Memorial Hospital gets a lifeline with proposed merger

Memorial Hospital gets a lifeline with proposed merger

PAWTUCKET – Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island should soon have a new owner as a result of a proposed major hospital merger announced Wednesday.

The Care New England hospital group announced plans to merge with Boston-based Partners HealthCare, parent company of Brigham and Women’s.

As part of that deal, which needs approval from regulators in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, Memorial Hospital would be sold off to Prime Healthcare Foundation, a California-based nonprofit group affiliated with the owners of Woonsocket’s Landmark Medical Center.

It’s been a troubled few years for the financially-strapped Memorial Hospital, which saw its birthing center shut down last year. Rumors swirled that the hospital itself close down.

The good news for the Pawtucket area is that Memorial will now remain open if the deal goes through.

Joseph Iannoni, Care New England’s chief financial officer, said in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday that the process of spinning off Memorial started last year when a firm sought bids from 88 possible bidders. Prime ended up making the best offer, he said.

Hospital officials said Wednesday that the acquisition of Memorial makes “a lot of sense” for Prime Healthcare, as the Woonsocket and Pawtucket hospitals are linked geographically. Instead of Prime owning just one hospital in the region, there’s now “a little more strength and upside” having combined assets from two hospitals. There’s an opportunity to consolidate and regionalize resources and services, they said.

Care New England is now negotiating with Prime Healthcare and Partners HealthCare after signing letters of intent with both organizations.

Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien and Central Falls Mayor James Diossa issued a joint statement Wednesday on the potential deal, saying they'll continue to advocate for the best interests of both communities.

"Though today’s announcement is far more positive and in stark contrast to the talks of closure that took place about a year and a half ago, there are still a number of unanswered questions as to the potential impacts of the proposals announced today," the said. "The cities of Pawtucket and Central Falls have been and will continue to work in partnership to ensure that all state regulations are followed and the communities’ needs come first. Ensuring the services for the community are protected and that this important regional employer is made sustainable remain the top priorities..."

The two said they are focused on:

• Ensuring that residents have access to quality care.

• Ensuring that employees have a future.

• And maintaining the role the hospital plays in the local communities.

"The mayors and the attorneys for the cities continue to engage in this process to make sure the needs of the community are protected," they said.

Prime purchased Landmark Medical Center in 2012 and has made numerous improvements to the Woonsocket hospital over the past five years.