Lifespan, CNE move toward merger, leaving many to wonder about side effects

UNDER PRESSURE: Dr. Raymond Powrie, Care New England’s chief of medicine, acknowledges that financially “hard decisions have been made” during the pandemic.  / PBN PHOTO/PAMELA BHATIA
UNDER PRESSURE: Dr. Raymond Powrie, Care New England’s chief of medicine, acknowledges that financially “hard decisions have been made” during the pandemic. / PBN PHOTO/PAMELA BHATIA
For decades, Rhode Island’s two largest hospital systems have been rivals, each enduring similar financial pressures on their own in a small but competitive market. Several attempts over the years by Lifespan Corp. and Care New England Health System to join forces collapsed, including when Gov. Gina M. Raimondo stepped in last year to encourage…

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  1. As a Trustee Emeritus of Women and Infants Hospital, I have long advocated for the formation of a true Academic Medical Center in Rhode Island by the merger of what is now Care New England with the Lifespan system and the Brown Medical school. Having such an entity in our State would stimulate exciting growth in the “Meds and Eds” sector of our economy through research and private start up ventures, while reducing redundancy in many administrative functions and better coordination of individual patients’ care. Indeed it is the only path I see to Rhode Island maintaining control over its own health care system in the long run. Recent forays into the State by Yale to our South, and Boston based Partners/Mass General Brigham with Care New England have exposed the vulnerability of our disjointed acute care network to outside control.

    Presently I serve on the Board of South County Health, a very highly acclaimed and demonstrably excellent community hospital system with several standout clinical programs. Many people may not recognize that we are the last remaining independent community hospital in the State. While I can only speak for myself at this point, it seems clear to me that the combined Lifespan/CNE entity will pose a daunting competitive prospect for South County, whose role should really be as a collaborative feeder system rather than a competitor fighting to remain under community control. It has struck me that if our State, which will need to exercise expanded oversight of the new system to control prices in any event, could find a way for the new AMC to divest Kent Hospital to combine with South County under the leadership of the latter (Kent no longer has an independent Board) it might allay some potential regulatory concerns about an in-market system with such market share hegemony as Lifespan/CNE would have, while enhancing the critical mass of patients and administrative efficiency that such entities as South County Health will need to survive in the rapidly consolidating health care environment.

    It is just a thought at this point but one I hope may receive some analysis and consideration as this historic health system restructuring continues.