Lifespan, Care New England sign agreement to merge into integrated health system with Brown

PROVIDENCE, R.I (WLNE) – Rhode Island’s two biggest hospital systems, Care New England and Lifespan, announced Tuesday they’ve signed a definitive agreement to merge and create an integrated academic health system along with Brown University.

Brown has committed to supporting the merger with a minimum of $125 million over five years.

Lifespan runs Rhode Island, Miriam, Hasbro, Newport and Bradley hospitals, and Care New England runs Women & Infants, Kent and Butler hospitals. Together with Brown’s Warren Alpert Medical School, they aim to create an integrated academic health system (AHS) that has “the full array of complementary medical specialties required for excellence in health care, biomedical research to remain on the leading edge of treatment and therapies, and the collaboration required to enable medical practitioners to effectively and efficiently provide health care to the community,” according to Tuesday’s statement.

Brown will play a key role in the merger, with a spot on the governing board and a hand in integrating medical education and research with clinical practice.

Unions representing healthcare workers across the two hospitals voiced concerns following the announcement.

Lynn Blais, President of the United Nurses and Allied Professionals said it’s concerning, and she wants a seat at the table.

“We want to make sure that they are painstakingly scrutinized. We want to make sure we’re protecting our patients and the communities we serve, we want to make sure that all the jobs for the frontline healthcare workers are protected, and we want to see the details,” Blais said. “I would ask that we have a seat at the table where we understand going forward what their goals and their objectives are.”

UNAP represents around 4,000 healthcare workers at Rhode Island Hospital and Kent Hospital.

“Our job now is to get the members up and ready to battle if we need to,” added Blais. When asked what the union’s biggest fear is, she responded that it would be “if they combine two units, and then all of a sudden they close or spin-off one of the facilities.”

SEIU 1199 NE Executive Vice President Patrick Quinn agreed, saying there are still many outstanding questions and it’s unclear whether or not this would be a good move. He said it could be good, but could also be used “to drive down wages and limit access to care.”

“I think the burden is on the hospital management to demonstrate to the workforce and to the community at large that this is a positive thing for Rhode Island. It can’t just be we’re going into a defensive crowd sheer and we don’t have enough money. What is it that we will improve?”

Quinn said, as the hospital systems are some of the biggest employers in the state, they need to ensure workers and patients are treated fairly and that care is equitable.

“Anybody who decides to do things that are not fair to our members, they will feel pushback of our unity, because we are not going to have people who are frontline heroes kicked to the curb at this part in the process. Absolutely not gonna happen.”


© WLNE-TV 2021

Categories: News, Regional News, Rhode Island