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By Richard Asinof
WAKEFIELD – The board of trustees at South County Hospital is exploring the possibility of creating a combined health care delivery system for Washington County, taking over the operations of Westerly Hospital, now in receivership, according to Eve Keenan, chairwoman of the board.
The hospital has notified Mark Russo, the court-appoint special master for Westerly Hospital, that South County is interested in seeking a solution that links the two communities in order to maintain access to health care that is nonprofit, community-based, high quality and affordable, according to Lou Giancol, president and CEO of South County.
“We see this not so much as a bid [to take over Westerly Hospital], but an effort to plan a system of delivery of health care that maintains access, enhances quality and is more efficient,” Giancola told the Providence Business News. “We won’t go forward is we don’t have the support of the Westerly community.”
The opportunity in combining service areas, Giancola continued, “is about scale – with more patients, and the economics of scale through a unified management structure and service consolidation.”
Giancola said South County is currently sorting through the data and engaging with dialogue with community representatives. In terms of finances, Giancola said that South County has been operating in the black for the last few fiscal years, with a 2 percent operating revenue gain during the last fiscal year. There are “modest” operating gain during the first six months of this fiscal year, he said, debunked a rumor, offered by a hospital system spokesman, that South County was experiencing financial difficulty.
Giancola said it was premature to discuss the possibilities of expanding South County’s orthopedic center to this proposed collaboration. “In general, we see this as two organizations coming together, giving us an opportunity to develop centers of excellence at both institutions, with the potential of shared resources and shared facilities.”