NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) - It's official. Trustees at the Cooley Dickinson Hospital will begin affiliation negotiations with the Boston-based hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).
Merger talks began in late 2008 after the board found it needed to strengthen revenue and reduce overhead costs; benefits that come when affiliating with a larger system.
It was a three-year process which culminated Monday night when a 26-member Affiliation Task Force voted to merge with one of the pre-eminent hospitals in the country.
"What was going to work best for our community that we represent? And the majority decision was that Mass. General would do that," said Matthew Pitoniak, chair of the hospital's board of trustees.
The deal will allow Cooley Dickinson to refinance $62 million in bonds at a lower interest rate and reduce overhead costs. But the hospital's president told 22News the bottom line wasn't about money.
"Actually the decision is not about money. However, the decision is about what's best for the patient. While there are some economic advantages to this, the real issue is what resources are necessary," said President/CEO Craig Melin inside the hospital's Dakin Conference Room Tuesday morning. Melin added that the affiliation should not affect jobs. But said that in coming years, there's no certainty that the continued changes in the health care industry would lead to a downsize.
Merging with MGH will also allow the hospital to move towards adopting population based care "as part of an accountable care organization (ACO)." Instead of paying-a-fee-for-a-service, ACO will pay providers a set amount per person; something patients say they are not happy about.
"The more you stop being an individual who is seen by a doctor, who says this person has a unique set of circumstances, the more you go to a more population based care, the more dangerous it is for us," said Tom Monte of Amherst.
Baystate Medical Center was one of the top two finalists in the competitive process. On Tuesday, the center unveiled its $296 million dollar expansion in a dedication ceremony; it was an event that was tinged with disappointment.
"We thought we put forth a compelling vision for a locally-owned regional integrated system of care. Our entire organization is terribly disappointed at their decision," said Baystate Medical Center President/CEO Mark Tolosky.
In a statement, MGH President Peter L. Slavin, said he's "humbled and looks forward to working with Cooley Dickinson on the next phase of the process." It's a process which could take months as both parties will work together in drafting an affiliation agreement; with conditions that would require approval from the FTC and the state's Attorney General.