GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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October 10, 2011

Documents affirm 3-year AGH vows

Filings back CEOs' comments here, go no farther

Northeast Health System and Lahey Clinic have confirmed they will maintain "essential" services at Gloucester's Addison Gilbert Hospital and at Beverly Hospital for three years, and keep all employees for at least one year after their proposed merger, according to documents filed with the Department of Public Health.

The documents, formally filed last week, say those provisions are part of a "mutual understanding" on the part of Lahey and Northeast, but are not legally binding until they reach a definitive agreement.

"We're still actively engaged in the due diligence and planning phase of the process, so there are still some unanswered questions," Northeast Health System spokeswoman Lori Howley said.

The agreements between Lahey Clinic and Northeast Health are laid out in an application filed by the two organizations with the Department of Public Health, which must approve the merger.

As part of the agreements, a newly formed Lahey Health System would keep "essential clinical services" — such as obstetrics, pediatrics, cancer, cardiac, behavioral health and senior health — at both Beverly Hospital and Addison Gilbert for three years after finalization of the partnership.

The new organization would also maintain the emergency departments at both hospitals for the same time period.

Howley said officials will use those three years to evaluate all of the organization's services and "develop a network that aligns with the needs of the community."

Officials also said in the filing that they would offer employment to all current Northeast Health and Lahey employees "for at least 12 months" after the merger.

"It's a long process, and any changes that occur with staff or otherwise will take time," Howley said.

The three-year commitments place in writing the promises made by Northeast and Lahey chief executives Kenneth Hanover and Howard Grant, respectively, during a September visit to the Gloucester City Council and during a pair of community forums held at Cruiseport Gloucester.

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