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Analysis

Partners Drops Bid to Acquire Care New England, at Governor's Urging

By Steven Porter  
   June 05, 2019

The Boston-based system's interim CEO says it is giving Care New England a chance to establish an academic medical center within Rhode Island, in cooperation with Lifespan and Brown University.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina M. Raimondo has intervened in long-running negotiations over the future of Providence-based nonprofit health system Care New England, prompting Boston-based nonprofit Partners HealthCare to abandon its efforts to acquire CNE, at least for the time being.

Raimondo said Tuesday that she has asked CNE to instead resume negotiations with Lifespan and Brown University to see if the three parties can establish an academic medical center managed within Rhode Island, rather than ceding control to healthcare executives in Massachusetts.

"While I have little control over private hospital systems, I do have the ability to bring these parties together and ask them to reconvene negotiations on a crucial decision that will impact all Rhode Islanders for decades," Raimondo said in a statement.

"Whether or not Rhode Island affiliates with a larger system at some point, I believe creating a more integrated, locally-run, academic structure first is what's in the best interest of Rhode Islanders now and in the long run," she added.

Partners HealthCare Interim President and CEO Anne Klibanski, MD, said in the same statement that the Boston-based system would withdraw its application to acquire CNE but "look forward to reengaging at the appropriate time."

After signing a letter of intent more than two years ago, Partners and CNE reached a definitive agreement in May 2018, beating out CNE's earlier talks of a three-way partnership with Lifespan and Brown.

Partners had itself been engaged in merger talks with Lifespan, but that deal fell through last fall. Shortly thereafter, Partners CEO David Torchiana, MD, retired.

Lifespan, the largest hospital network in Rhode Island, launched an ad campaign this year denouncing the potential Partners-CNE deal as "devastating" for the Ocean State, as WPRI reported.

Raimondo said Tuesday that Lifespan's public criticism of Partners was "unfortunate" but didn't influence her decision on whether to wade into the negotiations, as The Boston Globe's Priyanka Dayal McCluskey and Dan McGowan reported.

Whether the three Rhode Island entities can reach a deal, despite their past failures to do so, remains to be seen. But the parties are putting forward an optimistic message.

"We are confident that with the good faith efforts of all the parties involved, we will finally achieve the vision of unified academic health care system for the state of Rhode Island that will have a positive impact on patient care and our economy for years to come," said Lifespan's President and CEO Timothy J. Babineau, MD, and board chair Lawrence Aubin in the joint statement. "We are excited to get this effort underway."

Raimondo has urged the parties to determine over the summer whether they can find a success path forward, with consultant support from The Partnership for Rhode Island.

—Steven Porter is an associate content manager and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

While the planned Partners-CNE merger has been backburnered indefinitely, the parties acknowledge those talks could be revived.

The governor wants CNE to affiliate with two other entities within Rhode Island to keep the community's healthcare in local hands.


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