Gov. LePage on Wednesday took questions from reporters after a media event at the State House. When a reporter asked for his thoughts about Portland’s Maine Medical Center laying off 50 workers and cutting 175 positions, among other cuts, he had this to say:
“I wish it wasn’t happening, but I will say this: The State of New Hampshire has 1.3 million people and 26 hospitals. Maine has 1.2 million people with 39 hospitals. We definitely have too many hospitals in the state of Maine. There will come a time when more people die than are being born, what’s going to happen is something’s going to have to contract. I think we’re seeing that. It’s unfortunate, I don’t want to see it, I would love to be able to, and we’re working on ways to change the demographics, get you young people to start making babies.”
The point about the relationship between population and hospitals is an interesting one, but there’s some additional context to be considered, mainly our state’s sheer mass when considered with New Hampshire. At more than 35,000 square miles, Maine is almost four times the size of New Hampshire. Many emergency responders I’ve spoken with have said ambulance response time is critical, and if a loved one is injured, people would rather have a hospital nearby than far away. So I doubt anyone in an isolated Aroostook or Washington county town would want to see their nearest hospital shut down. However, several of Maine’s larger cities are home to more than one hospital, so I’m sure the governor could seek a lively, constructive conversation about the number of medical facilities in the state, if he wanted to press the issue.
Democratic Congressman Mike Michaud announcing his candidacy for governor in 2014 was a big political story of today, but probably didn’t surprise anyone. It did make me wonder, though: Has anyone ever announced an exploratory committee, only to decide after exploration that they would not run? I’d love to know if that’s every happened. Email or tweet at me if you’ve got an example.
Also, and forgive me for hypothesizing WAY too early in this race, but if Michaud were to win the election, the state would have gone from a governor who has said not getting right-to-work legislation on the books was his “biggest failure,” to one with serious union ties who would almost certainly veto any such bill. That’d be quite the shift.