Fasano Comments on Lawrence + Memorial joining Yale New Haven Health System [NH Register]

July 16, 2015

New Haven Register
The parent organization of Lawrence + Memorial Hospital and the Yale New Haven Health System have signed an agreement to affiliate, with Yale promising to put a $300 million investment into its new partner in eastern Connecticut and western Rhode Island.

L+M Healthcare is the parent of Lawrence + Memorial in New London, Westerly Hospital in Rhode Island, L+M Group and the Visiting Nurse Association of Southeastern Connecticut.

The Yale New Haven Health System now consists of Bridgeport Hospital, Greenwich and Yale-New Haven Hospital and already has the most hospital beds in the state before the proposed expanded partnership.

The investment will cover clinical areas such as primary care, obstetric/maternity services, orthopedics, neurosurgery, maternal-fetal medicine, vascular, neurology/stroke and endocrine medicine, building on the clinical partnerships Yale already had with Lawrence + Memorial.

In addition, Yale will extend its Epic electronic medical record system to L+M Healthcare.

Approved by the boards of directors of each system, it has to be approved by Connecticut, Rhode Island and federal officials.

The health care systems said the agreement is based on the belief that it will enhance quality and efficiency.

“Yale New Haven is the obvious choice for a partnership for L+M,” Bruce Cummings, president and CEO of L+M Healthcare, said in a statement. “This affiliation will provide us with the clinical depth and resources we need to grow and serve our patients and will respect our role as a vibrant community-based hospital system.”

“We are very enthusiastic about an affiliation with L+M because we firmly believe that it will help both health systems continue to succeed in this rapidly evolving environment,” said Marna P. Borgstrom, president and CEO of Yale New Haven Health and CEO of Yale-New Haven Hospital.

The consolidation of hospitals and new affiliations led to a series of bills at the General Assembly this session by lawmakers nervous about the shrinking health care market.

The hospitals view the changes as the only way to deal with taxes and expected changes in payment systems, while lawmakers fear it will lead to less choice and higher costs.

Two of the biggest critics have been state Senate Minority Leonard Fasano, R-North Haven, and state Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven.

“This move will give Yale almost complete market power across the southern portion of our state into Rhode Island,” Fasano said in a statement. “From Greenwich eastward many patients will only have one option for care. Limiting patient choice and perpetuating single provider market dominance all too often translates to higher prices — something patients cannot afford.”

Fasano continues to be critical of Yale New Haven’s decision to shut down a walk-in clinic in East Haven and a physical and occupational therapy facility in Branford, and he accused it of prioritizing expansion over “serving their core community.”

The hospital has said the proposed closures will save money by closing redundant operations.

Vincent Petrini, spokesman for Yale-New Haven Hospital, said the decisions to affiliate with other hospitals and to close facilities are not mutually exclusive. One of the primary reasons for expanding the system is to “drive down costs through economies of scale,” Petrini said.

He said there are a number of hospitals in western Connecticut to serve that population, from Stamford Hospital, Griffin Hospital, Norwalk Hospital and Milford Hospital, in addition to the Yale system.

While Yale New Haven Health System is already the largest in Connecticut, it is smaller than the top 40 hospitals in the country.

Under the agreement, Lawrence + Memorial Medical Group will become part of Yale New Haven Health’s Northeast Medical Group, which is an affiliated care organization.

The deal will keep all current labor contracts in effect with Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, the visiting nurses and Westerly Hospital, while L+M and Westerly hospitals will maintain their own boards of trustees.
“While there are still more questions than answers and all the details are not yet finalized, we have been and continue to be engaged in this process,” the leaders of three unions at L+M wrote in a statement.

They said they appreciated the commitment to “ensuring the long-term strength and viability of our organization” and the equal emphasis on its priorities of “healthcare quality, access and efficiency.”

They promised to make their voices heard to ensure “‘patients before profits’ at our community hospital and throughout our health network.”

Fasano said the new state laws will enhance patient protections. “But the truth is patients are best served when they have the power to make their own choices in a competitive health care market. Yale’s expansion does not foster that competition,” he wrote.

New legislation on affiliations does not kick in until December and this proposal, as well as several other proposed purchases, are all likely to fall under the current rules.

Waterbury Hospital officials are seeking to be bought by Prospect Medical Holdings. Prospect is expected to also buy Eastern Connecticut Health Network, the parent of Manchester Memorial and Rockville General hospitals. St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford wishes to join Trinity Health, a large Catholic network.