PAWTUCKET—Employees, board members and hospital officials stood under white tents on the Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island's lawn Tuesday to witness a milestone: the signing of documents that seal the partnership between the Pawtucket-based medical facility with the Care New England Health System.
The signing ceremony finalizes a new affiliation and partnership agreement for Memorial to join the Care New England Health System. Following a year-long process, which includes receiving regulatory approval, Memorial becomes the fourth hospital partner in the Care New England (CNE) organization, joining Butler, Kent and Woman & Infants hospitals. CNE also includes the Care New England Wellness Center and the VNA of Care New England.
Care New England President and CEO Dennis Keefe likened the event to “two years of dating, engagement and now we're getting married.” He called it “an outstanding day” for Memorial Hospital and Care New England and said the signing serves as the culmination of “bringing together a new system of care.”
Memorial Hospital Interim President and CEO Arthur DeBlois III said the new arrangement “can serve to stabilize Memorial and position us to handle the challenges of the new health care environment.”
In front of a battery of local news media, Keefe and DeBlois put pen to paper on the merger documents. At the urging of several photographers, the two shook hands to a round of applause. Those in attendance were treated to a buffet lunch of hot dogs, hamburgers, cookies and lemonade, while “cookie rounds” were promised to those working MHRI's night shift.
The affiliation is acknowledged to be a significant change in the state's health care landscape. Memorial Hospital has been a stand-alone community hospital for over a century, but in recent years, officials acknowledged it has been facing significant financial challenges. After undergoing expedited review, the new affiliation agreement received approval from federal and state regulators.
Officials have said the two institutions share similar cultures and believe the partnership will strengthen clinical programs, maintain strong academic and research platforms, and develop an integrated delivery system of coordinated patient services across the full continuum of care. Among the benefits of the partnership are the development of “signature service lines,” including women's health, behavioral health, primary care and home care.
DeBlois said the deliberation process first began two years ago, during which time, Memorial Hospital officials had gotten to know Care New England and considered the organization to be “a great fit.” He said the merger allows for a “seamless transition” for patients while providing access to a broader range of services over an expanded geographical area.
For example, DeBlois said that if a patient arrives at Memorial Hospital but is found to need a certain type of surgery or treatment, that person can now go to Women & Infants, Kent, or another facility under the Care New England umbrella. “This enables us to meet the new health care initiatives,” he stated.
Keefe told the Memorial Hospital employees that he and other Care New England officials would be at hospital entrances the next morning at 6 a.m. to greet and shake hands with the arriving staff. He also said there were numerous “town meetings” and other forums planned between CNE and MHRI staff in an effort to achieve a smooth transition. “We look forward to having you be part of our culture,” he stated to workers, adding that this would be a participatory process with MHRI staff “to help define that culture.”
Keefe added, “The system as a whole has been keenly focused on improving the way health care is delivered to our patients and their families. Memorial Hospital and its rich legacy in the Blackstone valley is an ideal addition to our system.”
Dr. Joseph Diaz, interim chief of medicine at MHRI, said he looks upon the merger as being “quite positive” for Memorial. He noted that from the wider range of services being offered to academics and research, being part of a larger healthcare system will be extremely helpful. “It's getting harder for a hospital that remains this size to thrive,” he noted.
Likewise, Shelley MacDonald, senior vice president of operations and chief of nursing at MHRI, said the new partnership allows the hospital to offer much more in the way of patient care than it could do on its own. She also said it reflects the larger changing vision in the field of nursing and in health care as a whole. “The nursing staff is excited,” she said.
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