A public hearing on plans to combine Elliot Hospital and Southern New Hampshire Health drew a who’s who of local influencers in Manchester last night – all of them with positive reviews for the prospect of seeing the two hospitals join together.
Local politicians (among them a top staffer for Mayor Joyce Craig, state Sen. Donna Soucy, Alderman Dan O’Neil and former Mayor Ray Wieczorek) sounded an optimistic tone alongside local public health officials about what a partnership between the two hospitals would mean for the region. Other speakers at the public hearing included NAMI New Hampshire Executive Director Ken Norton, Manchester Community Health Center CEO Kris McCracken and Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester CEO William Rider.
Over and over, supporters stressed the vital role the hospitals play – especially when it comes to mental health needs.
In paperwork filed with the state, the hospitals have told regulators they don’t yet have a firm plan on how they’ll team up on this or other specialties, including substance misuse – and attorneys for the institutions have argued such considerations are beyond the statutory scope of what is required as part of the state's review.
Still, the hospitals' leaders say both mental health and substance misuse are a priority.
“Mental health I’m sure will be one of the first things we talk about in terms of how we can do it better and how we can meet the growing needs of this community because we both have a lot of professionals who are deeply committed to the specialty,” Elliot CEO Doug Dean said after Thursday night’s hearing.
Southern New Hampshire Health CEO Mike Rose echoed that, saying the two hospitals might be able to collaborate to meet growing demands for care.
“If we’ve got two empty beds at Southern, for example, and Elliot has patients in Manchester that need beds, we can work together to coordinate access to make sure that we keep all of those limited psych resource beds full and we’re making providers as efficient as possible,” Rose said.
Also in attendance at the hospitals’ public hearing was the head of the state’s charitable trusts unit – who plays a key role in deciding whether the hospitals’ plans can move forward. He’s still combing through the hospitals’ responses to a detailed set of questions about what changes they’re planning and how it might affect patients. His final decision is expected in early March.