February 27, 2014 09:44AM
By NANCY LAVIN
Sun Staff Writer
WAKEFIELD — South County Hospital may enter into an affiliation with the Southcoast Health System, according to a statement issued from the hospital on Wednesday.
According to the press release, the boards of the South County Hospital Healthcare System and South County Hospital System Endowment have decided to enter into “exclusive discussions” with the regional health group, which serves southeastern Massachusetts and the East Bay area of Rhode Island.
The hospital said it had been looking at several regional systems for a possible affiliation for more than a year. The trustees received two proposals at the beginning of February after outlining the requirements they were looking for in an affiliated system. Further discussions would allow Southcoast to clarify its proposal.
The Southcoast proposal was chosen by the hospital board based on several criteria, including its commitments to local governance, and resources that would improve community services and preserve current care patterns in the state, according to the press release. Hospital officials did not respoend to requests for further comment.
South County Hospital entered into discussions with The Westerly Hospital to consolidate services in 2007, based on a report from former Gov. Donald Carcieri. The hospital subsequently expressed interest in acquiring the Westerly insititution after it entered into receivership in December 2011. At that time, the South County president, Louis. R. Giancola told The Sun that despite facing many challenges similar to those in Westerly, South County had posted a 2 percent gain in 2011 and was on track for a modest gain in 2012 as well. At that time, The Westerly Hospital had lost money for 20 years.
A subsequent financial report covering the nine months of fiscal 2013 through last June said that the South County system’s operating revenue for the period was nearly $103 million and that it had posted a gain from operations of just over $2 million.
The Westerly Hospital ultimately accepted a takeover proposal from L + M Hospital in New London, but Giancola told The Sun that the board would continue to pursue growth opportunities through partnerships with other institutions.
Southcoast Health System offers health services throughout southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, including the Southcoast Hospitals group made up of Charlton Memorial Hospital in Fall River, St. Luke’s Hospital in New Bedford, and Tobey Hospital in Wareham. The nonprofit organization, which also includes 500 primary care and specialty providers, offers a variety of advanced clinical services including open heart surgery, comprehensive cancer care and weight loss surgery.
The South County Hospital Healthcare System, based in Wakefield, offers inpatient, outpatient and home health care through four main service programs: South County Hospital, VNS Home Health Services, South County Quality Care and South County Surgical Supply.
The system said it would hold a series of open forums for staff members to present questions and concerns regarding the board’s discussions with Southcoast.