The Providence-based hospital organization Care New England has signed a letter of intent to merge with the Boston-based organization Partners HealthCare, Care NE announced Wednesday.
The announcement comes at a critical time for Care New England, one of the largest hospital chains in Rhode Island. The non-profit is struggling financially, and has endured several rounds of layoffs. The hospital chain has been searching for a partner for well over a year after mergers with Lifespan and SouthCoast Health System fell through.
Care New England CEO Dennis Keefe acknowledged that there may be some cuts in corporate staffing should the merger go through.
"We think there are geographic barriers that might mitigate some of the impact in those areas, but I wouldn't want to suggest that some of that might not be a possibility, but that remains to be seen," said Keefe.
Among the high costs is the management of Pawtucket’s Memorial Hospital, which has been hemorrhaging money, and has been forced to cut services, including the shutdown of its maternity ward. Under a new agreement, Memorial will be acquired by the California-based organization Prime Health Care, which also own Landmark Medical Center in Woonsocket.
Both the merger and the acquisition of Memorial Hospital are subject to state and federal regulatory approvals.
The state's largest healthcare workers union, SEIU 1199NE has already weighed in on the proposed agreement, warning against more possible layoffs within Care New England and Memorial Hospital.
Union head Patrick Quinn said in a statement “It is important that any proposed hospital merger ensures... safe staffing levels in our hospitals, and good jobs for health care workers."
The union represents more than 2,000 people in the Rhode Island hospitals managed by Care New England.
The United Nurses and Allied Professionals offered a similar statement.
"This proposed merger has the ability to impact thousands of jobs and the quality of care in Rhode Island and should be thoroughly scrutinized," said UNAP President Linda McDonald in a statement. UNAP represents more 1,400 medical professionals working at Care New England facilities.
This post has been updated.