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11/14/2019

Seacoast Hospital Boards Reaffirm Commitment to Affiliation, Seek Dialogue with State Officials

Exeter Health Resources and Wentworth-Douglass Hospital have announced the launch of a public engagement effort, seeking the public’s support of their proposed affiliation with Massachusetts General Hospital and the benefits it would bring to their local communities.

The affiliation – to create a new, New Hampshire-based regional network to collaboratively deliver healthcare in the Seacoast Region – has been undergoing state and federal regulatory review for the past year. In September, despite the ongoing federal regulatory reviews, the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office filed an objection to the proposed affiliation citing potential future anti-trust concerns.

“It is critical that we have a dialog about how we could address their concerns,” said Mark Whitney, vice president for strategy at Exeter Health Resources. “There is too much at stake for future patients on the Seacoast of New Hampshire.”

The three hospitals vow to move the affiliation forward to gain approval from the Federal Trade Commission, stressing the importance of long-term sustainability of not-for-profit healthcare in the Seacoast, a commitment to new clinical services, access to Mass General specialty care, and expanded services for mental health and substance use disorder treatments. They are now launching a public engagement effort – through print, radio and digital channels – to further inform residents about the proposed affiliation and provide details about how they can contact elected officials to lend their support to the proposed affiliation and to encourage a solution.

“As a small independent community hospital, it is extremely difficult for us to achieve long-term sustainability and to add needed clinical resources to meet the needs of our patients,” said Kevin Callahan, CEO of Exeter Health Resources. “The affiliation with Wentworth-Douglass and Mass General would allow us to continue to meet community needs, sustain our charitable care mission and bring world-class specialty care to our communities for generations to come.” 

Gregory Walker, president and CEO of Wentworth-Douglass – which officially joined the Mass General family in 2017 – said the hospital has reduced costs for supplies and pharmaceuticals, realized economies of scale with office functions, and re-aligned staff to areas of focused growth, adding more than 300 new positions. “We have added more highly specialized care in many clinical areas, including cardiology and neurology,” Walker said. “In addition to providing better care for our patients, this affiliation will create more jobs and economic opportunities for the entire Seacoast Region.”

Hospital leaders say they face growing fiscal challenges due to insufficient reimbursement from government payers and increased financial risk, and there are growing concerns that these will worsen as providers throughout the state seek partnerships and affiliation approval to ensure their survival.

For example, Frisbie Memorial Hospital filed plans with state regulators to be acquired by Tennessee-based Hospital Corporation of America, a for-profit company that also owns two other area hospitals-Portsmouth Regional Hospital and Parkland Medical Center. Additionally, Beth Israel Lahey Health recently opened a primary care facility in Seabrook.

Peter L. Slavin, MD, president of Mass General, said, “Our goal is to work to bring specialty care services to the people of New Hampshire, ensuring their access to enhanced, quality care close to home. We have a successful relationship with Wentworth-Douglass Hospital and we hope to continue our commitment to enhancing healthcare in the Seacoast Region through this affiliation with Exeter Health Resources.”

Over the past several weeks a growing number of Seacoast residents and local leaders have joined the call for a dialog aimed at finding a way to balance the concerns of the state with the long-term healthcare needs of the Seacoast. Last week State Senators David Watters and Jon Morgan submitted a letter to fellow Senators, and the Exeter Chamber of Commerce reached out to the Governor encouraging the state to answer the hospitals’ call to discuss any concerns.

Whitney said there is a growing level of concern from Seacoast residents regarding the attempt to block the affiliation. “Collectively, Exeter Health Resources and Wentworth-Douglass Hospital have well over 100,000 patients and more than 6,000 employees who could be directly affected by the Office of the Attorney General’s objection to the proposed affiliation. We invite and encourage community members to share their concerns with elected officials by joining us in an incredibly important discussion about the future of healthcare in the Seacoast.”

For more information about the proposed affiliation, visit seacoasthealthcareinitiative.org.

A PDF of this press release available here

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