GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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January 26, 2011

Group seeks guarantee for AGH

A Cape Ann citizens' group is calling on Northeast Health System to include, as part of any merger or sale agreement, a written commitment that it will maintain the core facilities that support Addison Gilbert Hospital's standing as a licensed emergency services provider.

Dozens of concerned citizens attended a pair of community meetings held in Rockport and Gloucester on Tuesday. The forums were organized by longtime nurse and health-care advocate Peg O'Malley through the Partners for Addison Gilbert citizens group, largely in response to growing talks regarding a possible Northeast sale or merger.

Northeast CEO Ken Hanover confirmed to the Times last week that his company, the corporate parent of Addison Gilbert, has been in potential merger or affiliation talks with four other Eastern Massachusetts-health care and hospital service providers — Lahey Clinic, Beth Israel Deaconess, Vanguard Health Systems and the Steward Health Care System, which includes Caritas hospitals.

Hanover said the talks were aimed at exploring the desirability of a strategic or primary alliance and that a decision on whether to proceed is expected later this year.

O'Malley said the Partners for Addison Gilbert group and residents from across Cape Ann "want to be a very strong player in any negotiations going forward."

Though O'Malley considered the forums to be successful, Northeast Health Systems has still declined to oblige the community's top request — a written guarantee of the hospital's preservation as an emergency care facility.

The consensus from the Rockport meeting, where more than 40 people crowded the Police Station community room, O'Malley said, was that residents would like an opportunity to hear again from Hanover in a public setting, and that Rockport's Board of Selectmen should take the lead to organize such an event.

"They want Hanover to speak directly to them, and for people to have an opportunity to ask him questions," O'Malley said. "Specifically, for information as to what effect (Northeast Health System's) requests for proposals or any other kind of affiliation would have on Addison Gilbert."

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