RI hospital groups and Brown announce merger deal

Kent Hospital, flagship of the Care New England group and Rhode Island Hospital, the Lifespan flagship. File photos by Steve Klamkin WPRO News

By Steve Klamkin WPRO News

Continuing a decades-long effort, Rhode Island’s major hospital groups, Lifespan and Care New England announce a merger deal, including Brown University’s medical school, aimed at creating what they call an integrated academic health system combining medical specialties and biomedical research.

Brown President Christina Paxson said the Ivy League university would contribute $125 million over five years to support the merger effort, and will assume a seat on a newly formed governing board. The merger requires state and federal approvals, and spokespeople for the State Departments of Health and Attorney General said Tuesday that had not yet received applications for the merger.

“It’s an integrated system that will take better care of patients, provide a strong learning environment for providers and others, lead to expanded research opportunities for the state and economic development,” said Care New England President and CEO Dr. James Fanale in a video produced by the hospitals and distributed along with the news release announcing the merger.

“I know people will look at that and say, really?,” said Fanale. “Really. It’s happened just about everywhere else and why can’t we do that here,” he asked.

“I think that the COVID pandemic taught us one thing,” said Lifespan President and CEO Dr. Timothy Babineau. “We are better when we work together. Brown, Care New England and Lifespan came together in the pandemic and worked together, quite frankly, in ways we hadn’t in the past.”

Brown President Christina Paxson pointed out that more than half of the Brown medical students stay in Rhode Island after finishing their studies.

“We’ve said that over the first five years, we’ll contribute a minimum of over $125 million dollars. And that contribution just how important we think this is,” said Paxson.

Lifespan owns Rhode Island, Miriam, Newport and Bradley hospitals, while Care New England owns Women & Infants, Kent and Butler hospitals. Combined, they employ more than 23,000 workers.

“We are excited,” House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio said in a joint statement. “The legislature will be reviewing the details to ensure that patient care and the health care jobs are not adversely impacted by the merger.”

One of the largest unions representing nurses also issued a statement.

“Any new entity that would combine two of Rhode Island’s largest healthcare providers and employers must be painstakingly scrutinized to ensure that it is in the best interest of patients and frontline health workers,” said Lynn Blais, President of the United Nurses and Allied Professionals, which represents more than 7,200 nurses and other medical workers.

“Our priority is the protection of critical, local services and jobs at our community hospitals,” Blais said.