The decision by CharterCARE to merge with the private, for-profit Prospect Medical Holdings in Santa Ana, Calif., once again promises to change the evolving landscape of hospitals in Rhode Island.
With the sale of Westerly Hospital to Lawrence & Memorial Hospital in New London, Conn., the proposed merger of Memorial Hospital in Pawtucket into the Care New England network, and the almost five-year saga of the sale of Landmark Medical Center still unresolved, with Prime Healthcare Services of Ontario, Calif., the latest bidder, CharterCARE’s bid to find a for-profit partner to infuse capital into its operation sis the latest twist in the changing landscape of health care delivery in Rhode Island.
Providence Business asked Kenneth Belcher, president and CEO of CharterCARE, to talk about what the new venture with Prospect Medical Holding will mean for Rhode Island.
PBN: How does the new venture of Prospect Medical Holding change the landscape for hospitals in Rhode Island?
BELCHER: Rather than signaling a fundamental change in Rhode Island’s hospitals, our proposed joint venture is an innovative and positive development for the region.
At a time when businesses are talking about leaving the state, here is a company in Prospect Medical Holdings that is willing to invest significant capital dollars into our health delivery system and economy.
This will preserve jobs while strengthening the financial footings of our two heritage hospitals, Fatima and Roger Williams. It will maintain local governance and input (50 percent of the board will be from Rhode Island, which will report up to the corporate parent) and allows consumers continued access and choice to two high-quality, lower-cost hospitals.
PBN: What advantages do you see in operating as a for-profit entity?
BELCHER: Our joint venture would create a for-profit company, once all state approvals are obtained. One clear advantage to the city (Providence) and town (North Providence) our hospitals are located in would be paying taxes.
The for-profit status of the holding company is also a necessary vehicle for attracting significant private capital that can be reinvested in Rhode island’s health care delivery system. It is also important to note that even as a new for-profit entity, our charity care policies and charity care commitments will remain unchanged.
PBN: Lifespan and Care New England, Rhode Island's two largest hospital networks, are both expanding with new behavioral health alliances. Is this something that the new CharterCARE venture will also consider, once it receives regulatory approval.
BELCHER: CharterCARE's two heritage hospitals, Roger Williams and Our Lady of Fatima, have traditionally been significant providers of behavioral health care in Rhode Island.
Together, we have close to 120 licensed beds covering adult and geriatric psychiatry, dual diagnosis and addiction medicine, day treatment and outpatient programs and support services.
We clearly see our behavioral health services continuum as a proven center of clinical excellence and we have no plans to alter or diminish our role in this area.
PBN: What are some of the infrastructure investments you anticipate the new venture making in terms of CharterCARE’s existing structures?
BELCHER: There are a range of expected infrastructure investments that are under review, including renovations of surgical suites, inpatient facilities, upgrades to emergency power supplies, cosmetic improvements throughout as well as numerous other exciting improvements to meet the healthcare needs of the communities we serve.
PBN: Will the new venture launch a communications effort around the new partnership to create a new brand in the Rhode Island market?
BELCHER: No, the new joint venture will retain the CharterCARE Health Partners name. As a result, we will continue to sustain and strengthen the brands of our two heritage hospitals, Roger Williams and Fatima. We believe that consumers relate more positively to hospital-centered brands rather than hospital system brands.