Pen Bay Medical Center ended the past budget year with a surplus for the first time in several years, halting a string of years in which the hospital bled money.

"Right now our outlook is, while very challenging, and there will be specific challenges along the way, the global outlook looks very hopeful," said Dr. Mark Fourre, the president of Coastal Healthcare Alliance, which includes Pen Bay Medical Center and Waldo County General Hospital.

Pen Bay ended the past fiscal year — which closed Sept. 30, 2018 — with revenues exceeding expenses by $80,000.

That is a dramatic change from the previous year, when the hospital lost $6.6 million. In the fiscal year ending in September 2016, the loss had been $9.1 million. There were also smaller losses in 2015 and 2014.

The last year Pen Bay had a positive balance was for the fiscal year ending in 2013.

Chief Financial Officer Linda Drinkwater said a combination of generating more revenues and controlling costs led to the financial turnaround.

The recruitment of physicians, including primary care doctors, played a significant role in the generation of additional revenues. Adding doctors such as gastroenterologists resulted in patients coming to Pen Bay rather than going outside the region for care.

More people are also getting their cancer care locally, Dr. Fourre said.

The hospital has also acquired a new computed tomography unit that uses a mix of X-rays and computers to provide pictures of the insides of patients' bodies. Drinkwater said the newer equipment is more efficient and allows more procedures to be done, which increased revenues.

The hospital has worked really hard to control labor costs, she said. One of the steps the organization takes before adding new labor costs is to see if a new position will promote revenues and/or increase access to care, and determine whether current employees can fill the gap.

Waldo County General experienced another strong year financially, with revenues exceeding expenses by about $3.8 million.

Pending projects

Coastal Healthcare has begun a capital campaign for a proposed new physicians' office building that received local and state approvals in 2017.

The two-story, 41,000-square-foot complex would allow the organization to move the physician offices now leased off-campus onto the campus off Route 1 in Rockport.

Fourre said the expansion of services has contributed to cramped quarters.

He said the added space will allow for more services, including serving people with opioid addictions.

Fourre said there is no specific timetable for when construction will begin, but that 70 percent of the goal must be reached from fundraising. In October 2017, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection estimated the cost of the project at $12,860,000.

The organization is also still looking at plans for establishing a facility in Rockland for an urgent care clinic, physical therapy, and occupational therapy. The former J.C. Penney store in Rockland has been considered.

Coastal Healthcare has also hired consultants to look at overall master facility strategic plans for both the Waldo County campus in Belfast and the Pen Bay campus. He said a potential urgent care clinic in Rockland would be part of that assessment.