All across the country, Americans are experiencing change and uncertainty in health care. That’s true for physicians who are part of fluctuating practices or hospital systems, and it’s true for patients who are uncertain about the type of insurance coverage they’ll have year to year and how it affects their ability to get the care they need. Undoubtedly there are many physicians among us who are growing tired of this and simply want to practice medicine, doctor to patient, the way we imagined when we chose this career!
Brown and the Warren Alpert Medical School have not been spared from these changes. As I’m sure you know, one of our affiliated hospital systems, Care New England, has been in talks since last April about a merger with Massachusetts-based Partners HealthCare, one of the nation’s largest hospital systems. As we go to press with this issue of Brown Medicine, the parties are moving ahead with the merger, but it is too soon to know how things will work out. However, the potential deal raises a number of concerns about health care costs and the potential ceding of research and specialty care to Boston. Particularly concerning for Brown is that as part of Care New England, the financially challenged Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island is closing. Memorial is an important community hospital and our key academic partner in family medicine and internal medicine.
In January, Brown President Christina Paxson announced that should the Partners deal fall through, or should state regulators not approve the merger, Brown would join with Prospect Medical Holdings to propose merger discussions with Care New England. This news was met with some surprise, to say the least, since Brown had never before expressed interest in owning a hospital. But this proposal is evidence that the University has a sincere desire to create a world-class, integrated academic medical center in Rhode Island. We have all of the elements that are required. What we lack is integration among the health systems (Care New England and Lifespan), the Providence VA Medical Center, and Brown.
Despite the uncertainties, what we do know is this: Brown’s leadership is serious about health care in Rhode Island. There is significant will to do what is necessary to provide integrated, high-quality, efficient health care for Rhode Islanders while fulfilling our academic and research missions.
And that’s good for faculty, for students, for our alumni who share history with Brown and our affiliated hospitals, and it’s good for the residents of our state.