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Dartmouth-Hitchcock gets $36.5m contract to staff state hospital

State House Bureau

September 07. 2016 1:05PM

NORTH CONWAY ­— The Executive Council has unanimously approved a three-year contract with Dartmouth-Hitchcock to provide staffing and administrative services at New Hampshire Hospital and other state medical facilities.

The vote came after two months of debate and delay, as the three Republicans and two Democrats on the council raised questions about Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s ability to appropriately staff the state psychiatric hospital in the wake of a labor dispute that saw 11 psychiatrists and nurse practitioners leave the facility.

Two weeks ago, the council unanimously tabled a vote on the contract after urging the Department of Health and Human Services to re-open the bidding process.

But in a meeting at the North Conway Community Center on Wednesday, councilors were convinced that the state’s best interests would be served by approving the contract, despite their concerns and the protests of departing medical staff.

“It was a vote that we weren’t that comfortable with but felt we were boxed into a corner,” said Republican Councilor Dave Wheeler of Milford. “All five of us asked the Hassan administration weeks ago to put it out to bid again, but now we’re pushing a deadline with just a few weeks left to make a decision. With the shortage of professionals and such, we felt we didn’t have a choice.”

The three-year deal is worth $36.5 million to Dartmouth-Hitchcock, which posted a $22.6 million operating loss for the quarter that ended June 30.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock is the parent company of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Clinic and Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital. The agreement technically is between the state and Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital and is in effect from Nov. 1, 2016 to June 30, 2019, with an option to renew in the ensuing six years.

In addition to staffing and administration at New Hampshire Hospital, the contract calls for services at the state-owned Glencliff Home for the developmentally disabled and mentally ill.

Dartmouth-Hitchock will also provide clinical and administrative leadership to the state’s Medicaid program and behavioral health services, according to the contract, including at the Sununu Youth Services Center for juveniles.

The suite of specialized medical services had been provided for years by the Dartmouth College medical school, which last year announced plans to restructure, citing financial constraints.

As part of that restructuring, the Dartmouth College board decided not to seek renewal of its contract with the state when it expired in June.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock was the only entity that bid on the contract, one of the issues that troubled the Executive Council.

Several of the incumbent medical staff at the New Hampshire Hospital, who say they were happy working for the Dartmouth medical school, could not come to terms with Dartmouth-Hitchcock.

Concerns over the staffing issues were heightened when a Nashua woman with a long history of in-patient care at New Hampshire Hospital committed suicide within hours of her release on July 27.

“It was a very tough case, very unfortunate” North Country Councilor Joe Kenney told the Valley News. “But I think at the end of the day, that the people who were in decision-making authority levels did what they thought was right at the time.”

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