Unions Return New England Independence; others are waiting for more details

CARE NEW ENGLAND HEALTH SYSTEM’s board of directors voted unanimously on July 5 to reject all merger offers and remain independent. Kent Hospital at Warwick is owned by Care New England. / WITH Courtesy COUNTY KNOW MEMORIAL HOSPITAL

PROVIDENCE – Care New England Health System announced on July 6 that it would operate independently and reject all offers to merge with other hospital groups. This came as a surprise to many, given Care New England’s years of efforts to find a mate.

Unions support the move, but others wonder how the state’s second-largest health system will manage on its own financially.

According to statements from CNE, the recent financial support given to hospitals in the 2023 state budget has enabled the health system to meet some of its immediate financial needs. CNE will also receive “enhanced support from several clinical and operational partners,” and said it is currently working to outline the details of these arrangements.

“This plan, combined with the financial support included in the recently enacted state budget, will ensure that Care New England will maintain a stable operational platform and continue to fulfill its mission of caring for its patient community and supporting our staff, Care New England New England CEO and President Dr. James E. Fanale and board chairman Charles Reppucci said in a joint statement.

The 2023 state budget will invest a total of $77.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to support healthcare facilities, including $45 million for hospitals. It will also increase Medicaid rates for hospitals by 5% over 2021 rates and Medicaid reimbursement rates for labor and delivery services by 20%.

The compensation provides significant financial support to CNE, which owns the Women & Infants Hospital, which is responsible for approximately 8,500 births per year.

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Health care unions across the state have shared support for the announcement, as many had expressed concerns about the possibility of Care New England being acquired by an out-of-state for-profit entity.

“We are encouraged by the voice of CNE to keep decisions about the future of our healthcare system under local control and look forward to learning more details,” said Jesse Martin, executive vice president of SEIU 1199 New England. “At the same time, it is vital that we continue to hold CNE accountable for using its public dollars to rebuild its workforce and invest in patient care; that includes giving primary care providers a seat at the table in decisions moving forward. †

SEIU 1199 NE represents 2,500 employees at Women and Infants Hospital, Butler Hospital and the VNA Care of New England.

Likewise, a spokesperson for the United Nurses & Allied Professionals said the announcement was “good news” for all Rhode Islanders.

“A sale of Care New England to one of its out-of-state, for-profit suitors would have been a permanent and devastating loss,” said Brad Dufault, a spokesperson for UNAP, which employs about 2,500 Lifespan Corp. employees. and represents 1,500 employees. at Care New England. “We’ve already seen it happen with Rhode Island’s two profitable systems, which have a poor track record and consistently prioritize shareholder profit before quality patient care. This infusion of money should not only help stabilize Care New England’s finances, but also enable them to bolster their finances going forward. The fact that the state’s two largest healthcare providers remain non-profit and locally controlled is an important step toward continued quality care in these hospitals.”

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Kelli Price, a registered nurse in the medical, surgical, oncology, intensive care unit at Women and Infants Hospital, said: “CNE’s vote to remain independent is a positive development, but the devil is in the details. We need a clear plan from CNE on how they plan to use the state and federal funding they have received to retain staff, increase the workforce and improve patient care.”

Both UNAP and SEIU 1199 New England had supported the now-failed merger of Care New England and Lifespan because it would protect CNE from incorporation by an out-of-state agency.

The merger was rejected by RI Attorney General Peter F. Neronha in February after Neronha claimed it would affect competition in the market and “negatively impact health care costs, quality and access to health care services.” concern.” He also said the proposal does not detail what the merged system would look like and what Brown’s role would be.

Neil D. Steinberg, CEO and president of the Rhode Island Foundation, said he is pleased to see CNE making “progress with continued local scrutiny that will stabilize their operations for the benefit of the state.

“We look forward to more details and believe that the support and partnerships that CNE is developing will help ensure their financial stability going forward,” Steinberg said.

The Rhode Island Foundation had developed a series of recommendations for the failed merger last year.

“Rhode Islanders want equitable, accessible, affordable and quality health care that also addresses care inequalities and the social determinants of health, such as housing and food insecurity, as detailed in the Integrated Academic Health System report we released last November,” said Steinberg. “It is important that all providers, insurers and government work together to achieve this.”

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Others expressed more bewilderment at the unexpected announcement.

“I had more questions than answers after reading the announcement because it wasn’t clear to me how these things were supposed to happen,” said Robert B. Hackey, a professor of health policy and management at Providence College. “It was clear that they had made the decision not to move forward with other partnerships, but it was not clear to me how they would maintain the current status quo.”

While the state budget will provide hospitals with significant financial support, Hackey said it will primarily address the operational side of Care New England’s financial needs, but it may not be enough to meet the need to invest in the physical plant.

“They’re not in a great financial position,” Hackey said. “Some of their facilities are older, they need to be modernized. I am curious how they will meet that need now.”

Despite being “constantly seeking a partner for decades,” Hackey said the July 6 announcement made it clear that Care New England does not envision a merger going forward.

But he doesn’t think this decision is final.

“I tend to think that this is a more short-term solution and that once a new permanent CEO takes over, they may have a different plan,” Hackey said.

(SUBS 6th paragraph with annual birth data.)

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