Southern N.H. Hospitals Hope Affiliation Will Keep Patients From Seeking Care in Boston

Jul 26, 2017

At the first of two public forums Wednesday night in Manchester, the heads of Elliot and Southern New Hampshire Health Systems took questions on what their proposed partnership would mean for patients, staff and the region's healthcare landscape.

Last month, the hospitals announced that they want to team up to form a new regional healthcare system. What, exactly, that will look like remains to be seen – but they say they don’t anticipate layoffs or major changes to how the hospitals now operate right.

Under the proposed partnership, the hospitals would retain their own boards and management teams. A new board would oversee this new regional system, made up of members from both hospitals’ boards.

The hospitals’ leaders say teaming up would allow them to share medical technology and expertise, and would also help them prepare to care for a growing segment of aging residents. Between their two markets, the hospitals’ leaders said they would be planning for a patient population of about 500,000.

Elliot CEO Doug Dean said the move could also position the hospitals to offer more specialty services that they know local residents often seek elsewhere.

“Well, in fact, people are going to Boston,” Dean said in an interview after the forum. “And one of the things we have set as an objective of this relationship is to gain the confidence of people here in New Hampshire to stay right here at home.”

Dean and his counterpart at Southern New Hampshire Health, Mike Rose, also left the door open to an expansion of the hospitals’ footprint in New Hampshire. The hospital officials said they have no plans to add new facilities – first, they have to take a close look at what they’re offering now, and what the needs of patients in the region they’re looking to cover.

“Once we have a better idea of what those needs are, then we can begin planning programs around that, which would include facilities,” Rose said. “We serve our immediate markets well – greater Nashua and the greater Nashua area – but there are probably some towns on the periphery that may be an opportunity to introduce new clinics in order to improve access.”

Another public forum on the hospitals’ affiliation plans is scheduled for Aug. 9 in Nashua City Auditorium. The hospitals plan to hold another round of public hearings once their affiliation agreement is finalized, likely later this fall. Any plan will be subject to state and federal approval.