Completed the acquisition of Harrington Hospital by UMass Memorial Health on July 1, including its commitment to improving the health of the community

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With the closure of his Acquisition of the Harrington HealthCare System On the horizon, one thing UMass Memorial Health officials look forward to most is expanding a community program that aims to improve social health determiners in the community.

Following the announcement of his plan to acquire Harrington in early 2020, the transfer of ownership of UMass Memorial is expected to officially take place on July 1, Douglas Brown, president of community hospitals and chief administrative officer of UMass Memorial told MassLive.

What is unique about this acquisition is that the UMass Memorial Anchor mission Investments are part of the agreement. With the anchor mission program, the UMass Memorial worked to go to central Massachusetts to improve health factors such as housing, income, transportation, and access to healthy food. The Mission makes sustainable investments by providing low-interest loans in lieu of grants and helping organizations get their long-term funding underway.

If the UMass Memorial gets dollars back, it can put that money into a new project. This mission is now being expanded to include Harrington’s ward in and around Southbridge.

“We have increasingly come to realize that what happens outside our walls has a much greater impact on an individual’s health than what happens inside our walls,” Brown said of the anchor mission program’s impetus.

Brown said that, to the best of his knowledge, this is the first time a system has written such an agreement into an affiliation agreement. Harrington has already set up a committee to consider how the anchor mission can address inequalities in the community.

“In the past, hospitals thought, ‘We take care of patients as soon as they walk in our doors. This is our mission, this is our role, and then when we do it better we send them back into the community, but they are not our responsibility, ‘”Brown said. “We believe that our mission is to improve the health of communities, and if we are authentic about that mission, how can we not look beyond our doors knowing that the social determinants of health are about 60% too an individual’s health throughout their life and the health care we provide contributes about 20%. “

UMass Memorial had six anchor mission projects with an investment of approximately $ 3 million, Brown said. Around Worcester, the anchor mission program has been working with Creative center in his project to rehabilitate the former Boys Club and collaborated with a CDC to buy abandoned buildings in the Piedmont Street area.

The health system has also hired at least 22 people from communities with high unemployment and offered entry-level positions that could eventually lead to jobs that, if developed, make $ 40,000 or $ 60,000 a year, Brown said.

Ed Moore, President and CEO of Harrington, said Southbridge had inequalities particularly around transportation, education and housing. Harrington’s Chief Nursing Officer, Jess Calcidise, has taken the lead to launch the anchor mission on the ground, reach out to voters, and form focus groups to identify local needs.

Moore said the health system is starting to review where it buys supplies and items and is instead looking for options to support local businesses.

“Can we support the Latino community more in this regard? Can we encourage our volunteers to do more things in the community, ”he said. “What about food deserts? What about pantries and how can we become more aggressive because of this commitment we make through the concept and program of the anchor mission?

Despite the stress on health systems from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Harrington acquisition has progressed, just slightly more slowly than originally planned. The process was “floating,” Brown said, including monthly meetings with about 40 people from both organizations. Just a few weeks before the closure, there are no significant obstacles in the way. The total investment for the project is $ 143,325,965, according to State Department of Public Health documents.

Moore said he believes the anchor mission’s involvement in the takeover made the state, the attorney general and others feel good about the deal.

UMass Memorial and Harrington are planning an event in Southbridge on July 1st to celebrate the merger and welcome Harrington employees to the UMass Memorial system.

With the takeover there will be a name change. Harrington is now UMass Memorial Health – Harrington Hospital. The two non-profit healthcare systems have long worked together, and the leaders of both say the merger will allow hospitals to learn from and benefit from one another.

A transition phase begins in July. Eventually, the Epic health record system used by the UMass Memorial will be installed in Harrington. Harrington’s medical group will be merged with the UMass Memorial medical group a year after the shutdown, Brown said.

However, employees won’t see any immediate changes, Brown said, and they will continue to provide care as before. There are no layoffs planned, Brown said.

Meanwhile, Mass General Brigham is currently undergoing a state regulatory process seeking to expand by $ 2 billion including a facility in Westborough.

Eric Dickson, CEO of UMass Memorial Health said Mass General Brigham’s proposal will drive health costs up in the area and cut jobs. Brown categorized the proposal as a way for Mass General Brigham to help one of the more affluent communities in central Massachusetts where residents largely have commercial insurance. Brown said that if Mass General Brigham targeted the local commercial stake, it would violate the UMass Memorial’s commitment to serving underserved populations as the area’s designated safety net hospital.

Southbridge has about half the median income of Westborough and has more color and more low-income residents, Brown said.

“Nobody can say that we are trying to win commercial market share and that is probably why we have accelerated the regulatory process,” said Brown.

However, Mass General Brigham said his proposal is aimed at caring for existing patients so they don’t have to travel to Boston.

“We are focused on delivering primary care, mental health services, outpatient surgery, imaging and specialty care to our existing patients in more affordable and cost-effective settings. We have tens of thousands of existing patients who will benefit from getting their care closer to home rather than going to Boston, ”Mass General Brigham said in a statement. “The current regulatory process is not intended as a forum for competitors to protect their economic interests. It is intended to be a health care-based assessment of the value of the investment. If it is of positive benefit to the patient, it should be approved. Our proposed healthcare projects clearly meet this standard and will allow us to deliver the right care at the right time, in the right place, and at a lower cost. “

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