BOOTHBAY, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- People in the Boothbay area say they have new ammunition in their fight to save their local hospital.

Last summer, Lincoln County Healthcare decided to close St. Andrew's hospital in Boothbay Harbor, and replace it with a twelve hour-per-day urgent care facility.'

The emergency room is a key reason why people on the Boothbay peninsula want to keep the hospital. They say if it closes, the nearest full emergency room would then be at Miles Hospital in Damariscotta, eighteen miles away.

Miles is also part of Lincoln County Healthcare. A local Task force has been studying ways to force Lincoln County Healthcare to reverse the decision, and now task force members say a new consultant's report supports all of their arguments.

Lincoln County Healthcare has said the E-R is rarely used at night. In fact, LCH says that from midnight to 6:00 AM the average is actually less than one patient per night. St. Andrews is classified by the government as a "critical access hospital" and gets special financial support as a result.

Task force members say the consultant told them that many critical access hospitals in rural areas around the country share a similar small demand for overnight emergency treatment. They say that's one of the reasons the critical access hospitals exist. The task force says consultants also make recommendations for less costly ways to staff the ER.

The Board of LCH will meet next week to review and discuss the Task force consultant's report, but CEO Jim Donovan says he does not expect the board to reverse the decision as a result. Donovan says LCH has its own consultant that supported the closing decision. He also says the real problem is that Lincoln County has two hospitals just 18 miles apart.

He says the consultant didn't recognize that fact, and says LCH needs to find a way to make health care more affordable in the area, while still maintaining quality and reasonable access. He says the system can't continue to maintain two hospitals so close together in the same small county.

LCH has said it won't close St. Andrews until October. It has also proposed keeping the so-called "skilled nursing" beds at St. Andrews, which will reduce some of the job losses from the closing. Task Force members say they will keep pushing to retain the hospital, and are also preparing legal arguments to force LCH to change plans, should that prove necessary.

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