The chief executive officer of Northeast Health System, parent company of Gloucester's Addison Gilbert Hospital, is pledging to city officials they will be kept in the loop as his health care corporation explores partnership options with four larger organizations.
At a City Council session Tuesday night, Northeast CEO Ken Hanover outlined the latest milestone — a Feb. 7 request for proposals from the Lahey Clinic, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Vanguard Health Systems and Steward Health Care System.
"We are not seeking a partner because we are losing money or doing poorly by any measure," Hanover said in delivering prepared remarks.
"Instead," Hanover said, "our board of trustees believes that, to ensure our future vitality and maintain our ongoing ability to serve the health care needs of our community, we find a more extensive partnership, which adds to our size, increases the availability of resources for future investment and share our beliefs and values about community-based health care."
Making a third appearance before city officials since joining Northeast about 18 months ago, Hanover noted that he was well acquainted with the breadth and depth of local concerns about Addison Gilbert.
"Your concern — and we hear it, believe me, we hear it loud and clear — is, what does this mean for Addison Gilbert Hospital?" he noted.
"I've heard you tell me on many occasions that you want AGH to remain open and to continue providing the eight essential services required by our hospital license," he added. "You would like us to add more primary care doctors to our physician complement and more general surgeons and surgical subspecialists as well.
"In short, I understand 'the wants' and I will be discussing these with our potential partners," he said. "However such discussions have not occurred to date. We are still too early in our process."
Hanover said the Northeast board had appointed an affiliation advisory committee to oversee the partnership exploration and recommend a preferred partner,
That advisory group, he said, will be meeting in early March to finalize evaluation criteria. Partnership proposals are due in mid-March. A representative of the hospital confirmed Wednesday night that some Cape Ann residents are a part of the committee.
Hanover said the affiliation committee will rate the proposals and determine no later than April whether additional meetings or discussions should be held with the interested suitors, and then make a recommendation to the Northeast trustees.
If the board approves the recommendation, more specific discussions will occur with one or more of the interested parties to develop a preliminary term sheet.
"Once a term sheet is completed, I'll be more than happy to meet with Gloucester's local and state officials to review the key components of a proposed transaction as well as to conduct two community forums with members of the public to explain the key provisions of the term sheet and to solicit feedback prior to the finalization of any relationship," Hanover said.
He said he expected such discussions to take place in June, but added that the timing could not be guaranteed.
"My point here is to publicly assure the council that I fully intend to brief you and the public prior to the finalization of any future relationship," Hanover said.
In addition to Addison Gilbert, Northeast Health System includes Beverly Hospital and BayRidge Hospital in Lynn.
Other Northeast facilities include Beverly Hospital at Danvers; Medical and Day Surgery Center, Danvers; CAB Health & Recovery Services Inc. at 16 sites, including on Cape Ann; Health & Education Service Inc. at 38 sites, including on Cape Ann; the Herrick House in Beverly; Ledgewood Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Beverly; and Seacoast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Gloucester.
At the Tuesday night session, state Sen. Bruce Tarr of Gloucester, the leader of the Republican Senate minority on Beacon Hill, thanked Hanover for straightforward communication with the community.
Tarr also reiterated a standing community request for the Northeast board to provide a written statement of commitment to full-service hospital status at Addison Gilbert.
City Councilor Bruce Tobey asked about any vision for the future of AGH reflected in the context of the request for proposals; Hanover said that early-stage talks have not focused on component parts of the Northeast system.
According to Partners for Addison Gilbert Hospital organizer Peg O'Malley, minimum services that must be available in a hospital building as a precondition for the authorized provision of emergency services at that site include inpatient medical/surgical beds; critical care beds with adequate monitoring and therapeutic equipment; and 24-hour availability of qualified physicians and other appropriately qualified professional staff.
Other requirements include laboratory service with the capability of performing blood gas analysis and routine hematology and chemistry; radiological services capable of providing the necessary support for the emergency service; and surgical services, including adequate operating room facilities, post anesthesia recovery services, and the readily available services of a blood bank.
Francis X. Quinn can be reached at 978-283-7000 x 3455 or firstname.lastname@example.org.