GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Opinion

April 4, 2011

AGH care services, not tax revenues, are real bottom line

There's no question that the city of Gloucester could certainly use the estimated $225,000 a year in new tax revenues it could reel in if Addison Gilbert Hospital and its parent Northeast Health corporation were to become part of a for-profit health system,

And that potential is very much on the table, with the for-profit Steward Health System and Vanguard Health Systems among the suitors for Northeast and AGH, along with the not-for-profit Lahey Clinic and Beth Israel Deaconness.

Yet it's encouraging to hear Mayor Carolyn Kirk note that the potential for new tax revenue — however badly it may be needed — is not, by any means, at the top of her priority list when it comes to keeping tabs on any Northeast talks.

The truth is, Gloucester's and Cape Ann's interests are not best served by whether a for-profit or not-for-profit firm acquires or partners with Northeast. Indeed, the highest priority for all of us here on Cape Ann is to have Northeast remain or become a part of a corporation that will indeed keep Addison Gilbert open as a full emergency-service facility.

That was essentially Kirk's stand when, asked about the potential for tax revenues under a for-profit hospital, she told the Times that her order of priorities for the outcome of NHS' merger or acquisition discussions is, "first, the continuation of hospital and ER services, job retention, and then taxes."

Indeed, Beverly Mayor Scanlon expressed similar thoughts, noting that, as he sees it, any tax revenue gains could be offset if a for-profit acquisition were to mean even higher costs for local health-care services.

Yes, Beverly and especially Addison Gilbert are indeed community hospitals — and, as such, Northeast Health remains accountable to the community as a whole. But there's no reason for any city officials to try to steer CEO Ken Hanover and other Northeast negotiators toward any potential buyers based on their potential for bringing the host communities a fiscal windfall.

The success of any new Northeast "partnership" or sale will be judged here solely by how any such agreement means for Addison Gilbert's available health-care services.

In this case, that's the community's real bottom line.

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