Rhode Island’s largest hospital network -- Lifespan -- will now join with Care New England in its negotiations with Boston-based Partners Health Care.
The three hospital systems announced Tuesday that they will begin “formal discussions” about working together.
The move signals a major shift in strategy. Until now, Care New England had rebuffed overtures by Lifespan about a deal, citing its "exclusive" negotiations with Partners.
The announcement, which was short on details, follows Brown University President Christina Paxson's public criticism recently of the planned takeover of Care New England by Massachusetts’ largest hospital system.
On Tuesday, Paxson said she is “encouraged” that Care New England and Lifespan are talking about the future of health care in Rhode Island and hopes Brown will be included in the discussion.
“Collaboration between Care New England, Lifespan and Brown is necessary for the creation of an integrated academic medical center,’’ Paxson said in a statement. “We continue to be concerned about the impact of the acquisition of Care New England by Massachusetts-based Partners — and now a possible business relationship between Partners and Lifespan — on the cost of and access to healthcare in the state.”
The development offers opportunities for Lifespan, which has long expressed interest in Care New England’s prized birthing hospital, Women & Infants.
“I am excited about what this could mean; for our patients, our mission and the Rhode Island and regional health care delivery system,’’ Lifespan CEO Timothy J. Babineau said in a statement. “Lifespan has always been interested in partnering with like-minded, superb organizations, and I look forward to the discussions and the potential to continually improve the seamless and coordinated care we deliver to our patients.”
Governor Gina Raimondo said in a statement: "It's great to see another local, homegrown Rhode Island institution joining the collaboration. Whatever the proposal, I am focused on making sure costs to Rhode Islanders don't increase and that medical care, research and teaching all stay in-state."
The United Nurses and Allied Professionals Union (UNAP), expressed cautious interest in a three-way deal. UNAP has criticized a proposed alternative takeover of Care New England by Brown University and Prospect Medical Holdings, a California-based for-profit hospital chain.
“We hope it helps ends the ill-thought effort between Prospect Medical Holdings and Brown University to break up Care New England," Ray Sullivan, a spokesman for UNAP, said in a statement.
It’s unclear what the three-way deal will mean about the future of Care New England. Rhode Island's second-largest hospital system currently owns three hospitals -- Women & Infants, Kent and Butler -- as well as The Providence Center. It's fourth hospital -- Memorial in Pawtucket -- was closed last year amid mounting financial losses.
updated 3:20 p.m.; 5:23 p.m.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the name of one of Care New England's three hospitals.