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$36M Psychiatric Staffing Contract with Dartmouth-Hitchcock Still Up in the Air

Paige Sutherland/NHPR
The New Hampshire Hospital in Concord.

The N.H. Executive Council yet again delayed voting on a $36 million staffing contract with Dartmouth-Hitchcock to provide psychiatric services at the state hospital.

Discussion on whether to move forward with the three-year contract lasted more than an hour and a half Wednesday in New London. The current short-term contract is set to expire in October.

Councilors’ main concerns centered on an ongoing labor dispute between clinicians at New Hampshire Hospital and Dartmouth-Hitchcock, which took over staffing responsibility from Dartmouth College in June. 

Councilors also pointed to a recent suicide in Nashua involving a woman who was discharged from the state’s psychiatric hospital just hours prior. That incident is currently under review.

Councilor Chris Sununu, who’s running for governor as a Republican, argued  it would be unwise to extend the contract before that review comes out.

“I do agree that we should be looking at some sort of short term extension or maybe simply putting this contract on the table – we do have 60 plus days until the contract is up," Sununu told the council. "Hopefully this review could be done, maybe an additional investigation will be done and then we will have the right information to move forward.”

But Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeff Meyers stands by Dartmouth-Hitchcock and said after the vote he’s worried this delay will only make it more difficult for the state to attract qualified medical professionals.

“I do have a concern that some of the providers that have come to New Hampshire Hospital because the contract hasn’t been finally acted on could decide to leave but as I’ve said I am committed to conveying my commitment to try to getting this contract finally approved," Meyers said. "And I know that in the meantime we will continue to provide the critical services that we do.”

The Council will take up this matter again in two weeks.

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