Brown Reverses Course & Signs Deal with Partners HealthCare — Change By Paxson & Raimondo

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

 

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Brown President Paxson strikes deal with Partners

In January, Brown University President Christina Paxson blistered Boston-based healthcare conglomerate Partners HealthCare and their plan to enter the Rhode Island market via their acquisition of the financial fledgling Care New England hospital group

“I feel strongly that letting this acquisition go forward would be wrong for Rhode Island and for Brown. Doing so is likely to lead to specialty healthcare shifting to Massachusetts, impeding access to healthcare for Rhode Islanders and especially for members of the state’s underserved communities,” she wrote in a letter to the Brown community that was released to the public and media.

In a conference call with reporters back in January, Paxson said she was concerned that if Partners made the acquisition of Care New England, Rhode Island would see significant jobs losses.

“It also would likely increase the cost of care and reduce the ability of Rhode Islanders — consumers, businesses, healthcare workers and policy-makers — to have a voice in how our healthcare system works. If the focal point of Rhode Island healthcare shifts to Boston, excellent physicians (many of them Brown-trained) could be less likely to choose Rhode Island as a place to practice,” she added.

Partners' workforce is more than twice the size of Rhode Island’s direct healthcare workforce — it employees more than 70,000. The healthcare giant’s budget is roughly a third larger than Rhode Island’s — Partners' annual budget in 2017 was in excess of $13.4 billion. 

Others raised concerns — Governor Gina Raimondo and Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor warned that Partners' entrance into the market could lead to the loss of thousands of jobs.

Reversal - Brown Strikes Deal with Partners

Now, on Tuesday, Brown’s reversal was formalized. Partners HealthCare, Care New England Health System and Brown University announced they have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to formalize “a joint commitment to providing the highest quality of patient care, physician training and biomedical innovation to Rhode Island.”

“This agreement sets us on a clear path for achieving Brown’s goals of a partnership that will enhance the quality of clinical care, generate biomedical research that improves population health and fuel economic development in Rhode Island,” Paxson said via the joint release.

“Other objectives of the new partnership include maintaining and enhancing the quality of medical education for medical students at existing and future CNE clinical facilities; evaluating ways to strengthen the relationship between CNE physicians and physicians in Brown-affiliated faculty practice groups; exploring the potential for a new medical research institute in Providence and shared governance to support the goals of the partnership,” said the release.

The announcement is starkly different from Paxson’s claims in January, “I feel strongly that letting this acquisition go forward would be wrong for Rhode Island and for Brown. Doing so is likely to lead to specialty healthcare shifting to Massachusetts, impeding access to healthcare for Rhode Islanders and especially for members of the state’s underserved communities. It also would likely increase the cost of care and reduce the ability of Rhode Islanders — consumers, businesses, healthcare workers and policy-makers — to have a voice in how our healthcare system works.”

When asked what transformed Paxson’s position, her press office told GoLocal in an email, “The MOU commits to providing the highest quality healthcare and exceptional medical training, enhanced opportunities for research, and biomedical innovation that fuels economic development. We remain steadfast in embracing solutions that serve our region and preserve our academic mission.”

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Raimondo now favors the deal

Raimondo Shift

Initially, Raimondo embraced the January Brown pronouncement. “I’m encouraged that there might be even more options for Care New England’s future [Brown partnered with CharterCare]. Having a financially sustainable hospital system in Rhode Island is critical to the health and prosperity of our people," said Raimondo. 

Raimondo on GoLocal LIVE on January 28 issued the same warning about the adverse impact Partners could have on the Rhode Island economy, stressing the importance that "jobs stay local, care stays local and healthcare costs don’t go up. No one wants to drive to Boston to go to your doctor,” said Raimondo.

But in June, Raimondo’s opposition began to change. 

The shift in Raimondo’s position changed nearly simultaneously to a Boston fundraiser.

Raimondo raised tens of thousands in Boston in early June at a fundraising event hosted by top Partners board members.  Raimondo raised from Massachusetts donors $71,950.00 from 115 individuals in June alone — an average donation of more than $625 per donor.

Raimondo’s take from Massachusetts donors — many tied to the Partner’s sponsored fundraiser is more almost as much as her Democratic rival Matt Brown raised for the quarter — $71,950 to $77,083.

On Tuesday night Raimondo's team was celebrating the new Brown and Partner's deal.

“This is encouraging news. The Governor is pleased that Brown University has come to terms with Partners and Care New England. Brown is a critical player in ensuring that Rhode Island remains a leader in biomedical innovation. If a merger is approved, this partnership with our strong local academic medical school will help ensure that research dollars stay in Rhode Island,” said Raimondo’s Director of Communication Mike Raia.

“As for what's changed in seven months, that's a question for the institutions that are party to the MOU,” added Raia,

No one is able or willing to answer how Paxson's concerns about jobs losses in Rhode Island have been rectified.

One of the leading healthcare union is guardedly optimistic about the deal. United Nurses and Allied Professionals (UNAP) spokesman Ray Sullivan said, "We remain cautiously optimistic about a potential partnership between Partners HealthCare and Care New England Health System and recognize the important role that Brown University would play in the event that merger were to move forward. Our priority is to strengthen support and resources frontline caregivers and protect Rhode Island jobs and services for our members and our patients. We look forward to participating in conversations with leaders from Partners and Care New England at the appropriate time.”

UNAP is presently in an ongoing labor action against Lifespan and has had an ongoing dispute with CharterCare.

Next Steps

Partners' acquisition of Care New England must go through the approval process under the Hospital Conversion Act (HCA) and be approved by Massachusett's Attorney General Maura Healey. The RI HCA process has two regulators, the Rhode Island Department of Health and the RI Attorney General. A formal HCA application needs to be submitted by Partners to trigger the formal review process.

Lifespan did not respond to requests for comment on the Brown and Partners news.

 
 

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