Photo Credit: Staff Photo by David Leaming, Centralmaine.com
The $16 million transition from an inpatient hospital to an outpatient center expected to handle 1,000 patients each day is nearing completion.
WATERVILLE — The $16 million transition of Thayer Center for Health from a traditional, inpatient-care hospital into a comprehensive health center with doctors’ offices, diagnostic facilities and day surgery suites is expected to be completed next month with a grand opening scheduled for Oct. 25, according to MaineGeneral Health officials.
Meanwhile, many physicians’ offices and MaineGeneral services have moved there from other buildings in both Waterville and Fairfield, and more will arrive soon, while construction continues at the North Street facility. Completion is expected Oct. 6.
“It will be the largest comprehensive outpatient center in the state,” said Joy Leach, MaineGeneral’s director of marketing and communications. “Ninety percent of your health care needs are going to be taken care of right there in that building.”
A former inpatient hospital, Thayer is undergoing changes as part of a larger effort by MaineGeneral to change the way it delivers health care in central Maine. The inpatient hospital closed in November, and patients were moved to MaineGeneral’s new $312 million regional hospital in Augusta, the Alfond Center for Health. The Alfond Center also took patients from an inpatient hospital MaineGeneral closed in the city of Augusta.
Thayer was redesigned and renovated to include all outpatient needs in one building and be more convenient for patients to maneuver, according Chuck Hays, president and chief executive officer of MaineGeneral Health.
Physicians’ practices in Thayer, many of which were moved there from Kennedy Memorial Drive, are located in the same area as procedures related to those practices. For example, gastroenterologists’ offices are located near endoscopy services, and services used the most, such as diagnostics laboratories, are located just inside the new main entrance. Hays said MaineGeneral as an organization does 150,000 imaging exams and about a million laboratory tests per year.
“We have been working on redesigning all of our infrastructure to support the healthcare needs for the community,” Hays said. “We’re really excited. This (Thayer) is our last big step.”
Thayer was reconfigured to make it easier for people to receive the health care services they need in a single area, according to Hays. Patients needing cardiac care, for instance, can know that cardiac-related services are on the first floor, same-day surgery is on the second floor.
Decisions on allocating space were made so that core services needed by patients would be found together.
“Logically, it’s much easier for the patients,” Hays said. “They don’t have to travel between buildings. It really makes a lot of sense. We did the same thing here as at Alfond Center for Health.”
More than 2,500 day surgeries have been performed at Thayer since November, according to Leach. Hays recalled that when he started working for MaineGeneral 19 years ago, about 60 percent of the hospital’s business was from inpatients and 40 percent from outpatients.
“Now 62 percent of our business is outpatient, and 38 percent of our business is inpatient,” he said.
THEN, NOW, FUTURE
Thayer’s emergency department, with an entrance off North Street, continues to operate 24 hours per day, seven days per week. Patients who need to be admitted to a hospital are typically taken to the Alfond Center for Health, which is about a 20-minute ride by ambulance.
Throughout Thayer’s construction, which is being done by Winthrop-based J.F. Scott Construction, many services have remained available, including diagnostic imaging, dialysis, laboratory services, endoscopy and same-day surgery.
Thayer’s new main entrance is on the east side of the building and is accessed by renovated ramps from Eustis Parkway. It is scheduled to open in mid-October, according to Hays.
The new entrance will have a canopy to shield visitors from harsh weather and allows people to be dropped off at the door. A new, enclosed, heated area also will provide a comfortable place for people waiting to be picked up. The current main entrance, located on the same side of the building, will be closed when the new one opens.
The parking lot near the main entrance has been rebuilt and the land under it graded to be more level with the hospital’s entrance. The number of parking spaces has been increased from 655 to 879 — an increase of 224 spaces.
This weekend about 160 MaineGeneral administrative employees who work mostly in business, billing and coding were moved from the Seton Unit on Chase Avenue and from MaineGeneral facilities in Gardiner to Hathaway Creative Center on Water Street, according to Hays.
After the weekend moves, about 330 MaineGeneral employees will be on the second and third floors of Hathaway. Other divisions at the site include HealthReach HomeCare & Hospice, human resources and behavioral health.
Other services moved to Thayer recently include Maine Dartmouth Collaborative Care Center and Maine Dartmouth Family Practice, of Fairfield, and MaineGeneral’s ear, nose and throat, general and plastic surgery, thoracic and vascular surgery services. The Edmund N. Ervin Pediatric Center, Healthy Living Resource Center, Healthy Northern Kennebec, Outpatient Therapy & Audiology and Workplace Health are scheduled to move to Thayer from Seton in about a week.
Many MaineGeneral services will not move to Thayer, including physicians’ offices and laboratory services at FirstPark off Kennedy Memorial Drive in Oakland, The Oakland Family Practice on Pleasant Street in that town and Elmwood Primary Care at 211 Main St. in Waterville.
The public is invited to Thayer’s grand opening, to be held 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 25.
Hays said a small group of MaineGeneral benefactors visited Thayer last month and were very impressed with the changes.
“They were just blown away, so I can’t wait for the public to see it Oct. 25,” he said.
Amy Calder — 861-9247