- Care New England and Partners Healthcare have approached Lifespan, Rhode Island's largest health system, to join merger discussions "to explore how all three healthcare providers might work together."
- The announcement provided few details, but Care New England, Rhode Island's second largest health system, has historically dismissed Lifespan's bids for merger discussions.
- Care New England and Partners, the largest health system in Massachusetts, entered into a definitive agreement to merge last month.
The announcement puts a new twist on an old story.
Care New England and Partners finally entered into the definitive merger agreement following a 10-month due diligence process. That resulted in CNE putting forth a plan "to regain solid financial footing in the coming years."
CNE had lost about $115 million in operations in the past two fiscal years.
During the due diligence time period, CNE made plans to close Memorial Hospital's emergency department in Pawtucket, effectively shutting down the hospital. Later, state regulators, in exchange for approving the closure, required CNE to open a walk-in clinic in Pawtucket.
Brown University, along with Prospect Medical Holdings, put forward an alternative merger proposal last month, believing a CNE-Partners pairing could shift control of Rhode Island's healthcare to another state. "I feel strongly that letting this acquisition go forward would be wrong for Rhode Island and for Brown," Brown President Christina Paxson wrote. "Doing so is likely to lead to specialty healthcare shifting to Massachusetts, impeding access to healthcare for Rhode Islanders and especially for members of the state’s underserved communities."
Brown University and CNE have a medical research affiliation.
Details are still unknown, but decisions will likely affect the combined 81,000 workers employed in all three systems.
Speakers at a recent panel on consolidation noted evidence suggests mergers are linked to poorer patient outcomes and higher costs.
"Consolidation, of course, is not the same as integration," Katherine Ho, associate professor of economics at Columbia University, said at the National Health Policy Conference earlier this month. "One hospital system buying up more hospitals doesn't necessarily lead patients to shift into one entity which generates scale."