GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

April 3, 2013

Lahey in prelim merger talks with Beth Israel

By Richard Gaines
Staff Writer

---- — Lahey Health, the $1.5 billion hospital and medical system that includes Beverly and Addison Gilbert Hospitals, is in preliminary merger talks with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, one of Boston’s preeminent hospital systems, according to sources close to the talks and internal documents made public today to the Times.

A third party to the negotiations is Atrius Health, an organization of physician groups representing an estimated 1,200 to 1,500 doctors and approximately 1 million widespread patients.

Beth Israel Deaconess is roughly the same size financially as Lahey, but together as a $3 million city-suburban system, the two combined would still be no more than half the size of Partners Health Care — whose epicenters, Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Medical Center, emanate across Greater Boston, and which features North Shore Medical Center, an outpatient hospital in Danver.

Howard Grant, president and chief operating officer of Lahey released a statement to the staff today, identifying the principals in the negotiations that, while preliminary, were characterized to the Times by a source close to the talks as having a “50-50” chance of succeeding — a figure considered strong, the source said, considering the complexities of the groups in conversation.

”We talk often about the dynamically changing landscape of healthcare in our region, and I am writing to share with you that Atrius Health, Lahey Health, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians at BIDMC have begun an active exploration of ways we can broaden and enhance our existing relationships,” Grant wrote, addressing his message to “Lahey Health Colleagues.”

”Today, (Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center) is the primary tertiary hospital for Atrius Health patients, and Atrius Health also partners with Lahey Health in the northern suburbs,” he continued. “We are all pleased to be participating in these discussions because we believe that partnerships with other high quality health care providers are fundamental to meeting the needs of our patients and controlling costs in today’s complex health care environment.”

Grant added that “our organizations share the same vision of providing outstanding care in the right place at the right time.”

”In our exploration together, we are seeking to further enhance the quality and safety of care we provide our patients, improve the health of the communities we serve, and manage the cost of care at sustainable levels,” Grant continued. “We believe that, by working together there are opportunities to improve the experience of patient care in the ambulatory, hospital, and other environments while effectively facilitating transitions of care to improve the health and wellness of the community.

”Our conversations are very preliminary. We have made a commitment to spend a few months exploring new possibilities to benefit our patients and the communities we serve.”

Beth Israel Deaconess was first to release its statement.

Its president and CEO, Kevin Tabb, and Stuart Rosenberg, President and CEO of Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians, the physicians group of BIDMC, said in a joint internal email released to the Times after an inquiry that, “over the past year, we have entered into several of these new partnerships – an important track record for us – and I wanted to tell you about another potential new relationship we are beginning to discuss with some key participants in the delivery of health care in eastern Massachusetts.”

Tabb and Rosenberg identified them as Atrius Health, Lahey Health (the system created by the merger last summer of Lahey Clinic and Northeast Health System) and Lahey Clinic Physicians Group.

”Atrius Health, Lahey Health, Lahey Clinic Physicians Group, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians at BIDMC have begun an active exploration of ways we can broaden and enhance our existing relationships,” they wrote.

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Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3464, or at rgaines@gloucestertimes.com.