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North Country Healthcare remains upbeat despite departure of Littleton Regional

by Tara Giles
Sports reporter - Coos County Democrat and Berlin Reporter
February 27, 2019
LANCASTER — After the recent announcement by Littleton Regional Healthcare that it plans to withdraw from the North Country Healthcare system, employees of the remaining institutions — Androscoggin Valley Hospital, Weeks Medical Center, Upper Connecticut Valley Hospital and North Country Home Health and Hospice — remain upbeat and committed to the goals and visions of the affiliation.

North Country Healthcare was created in March of 2016. As part of the NCH agreement, at the end of the first three years any organization has the right to opt out. Littleton Regional Healthcare has decided to exercise their right to opt out.

Despite not being under the same corporate umbrella any longer, Weeks Medical Center will still have doctors practice at LRH and vice versa. Partnerships should remain in tact and things will revert back to the way they were three years ago in regards to LRH.

The umbrella of NCH was devised to create a super system so that all four hospitals would be larger and be able to negotiate better contracts in all areas of business operations to include pay, insurance and stronger buying power for supplies to name a few.

There was no indication that LRH had plans to withdraw; however, they have been building specialty departments and have been growing rapidly over the past few years. One benefit to LRH in leaving NCH would be a large savings in that they were paying almost 43 percent of the system's expenses due to the fact that they were the largest affiliate in the group.

In a statement to employees, Jim Hamblin, Chair, NCH Board of Trustees, said, "Individually and collectively, we continue to be focused on the best interests of our patients and employees. Residents of and visitors to the North Country can rest assured that our priorities of providing outstanding healthcare and a supportive working environment remain unchanged."

Hamblin added, "The NCH Affiliation Agreement requires all parties to conduct a deliberate review of issues that may arise as the result of a withdrawal notice. We trust that all parties who may interact with any or all parts of the system during this review period will respect these important contractual obligations."

Since the inception of NCH, several systems between the institutions have been integrated such as standardized quality markers and reporting for all patients, standardized pay grades, shift differentials, job titles and pay practices, standardized laboratory and pharmacy services and an overarching marketing plan.

"All of these accomplishments have helped enhance the experience of not only our patients, but also our employees," said Hamblin. "They are clear examples of the progress and improvements achieved by the NCH Affiliation, and indications of the opportunities for further improvements for organizations that share a common goal. It should also be noted that the individual and collective financial status of our institutions have steadily improved during the three years of affiliation. We now rank in the top tier of our peers."

LRH will remain in the affiliation for what could be several months while payments are finalized and a review of the withdrawal claim is completed. The Affiliation agreement states that an institution can provide a notice of intent to withdraw by April of this year.

"NCH intends to ensure that any concerns that may be held by one or more LRH board members receive a very deliberative and very transparent hearing and evaluation. The Affiliation Agreement contemplates such a careful process. Such a process is necessary because so many critical business and clinical systems of the five member institutions have been integrated." said Hamblin.

North Country Healthcare employs 1,400 staff and is the largest employer in the North Country.

Garnet Hill
Martin Lord Osman
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