North Country Hospitals Form Umbrella Group To Explore Lowering Costs

Jul 21, 2014

Faced with increasingly worrisome economic challenges, four North Country hospitals said Monday they have signed an agreement to work together to try and find ways to “improve quality, increase efficiencies and lower cost of health care delivery in the region.”

The hospitals said their problems range from growing healthcare costs to Medicaid payments that don’t always cover services provided to the poor.

And, the situation has been getting worse, said Russell Keene, the CEO at Androscoggin Valley Hospital in Berlin.

“It is just an evolution of change that seems to be coming at us more rapidly than ever in the past,” Keene said.

So, Androscoggin Valley, Weeks Memorial in Lancaster, Littleton Regional Healthcare and Upper Connecticut Valley Hospital in Colebrook signed a non-binding, letter of intent to form a non-profit parent organization. It will explore ways the hospitals can cooperate to provide good healthcare and reduce costs.

“We are regulatorily prohibited from working closely together under our current independent structures. Forming a common parent organization, governed by an independent board, would give us the ability to do this,” according to the letter of intent.

Under the agreement the hospitals would still be non-profit organizations “providing the same core programs and services that we do today,” the letter says.

It also notes “each organization’s assets, including charitable endowments, will remain in their respective community" and "each hospital’s relationships with its physicians, patient care staff and employees will remain largely the same.”

It is an arrangement with the potential to benefit the four hospitals and the people who live in the North Country, said Warren West, the CEO of Littleton Regional Healthcare.

 “Our belief is if we can work together we will be able to better streamline those costs and be able to ensure that each of the hospitals in the North Country can be put on a better, sustainable economic path than the ones we are on today,” he said.

The hospitals expect the new umbrella organization to be operating next year.