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New emergency department opens Tuesday in Portland

Northern Light Mercy Hospital's new emergency department at 175 Fore River Parkway opens on Tuesday. It's the last step in an $83 million project.

PORTLAND, Maine — On Tuesday, one chapter will come to a close for a hospital in Portland, marking the start of a new era.

Northern Light Mercy Hospital's new emergency department at 175 Fore River Parkway officially opens Tuesday morning. This is the final clinical program to move from the hospital's former State Street location, as part of a more than decade-long project.

When Northern Light Mercy Hospital bought the 24-acre property on Fore River Parkway between 15 and 20 years ago, the goal was always to have just one hospital campus. The hospital completed the first phase of the project 12 years ago, and planning for the second phase began five years ago. Construction for that phase started two years ago during the height of the pandemic — but the president of Northern Light Mercy Hospital, Charlie Therrien, said the hospital managed to stay on budget and on schedule.

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"I've walked [around] from the time they were shoveling the ground, [and] there were no walls or anything," said Therrien, who has been the hospital's president for five years. "To see it evolve over two years, and then to actually walk around and be with staff today, as we're starting to move patients in — it's been like a proud father association."

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Therrien said the entire project cost $83 million, paid for with internal funds, a capital campaign, and borrowing through markets. He said the pandemic did play some role in determining how the Fore River Parkway campus was designed by looking at infection prevention. Some goals included prioritizing privacy for patients, creating a better workflow for staff members, leaving space for needed equipment and technology in rooms, and establishing flexibility. 

"Being on two campuses, we did not have a lot of flexibility," Therrien said. "Being on one campus now, [we have] all of our staff together with space that's designed to be flexible — so as census goes up and down depending on what happens, we [have] the best possible resources for our staff."

Therrien said it's unclear how health care will be delivered in the future, so the updated hospital campus also has room for growth, whether that's among already-existing buildings or new ones. 

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Northern Light Mercy Hospital's existing emergency department at 144 State Street is closing on Tuesday.