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Med School Hospital Part of Possible Merger

By Douglas M. Pravda

In a move that could enhance the capabilities of a major teaching hospital of the Harvard Medical School, Pathway Health Network and New England Medical Center (NEMC) announced yesterday they are considering a possible merger.

The two organizations approved a "memorandum of understanding," which gives them 90 days to work toward a merger agreement.

Pathway Health Network organizes and oversees the operations of five hospitals, one of which is the Deaconess Hospital, a major teaching hospital affiliated with Harvard Medical School.

If the merger agreement is concluded, Deaconess Hospital will join forces with the New England Medical Center, which is the primary teaching hospital for the Tufts University School of Medicine.

"The boards of both organizations will be very sensitive to ensure that the goals of these two world class medical schools are preserved and enhanced as a result of any decision," said Joan E. Fallon, director of public and policy affairs for the New England Medical Center.

The teaching hospitals will probably benefit from a merger because there will be coordination between the academic programs of each medical school.

"We would really look to go ahead and enhance the teaching of residencies in the future by coordinating the academic endeavors, but this will be done in collaboration with physicians and the deans at both of the institutions," said Pam L. Lawrence, vice president for administration and communications for Pathway Health Network.

"We have been in touch with the deans of the respective schools and will work with them to fashion the specifics of the academic programs," she said.

Improved Patient Care

The primary reason for considering the merger is improved patient care.

"We believe that our ability to support patient-centered care in an integrated network would be enhanced if we worked together," said Jerome H. Grossman, NEMC chair and chief executive officer, and J. Richard Gaintner, Pathway president and chief executive officer, in a joint statement.

"The two organizations are aiming toward a formal relationship that would add value and efficiency to the medical care system, [and] enhance patient care and research efforts, "Fallon said.

"We hope that...each organization and its staff and its patient care will be enriched and enhanced by the merger," she said.

Such a relationship would tremendously benefit the public.

"Both New England Medical Center and Pathway have long felt that collaboration among community hospitals and physicians and tertiary medical centers was an outstanding way to serve the public," Lawrence said. "We believe that we can support these efforts in an enhanced way by working together."

But financial concerns, not just improved patient care, played a role in the decision to consider a merger, officials said.

"The changes in the health care environment have lead the hospitals to seek economies of scale and we expect that by working together we can add value and efficiency top the medical care system," Lawrence said.

Despite the memorandum of understanding, the merger itself is not a foregone conclusion.

"The boards of the medical staff and administrative staff of both institutions will be involved in this very comprehensive process over the course of the next 90 days to determine the feasibility of a formal affiliation that could lead to a merger," Fallon said. "A merger is the goal but the 90 day period will determine if that is possible."

But the two organizations are optimistic for the merger possibilities.

Lawrence concluded: "We obviously need to go through the process, but we feel optimistic and feel that we will be able to work together over the next few months.

"We have been in touch with the deans of the respective schools and will work with them to fashion the specifics of the academic programs," she said.

Improved Patient Care

The primary reason for considering the merger is improved patient care.

"We believe that our ability to support patient-centered care in an integrated network would be enhanced if we worked together," said Jerome H. Grossman, NEMC chair and chief executive officer, and J. Richard Gaintner, Pathway president and chief executive officer, in a joint statement.

"The two organizations are aiming toward a formal relationship that would add value and efficiency to the medical care system, [and] enhance patient care and research efforts, "Fallon said.

"We hope that...each organization and its staff and its patient care will be enriched and enhanced by the merger," she said.

Such a relationship would tremendously benefit the public.

"Both New England Medical Center and Pathway have long felt that collaboration among community hospitals and physicians and tertiary medical centers was an outstanding way to serve the public," Lawrence said. "We believe that we can support these efforts in an enhanced way by working together."

But financial concerns, not just improved patient care, played a role in the decision to consider a merger, officials said.

"The changes in the health care environment have lead the hospitals to seek economies of scale and we expect that by working together we can add value and efficiency top the medical care system," Lawrence said.

Despite the memorandum of understanding, the merger itself is not a foregone conclusion.

"The boards of the medical staff and administrative staff of both institutions will be involved in this very comprehensive process over the course of the next 90 days to determine the feasibility of a formal affiliation that could lead to a merger," Fallon said. "A merger is the goal but the 90 day period will determine if that is possible."

But the two organizations are optimistic for the merger possibilities.

Lawrence concluded: "We obviously need to go through the process, but we feel optimistic and feel that we will be able to work together over the next few months.

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