Care New England announced Wednesday that it has signed an agreement for a takeover of Rhode Island’s second-largest hospital network by Boston-based Partners HealthCare.
The deal, if approved by federal and state regulators, would mark a giant shift in Rhode Island’s healthcare market, granting Massachusetts’ largest health system huge influence -- and pricing power -- over Rhode Island’s health system.
Brown University’s president, Christina Paxson -- previously one the most vocal critics of the proposed partnership -- expressed optimism about the new development. Brown’s senior leadership had “productive conversations” with Partners and Care New England to address her concerns.
“Preserving and strengthening healthcare and biomedical research and innovation in Rhode Island continues to be an important priority,” Paxson said in a statement. “As Brown’s discussions with Partners and Care New England continue, I am optimistic that we can address the various concerns that I raised earlier this year.”
Brown's particpation in the Care New England-Partners deal, Paxson confirmed, "would take the place of the alternative" partnership Brown had proposed with the Prospect Medical, the California for-profit parent of CharterCARE.
The United Nurses and Allied Professionals Union (UNAP)’s president, Linda McDonald, said that the union is “eager to learn more about the details” of the agreement and urged state regulators to be “diligent in their review.” McDonald added, “we were pleased to see Brown University President Christina Paxson walk back the school's previous commitment to pursuing a partnership with Prospect / CharterCare.”
The Care New England-Partners deal still has to be approved by federal and state regulators in both Rhode Island and Massachusetts. It follows 13 months of negotiations during which time Care New England closed Memorial Hospital in Pawtucket and shed employees to stem its financial losses.
“Care New England has made significant progress in the last year to strengthen our financial outlook," James Fanale, the company's president and CEO, said, "and now while we will work through this important regulatory process, I am confident our affiliation with Partners will help us further invest in quality local care for the community, building upon the tremendous successes already in place.”
Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo's press secretary, Josh Block, said in an email, “The Governor is encouraged that Care New England and Partners are including a strong local partnership with Brown University[...] The Department of Health will conduct a public and thorough process before anything is approved, and Governor Raimondo has directed the team at DOH to emphasize keeping health care costs down and protecting access to local care.”
Partners and Care New England said they will continue "affiliation conversations" begun earlier this year with Lifespan, Rhode Island's largest hospital system.
Care New England operates three hospitals --Women & Infants, Kent and Butler – along with Kent County Visiting Nurses Association and The Providence Center. Partners’ network includes Brigham and Women's Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital. Both hospital networks are nonprofits.
updated 4:52 p.m.