BEVERLY — The planned partnership between Northeast Health System and the Lahey Clinic is a model that aims to keep primary care in communities, state Sen. Bruce Tarr acknowledged during a state Department of Public Health hearing Thursday night,
But it's a model that can't exist without Addison Gilbert Hospital.
And without an assurance that Gloucester's local hospital will be part of that system, Tarr said, the DPH should take another look at the two nonprofits' plans to affiliate.
"If we can't find those assurances," said Tarr, "I urge you to rethink the affiliation proposal,"
In Northeast's transfer in ownership application, the company lays out a written, albeit, non-binding guarantee to maintain essential clinical services at no less than current levels at Beverly and Addison Gilbert Hospitals for three years after the affiliation goes through.
But, according to the document, that maintenance is subject to exceptions determined by the affiliates' governing board. Exceptions for "exigent financial circumstances and regulatory requirements." It's also listed in a "non-binding" terms section.
That hasn't been enough for a number of Cape Ann residents and officials, who drove home that point to the DPH during Thursday night's hearing at Beverly's Memorial Hall.
Local officials, including Congressman John Tierney, Tarr and Mayor Carolyn Kirk all urged the department to make the preservation of Addison Gilbert's essential services a condition of both companies' affiliation plans.
Tierney said the affiliation can improve health care services for much of the North Shore area. But, he asked the department to find a way to ensure Addison Gilbert's future, especially regarding emergency services.
"The continuation of emergency services out there is a vital part of your decision," said Tierney.
The proposed new Lahey Health System, Northeast CEO Ken Hanover reiterated, has no plans to close Addison Gilbert, or drain essential services. Instead, he said, it will let the company invest in its community hospitals.
"On the contrary," he told the DPH, "the affiliation will allow us to promote greater access to services in the community for years to come."
The two companies announced plans for a $1.5 billion affiliation in July, with an eye toward creating a new nonprofit corporation in Lahey Health Systems and effectively linking a network of hospitals from Lahey's headquartrs in Burlington up Route 128 to Gloucester. Addison Gilbert was merged into Northeast, which also includes Beverly Hospital and other affiliates, in 1994.
The Department of Public Health held the session to hear from residents and the companies about the proposal before it decides whether or not to sign off on the affiliation. Northeast and Lahey's plans also need approvals from Attorney General Martha Coakley's office, and from the Federal Trade Commission.
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Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.