Lifespan, CNE move forward with letter of intent to merge

Updated at 11:23 a.m. on Sept 9, 2020.

AFTER A 90-day exploratory period this summer, the leaders of Lifespan and Care New England have announced that they will move to the next step in their affiliation process. Above, on left, Lifespan CEO Timothy J. Babineau and Dr. James E. Fanale, president and CEO of Care New England. / PBN FILE PHOTOS/ DAVE HANSEN/MICHAEL SALERNO
AFTER A 90-day exploratory period this summer, the leaders of Lifespan and Care New England have announced that they will move to the next step in their affiliation process. Above, on left, Lifespan CEO Timothy J. Babineau and Dr. James E. Fanale, president and CEO of Care New England. / PBN FILE PHOTOS/ DAVE HANSEN/MICHAEL SALERNO

PROVIDENCE After a 90-day exploratory period this summer, the leaders of Lifespan Corp. and Care New England Health System have announced that they will move to the next step in their affiliation process.

Both boards of directors voted on Tuesday night to move forward with a letter of intent to merge Lifespan and Care New England into a single entity, Lifespan Board Chair Lawrence A. Aubin and Charles R. Reppucci, board chair for Care New England announced on Wednesday morning.

This news comes after the two organizations had collaborated on several initiatives related to the current pandemic and then in early June, had announced that they would take 90 days to study a more formal partnership.

Lifespan CEO and President Dr. Timothy J. Babineau said the COVID-19 pandemic was a “catalyst.” Then in the height of the pandemic, Babineau said that he and CNE CEO and President Dr. James E. Fanale reached out to one another and said, “Look, if we’re going to get through this for the state, I think we need to work together.”

- Advertisement -

Both systems and presidents worked collaboratively on issues surrounding COVID-19, such as temporarily not allowing visitors into hospitals, collaborating on when to cancel elective surgeries, how to expand care within the existing systems’ footprints and policies around personal protective equipment.

“After we did it for a while, we were able to demonstrate how the state and the patients we serve benefited,” Babineau said in an interview with Providence Business News. “We looked at each other and said, maybe it’s worth one more conversation trying to bring our organizations together.”

This is the fourth merger attempt between the systems since the 1990s. 

“When you start working together, it kind of melts away all the past stuff and realize what you could do together,” said Fanale. 

Both presidents said they have not yet decided who will lead the merger or the potential name of the new system. As of right now, Fanale and Babineau said they expect to keep each of Lifespan’s and CNE’s current facilities open in the new system.

“By combining the talent, experience and resources of our two organizations, we can create a national model that fully leverages the integration and coordination of care,” Aubin said in a statement. “In doing so, we are better equipped to meet market challenges and mandates to improve outcomes while reducing health care costs.”

According to the announcement, the combined system would create a Rhode Island-based, nonprofit academic medical center with Brown University alongside seven hospitals offering a “full complement of specialty, women’s and children’s, and behavioral health, and visiting nurse services, research and education.

More than 23,500 employees would be part of this new system, according to the announcement.

Christina H. Paxson, president of Brown University, said a unified medical center with Brown and the two systems has “always been” the best solution for health care in Rhode Island.

“I could not be more thrilled with this announcement,” Paxson said. “Capitalizing on the complementary strengths of our health care institutions with Brown University will make it possible to provide high-quality low-cost health care, attract and retain the best physicians, and grow our research enterprise while powering the Rhode Island economy.”

Conversations around a potential merger have loomed over Lifespan and CNE for more than a decade. Just last year, CNE was previously exploring a merger with Partners Healthcare, now known as Mass General Brigham, but Partners withdrew after Gov. Gina M. Raimondo asked the local systems to discuss a local merger.

“Combining our investment in our physicians, clinical staff, researchers, technology and other health care staff will greatly help us continue to fulfill our mission of providing world-class health care to our patients, advancing medical discoveries and serving as a vital economic engine for our state,” said Babineau.

Reppucci said the affiliation would build a stronger future for the organizations while maintaining a commitment to Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts.

“We look forward to continuing this collaboration, sharing additional details about our vision for health care delivery as we begin the regulatory process,” said Reppucci.

Any such agreement between Lifespan and Care New England would require state and regulatory approval through the R.I. Department of Health and the R.I. Attorney General’s office. Babineau said he expects this to be a yearlong process or more.

“After careful consideration, there is clear recognition of the value of a more formal relationship. Overall benefit, regarding the capabilities and reach of what is possible for the health care of our local communities, has been defined with a clear, high-level vision of what could be possible,” said Fanale.

Alexa Gagosz is a PBN staff writer. Contact her at Gagosz@PBN.com. You may also follow her on Twitter at @AlexaGagosz.

No posts to display