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Hospitals make their case for alliance at second listening session

New Hampshire Union Leader

August 09. 2017 8:01PM

Public input
People can send questions or feedback to the hospitals on the informational website created for the proposed health care system,

A name for the new affiliation has yet to be determined; both organizations are looking for suggestions from the public.

NASHUA — More than 50 people attended a "listening session" Wednesday night in Nashua with executives and board members from a Manchester and Nashua hospital looking to create a regional health care system.

Elliot Health System and Southern New Hampshire Health (SNHH) executives said they believe such an alliance would provide more specialty services, increase profits and convince additional people to seek care in New Hampshire .

“Moving forward, our top priority first and foremost will be community need, and making sure we meet those needs,” said Elliot President and CEO Doug Dean.

“We want to be able to provide better access to health care,” said SNHH President and CEO Mike Rose. “We want to make sure we are addressing affordability issues. And we want to be in a position to respond to the community’s needs.”

The session was held at City Hall auditorium in Nashua; last month a similar session was held at UNH-Manchester.

Mary Sargent of Windham was one of three members of the public who addressed a question to hospital executives Wednesday night; she asked what employees of both organizations said about the proposed affiliation.

“I think what I’ve heard is positivity on what we’re trying to do here,” said Dean. “Most of what I’ve heard is enthusiasm. We can learn a lot working together. I hope we can develop relationships that will be very beneficial for employees in both our organizations.”

“We’ve gone through great lengths to garner as much feedback as we can from employees, and the feedback we’ve received has by and large been positive,” said Rose. “They’re curious about specifics, but when they get their questions answered, they are positive about it.”

Elliot Health System includes the 296-bed Elliot Hospital in Manchester. SNHH includes the 188-bed Southern New Hampshire Medical Center on two campuses in Nashua.

Elliot’s system handles about 400,000 outpatient visits a year, while Southern New Hampshire is closer to 500,000 outpatient visits. Hospital admissions were close to 13,000 a year at Elliot and around 10,300 at Southern New Hampshire.

Elliot employs about 4,000 people, SNHH about 2,000.

The medical staffs will remain two separate and distinct organizations, said Dean, and both organizations said no layoffs are planned.

Rose also cited the opioid abuse crisis the state is facing as another reason behind the hospitals joining forces.

“We feel that by joining together we are going to be much better positioned to respond,” said Rose.

The two health systems, which both trace their roots back to the 1890s, announced in late June they had signed a letter of intent to explore combining to form a regional health care system, while retaining their own names, identities and local governance structures.

Officials hope to reach a binding agreement by this fall, and receive the necessary approvals to complete the deal by March 2018.

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