $6,714, more than double the cost in Japan, Britain, and Germany (and $3,100 more than Canada). With almost 50 million Americans lacking health insurance, our system is not sustainable.
Mid Coast’s 2020 Vision sets out to reduce the per-capita cost, improve the health of the population, and enhance the patient’s quality of care. Obviously, that’s a tall order.
But many elements needed to achieve those goals are in place, including the integrated care available under the Mid Coast Health Services umbrella. Not to be overlooked is the fact that the 2020 Vision plan is the outgrowth of listening sessions that took place with more than 1,000 members of our region. That encourages a strong community buy-in to the emphasis on prevention and wellness.
When Herb Paris leaves his post on July 1, it will be with the knowledge that he’s leaving his successor in a very strong position to meet the challenges of the future head on.