Partners asks RI officials to OK Care New England merger

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Partners HealthCare has taken the next major step in its bid to acquire Rhode Island’s second-largest hospital group, Care New England, following federal regulators’ decision to let the merger go through.

Partners said it filed a formal application this week with the R.I. Department of Health and the attorney general’s office under the Hospital Conversions Act, the law that governs hospital transactions. Because the proposed merger qualified for a fast-track review, the two offices will have 90 days to approve or deny the merger once the two offices deem the application complete.

However, the application has not yet been made available to the public. A spokesman for the health department said it will be posted online once it has been certified as complete. Regulators will look at a host of factors in making their decision, including quality of care, Partners’ track record, and the effect on competition locally.

Partners and Care New England also finalized an agreement with Brown University, whose leaders had initially expressed misgivings about the deal due to concern about whether its medical school would continue to be a priority for a Massachusetts-owned CNE. Partners’ Boston hospitals have close ties to Harvard.

The agreement establishes Brown’s Warren Alpert Medical School as the primary academic research and teaching institution of record for Care New England under Partners, and adds Brown President Christina Paxson to the CNE board. The two organizations said they are also “exploring the potential for a new medical research institute in Providence.”

Partners is itself a confederacy of two powerhouse Boston hospitals, Brigham and Women’s and Massachusetts General. Care New England would become a division of Brigham Health, the unit that operates the eponymous hospital as well as Faulkner Hospital and others.

“We’re committed to investing in Rhode Island’s health care economy by becoming active members of the local business community,” Brigham Health President Dr. Elizabeth Nabel said in a statement.

Partners said it will also file a regulatory document, called a notice of material change, about the CNE merger later this week with the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission.

A spokesperson for the United Nurses and Allied Professionals, which represents more than 1,200 employees at Kent as well as some workers on the campus of what was Memorial Hospital, said it has “yet to receive any specific commitments or review any plans that speak to these critical issues from either of the parties involved in this potential transaction.”

“Our conversations with Partners and Care New England have been thoughtful and productive to date, and we look forward to them continuing into the future,” the UNAP spokesperson said.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

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