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North Country hospitals link up

Union Leader Correspondent

June 30. 2015 9:31PM
Peter Gosline of Upper Connecticut Valley Hospital and Warren West of Littleton Regional Healthcare joined two other hospital CEOs on Tuesday at the Mountain View Grand Resort in signing an agreement, which, subject to approval by the New Hampshire Attorney General, will form North Country Healthcare, a regional, nonprofit health-care organization. (JOHN KOZIOL/Union Leader Correspondent)

WHITEFIELD — The CEOs of four small, rural hospitals announced an agreement Tuesday to form a nonprofit organization known as North Country Healthcare.

It all began a year ago in July, when CEOs 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, where each said the best way for all to survive was to unite.

Keene, speaking at a news conference at Mountain View Grand Resort and Spa on Tuesday, said what is unique is that the hospitals are aligning and combining with each other, not a much larger third party.

Steve Ahnen, president of the N.H. Hospital Association, said the four are “creating the future of health care in the North Country,” adding that “standing still is not an option.”

Once reviewed by the Attorney General’s Charitable Trusts Division, the pact is slated to be in place in early 2016.

The review process also includes public information meetings, whose dates and locations have yet to be set.

Gosline said the formation of North Country Healthcare would preserve “access to high-quality, personal health care for people in the North Country,” while positioning the four member hospitals “to meet future challenges.”

West said that among the immediate benefits of affiliation will be increased purchasing power, and, in the long-term, the possibility of breaking even financially, if not actually doing “a lot better than that.”

He said while the expectation is that all the hospitals will offer the same high standard of care, specialized services may be limited to one or two facilities.

Doing so might make “economic sense,” West said.

Gosline said a goal of North Country Healthcare is to reduce patients’ drive time, with West adding that another aim is to “drive costs out of the system.” Under the affiliation agreement, West said each hospital is committed to participate for three years, after which it may exercise an exit clause.

North Country Healthcare will have its own board of directors and both a CEO and CFO (chief financial officer). Each hospital would also have its own on-site chief executive and retain existing boards of directors that would control their assets and endowments.

Each of the hospitals will be represented on the North County Healthcare’s board of directors, but not every member will have equal voting power.

Certain actions, such as increasing services, may require a minimum two-thirds and up to a 75-percent vote to succeed, Howe said.

State Sen. Jeff Woodburn, D-Dalton, hailed the announcement about North Country Healthcare, and praised the CEOs for representing “a shining example of how to do regionalization.”

Health Politics Whitefield

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