KINGSTON — Workers voiced concerns about job security and local control, but nobody voiced opposition to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center’s proposed acquisition of Jordan Hospital during at a state hearing held Tuesday in Kingston.
Workers asked for guarantees that the purchase would not result in layoffs, but conceded they are also optimistic that the Boston-based medical center could infuse the community hospital with needed money and energy.
Hospital leaders and area elected officials, meanwhile, testified that the proposed merger would save the community hospital from financial disaster and raise the level of care for patients in Jordan’s 12-town service area.
“Jordan Hospital joining BIDMC is good for you, it’s good for patients and it’s good for the entire town of Plymouth,” Selectmen Chairman Mathew Muratore said.
Muratore was one of 16 people who testified in a public hearing on the proposed merger of the two hospitals at Indian Pond Country Club. The Department of Public Health’s Determination of Needs Program sponsored the hearing and will make a recommendation on the acquisition next month to the governor’s public health council, based on Tuesday’s testimony.
Jordan Hospital President and CEO Peer Holden opened the meeting, explaining that his leadership team put out a request for merger proposals last year after concluding the community hospital could not survive as a stand-alone facility in the current healthcare climate.
An independent consulting firm reached the same conclusion last year, telling Jordan officials the hospital would struggle, deteriorate and ultimately close within five years.
Jordan’s Board of Directors agreed and decided in January to negotiate solely with BIDMC, after determining the group’s proposal best suited the hospital and the community.
The plan calls for BIDMC to become the sole corporate member or parent of Jordan Health Systems.
BIDMC would commit $10 million in capital to Jordan over the next five years and will continue the hospital’s normal capital investments. The two hospitals would jointly recruit and fund 10 additional primary care physicians to the local market.
The proposal commits BIDMC for five years and allows the health care system to withdraw from the arrangement if the hospital does not see improvement in five years.
Dr. Kevin Tabb, president and CEO of BIDMC, said his group is firmly committed to delivering additional clinical resources to communities served by Jordan Hospital. In addition to recruiting new physicians, BIDMC would work to supplement Jordan Hospital resources and provide a broader range of clinical specialists in the community, including obstetrics and gynecology, neonatology, maternal fetal medicine, cardiology and intensive care. “Our goal is to provide more locally based clinical programs – with a strong connection to BIDMC if a higher level of care is needed,” Tabb said.
Dr. Mark DeMatteo, chief of the emergency department at Jordan and president of the medical staff, said the merger is needed to allow doctors to do the work they do. DeMatteo said Jordan Hospital doctors support the merger.
In addition to Muratore, the Plymouth legislative delegation expressed support for the merger as well. Rep. Vinny deMacedo, R-Plymouth, and Rep. Tom Calter, D-Kingston, spoke in favor of the acquisition, but both also noted the important role of workers in keeping the hospital viable.
A representative for Senate President Therese Murray, D-Plymouth, read a letter expressing Murray’s support for the acquisition. Local business leader Ed Santos, a longtime supporter of Jordan Hospital, also testified in favor of the merger.
Tom Carroll, the president and CEO of South Shore Medical Center in Weymouth, testified for the merger saying his group believes BIDMC will make an important investment in the community and bring clinical services to the hospital.
One union leader and several local union members also spoke.
Jerry Fishbein, who represents 700 service employees at the hospital, voiced concerns that Jordan Hospital was not getting as good a deal as other hospitals that have gone through similar mergers.
Fishbein was one of several from Service Employees International Union Local 1199 who called on the state to lengthen BIDMC’s commitment to Jordan and the local community to 10 years.
Four longtime service employees – Michelle Hill of Kingston and Beth Johnson, Nadine Glass, Kate Hayes and Martha MacFarlane of Plymouth – echoed Fishbein’s concerns about local control and jobs and training.
Kris Kenyon, a Carver resident, spoke on behalf of Jordan’s more than 300 registered nurses.
Kenyon said nurses are prepared to support the sale to BIDMC, but want guarantees that hospital will remain a full service acute care hospital providing comprehensive services to all in the community. Kenyon also called on BIDMC to extend the commitment to Jordan to 10 years and for unambiguous guarantees that all necessary services currently in place will stay in place as long as the state deems necessary.
But the nurses also believe BIDMC could add much needed stability and improvement to the hospital’s clinical programs.
“It is our hope that with the well-funded support of the Beth Israel network, there will be a reinvestment in our clinical nursing programs, to allow our nurses and support personnel to provide the high quality care our patients and this community deserve,” Kenyon said.
Holden said he expects a spectacular future for healthcare locally. “We believe in establishing a stronger local health care system that benefits all. Higher quality and less costly care will mean more patients and more patients means more jobs for people to care for them,” Holden said in his closing remarks. “So, our future is bright – and not just for us, not only for this generation, but for generations to come.”
State Department of Public Health officials coordinating the hearing said a vote on the proposed merger is likely at the public health council’s Oct. 16 meeting.