U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is raising alarms about a proposed sale of Care New England -- Rhode Island’s second-largest hospital group to a large out-of-state hospital chain.
Care New England has been losing money -- and it’s trying to negotiate a sale to Boston-based Partners Healthcare.
Whitehouse said Tuesday that Care New England’s planned sale to Partners could be the “tipping point” for Lifespan, Rhode Island’s largest hospital network.
“If Care New England is also sold to a big, out-of-state interest,’’ Whitehouse said, “then that presents to Lifespan the question: Can we survive as the small player in Rhode Island when we’ve always been the big player in Rhode Island?”
On Wednesday, Lifespan rebuffed the suggestion that it could be pressured into seeking merger partner.
“If Lifespan were to consider out-of-state partners — such as our strategic partnership with the Dana Farber Cancer Institute — it would be as consequence of seeking to improve the care we deliver to our patients and not as a consequence of increased local or regional competition,’’ David Levesque, a Lifespan spokesman, said in a statement.
But Lifespan said Whitehouse’s statements about the Partners deal “echoed many of the concerns Lifespan and other local leaders have expressed regarding the entry of Partners Healthcare into the Rhode Island market.”
Whitehouse compared the planned Partners deal to banking industry takeovers of the1990s -- when local banks like Fleet were sold to to out-of-state companies -- taking along with it jobs and related businesses.
“Whatever the merits are of the Care New England merger with Partners,’’ Whitehouse said, “I think we have to think about it in the larger context of what this means for having local leadership of hospitals in Rhode Island.''
Care New England spokesman Jim Beardsworth said in a statement: “We understand Senator Whitehouse’s longstanding concerns with regard to the health care industry and his comparison between the health care and banking industries. We greatly respect his leadership and opinion, and look forward to continuing to work with him and other state and federal leaders on this complex issue that is of great importance to Rhode Island and the region.”