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In North Country, hospitals ink deal to join forces

Union Leader Correspondent

July 21. 2014 7:58PM
On Monday, the CEOs of four North Country Hospitals gathered at the Omni Mount Washington Hotel to sign an historic affiliation agreement. The CEOs, seated from left to right are, Russell Keene of Androscoggin Valley Hospital, Warren West of Littleton Regional Healthcare, Peter Gosline of Upper Connecticut Valley Hospital and Scott Howe of Weeks Medical Center. Standing behind the administrators are the chairmen of their respective boards of directors, left to right, Mark Kelly, Stevan Trooboff, Greg E. Placy, and David Atkinson. John Koziol 

BRETTON WOODS — The CEOs of four North Country hospitals on Monday signed a non-binding pact to create a common, non-profit parent organization.

Russell Keene of Androscoggin Valley Hospital, Warren West of Littleton Regional Healthcare, Peter Gosline of Upper Connecticut Valley Hospital and Scott Howe of Weeks Medical Center, gathered at the Omni Mount Washington Hotel to make the announcement.

The agreement “is by no means a done deal,” said Howe, noting it will be presented to the public in meetings next month.

According to a background memo provided by the four hospitals, they would continue to serve as nonprofits, providing the same programs and services, while controlling their own assets and endowments, and keeping their existing boards of directors — and their community-specific missions.

Each hospital’s relationships with its physicians, patient-care staff and employees, the memo said, “would remain largely the same.”

The new organization would have several employees, and could mean some reductions in the number of current administrators.

The bottom line, said the CEOs, is that the hospitals are all facing the same challenges — namely a reduction in Medicare and Medicaid payments; a graying population, which also happens to be the sickest and poorest in the Granite State; and a decrease in the number of insured patients.

While each hospital is viable now, the future is less certain, said Gosline, who has been UCVH’s interim chief administrative officer for all of 10 weeks but who has spent 40 years in the health care industry, the last 15 as president and CEO of Monadnock Community Hospital in Peterborough.

Smaller hospitals, Gosline pointed out, will have to align themselves with other care providers to form regional health care organizations.

Pointing to mergers between Memorial Hospital in North Conway and Maine Medical and between New London Hospital and the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, West said the future is clear for his and the other North Country hospitals: “we will be better together.”

Subject to approval by the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Charitable Trusts Division, the new parent organization would be in place sometime in 2015.

Keene called the affiliation an example of “an innovative North Country solution” and said hospitals would be better able to “hold” employment levels under the affiliation agreement.

State Sen. Jeff Woodburn, D-Dalton, praised the agreement, as he said it “will improve access, increase quality and improve efficiency of health care in the North Country. It will also help to stabilize our communities and revitalize our economy. I commend the work of the four North Country hospital CEOs, their boards of directors and their individual staff members for their innovation, dedication and commitment to the region and our people.”

The public meetings where the agreement will be presented are set for Aug. 11 at 6 p.m. in the Lecture Room at Androscoggin Valley; Aug. 12 at 6 p.m. in the board room at Weeks Medical Center; Aug. 13 at 6 p.m. in the Colebrook Elementary cafeteria and Aug. 13 at 6:15 p.m. in the Healthcare Conference Center at Littleton Regional Healthcare.

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