In the past I’ve written about Lowell General Hospital, which I consider to be among the finest community hospitals in America. They are my client and I’m admittedly biased, but read my prior blog post and see what you think. The post is titled “The Über Community Hospital.”
Several months ago I was disappointed to read that Lowell General’s efforts to secure an affiliation with Saints Medical Center (the cross town rival) had fallen through and Saints was to be purchased by Steward Health Care. If you are not familiar with Steward, they are the for-profit parent company of Caritas Christi Health Care that recently acquired Morton Hospital and Quincy Hospital. They even have plans to launch their own insurance plan that requires consumers to use it’s facilities for nearly all routine health-care needs. Owned by Cerberus Capital Management LP, they have been gobbling up hospitals across Massachusetts at an alarming rate and are now a force to be reckoned with. Today they are the largest fully integrated community care organization and community hospital network in New England. Hospitals in the system include Saint Anne’s in Fall River, Holy Family Hospital in Methuen, St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton, Norwood Hospital, Carney Hospital in Dorchester, Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton, Nashoba Valley Medical Center in Ayer, and Merrimack Valley Hospital in Haverhill. Other Steward Health Care entities include Steward Physician Network, Caritas Hospice and Home Care, Laboure College, and Por Cristo.
I had been hopeful that Lowell General and Saints could work out an agreement that would keep control of Saints Medical Center at home, in Lowell. I could envision the two organizations working collaboratively and playing upon each other’s strengths to better serve the needs of the community. But it seemed like it was not to be. Then to my surprise, yesterday afternoon I was notified by my contact at Lowell that Lowell General Hospital and Saints Medical Center had signed off on a memorandum of understanding that would lead to an eventual affiliation between the two hospitals! Lowell General and Saints Medical Center expect a final agreement to be done by the first of the year. My prayers had been answered and the Steward deal had fallen through. Steward can go find some other prey.
This agreement should lead to coordinated care in Lowell, rather than unproductive competition for patients. It should, in some cases, help to eliminate unnecessary duplication of services. And it keeps the interest of the community in the foreground. This is good news for both of the hospitals and the community they serve. I could not be happier! Sometimes the good guys really do prevail.
And the timing is perfect. In the summer of 2012 Lowell General will be opening its new $95 million, six-story patient tower, adding more than 175,000 square feet of new space and featuring increased surgical services suites, a new trauma center and emergency department, a new outpatient services area, greatly improved access for patients and visitors, three floors of private patient rooms, and a helipad. With the launch of this new facility, and a new medical office building in Chelmsford, patients and families will receive care in healing environments designed with them in mind. The care environment will now match and in many ways enhance the quality of care that is deliver. This is wonderful news for the community.
Here’s the text of the announcement that went out yesterday afternoon from the two hospitals:
Lowell General Hospital and Saints Medical Center Announce Affiliation
(Lowell, MA) Lowell General Hospital and Saints Medical Center today announced that they have agreed to a memorandum of understanding with the goal of having the two hospitals affiliate with each other.
Victor Poirier, chairman, Saints Board of Trustees, said, “We believe that an affiliation with Lowell General Hospital will serve the needs of this institution and the Greater Lowell community now and in the future. By joining with Lowell General, Saints will be able to thrive and succeed for the long-term.”
The two organizations emphasized that an affiliation will promote the delivery of high quality health care in the community at lower cost, by allowing the hospitals to utilize their resources in the most effective and efficient way, eliminating duplication of services and redundant capital spending on new technology and equipment and improving their ability to deliver more integrated and coordinated care. The combination of Saints and Lowell General will lead to improved coordination of care, both within the hospitals and between the hospitals and community physicians, the hospitals said.
“Combining our strengths will enhance our ability to recruit and retain the best doctors and nurses, expand our capacity to deliver highly specialized care, and coordinate our community outreach efforts to improve the health and wellness of the community,” said Norm Deschene, President and CEO of Lowell General.
“It ensures continued local control of these two vital institutions and strengthening our missions of expanding access to healthcare, especially to those most in need in the community,” said Margaret Palm, Chair of the Board of Lowell General Hospital.
“An affiliation with Lowell General meets the need of Saints for a strong financial partner and one that also respects the mission of the hospital,” said Stephen J. Guimond, Saints President and CEO, “Under the memorandum of understanding the hospitals are committed to maintaining two hospital campuses, which would then be under the direction of a new corporation and board of directors, comprised of equal representation from the current Lowell General and Saints boards.”
With this announcement the two hospitals will now enter a period in which they will exchange confidential information and negotiate issues related to their integration.
“We are absolutely convinced that these discussions will lead to a new local health care system that will be second-to-none,” said Deschene.
About Lowell General Hospital
Lowell General Hospital is an independent, not-for-profit, community hospital serving the Greater Lowell area and surrounding communities. The hospital encompasses ten buildings, the latest state-of-the-art technology and a full range of medical and surgical services for patients, from newborns to seniors, including: the Regional Center for Maternal and Pediatric Care in partnership with Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center, the Cancer Center, and the Heart and Vascular Center.
The main hospital campus offers 217 licensed beds, including 28 bassinets and a Level IIB Special Care Nursery. The hospital’s satellite campus, Lowell General Chelmsford, offers a variety of outpatient services, including the Surgery Center, the Imaging Center, the Patient Service Center, the Center for Weight Management and Bariatric Surgery and Floating Hospital for Children’s Pediatric Specialty Center.
Lowell General Hospital’s family of services includes two health organizations which serve the community’s health care needs in capacities outside of the hospital, the Visiting Nurse Association of Greater Lowell, which provides comprehensive home health care services and the Lowell Community Health Center, which meets the diverse medical, cultural and multi-lingual needs of the city’s population.
Lowell General Hospital is a member of the Voluntary Hospitals of America. Hospital programs are accredited by the Joint Commission of Hospitals, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the American College of Surgeons, and the College of American Pathology.
About Saints Medical Center
Saints Medical Center is a not-for-profit, full service, acute care community hospital serving Greater Lowell and the Merrimack Valley since 1839. A 157-bed licensed medical center, Saints provides advanced health services to 315,000 residents in 25 towns. With nearly 400 physicians and 1,300 employees, Saints Medical Center is well known for outstanding medical care and patient-centered facilities including its Centers of Excellence in Cancer Care, Orthopedics, Cardiovascular Services and Women’s Health. Saints also offers community-based care at several ambulatory sites and is dedicated to promoting health and wellness in the community. Saints has clinical affiliations with several leading Boston academic medical centers and is fully accredited by The Joint Commission. Further information is available at http://www.saintsmedicalcenter.com.