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Hospitals Take Next Step in Affiliation

D-H, New London File State Paperwork

New London ­— After two months of negotiation, officials from Dartmouth-Hitchcock and New London Hospital sent their affiliation agreement to the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office Tuesday, marking the next step in what has been a long process in establishing a governance and administrative collaboration between the two health care entities.

In early March two public hearings were held in New London and Newport to allow open discussion about the proposed collaboration. Hospital officials said after the second hearing on March 14 that they hoped to send the proposal to the state Attorney General’s Office within a week.

But the affiliation agreement didn’t make it to Concord until Tuesday of this week, nearly two months after the intended time frame.

“We thought we had most of the details hammered out, but we had a few additional things that needed to be hammered out on both sides,” New London Hospital President and CEO Bruce King said. “It took a little bit longer than we had hoped for.”

Tuesday’s development launches a 120-day period for the Charitable Trusts Unit, a division of the Office of the Attorney General, to review the agreement, King said, in two specific areas: charitable assets and anti-trust laws. In order for this process to run smoothly, hospital officials had to provide detailed filings of their market shares and monetary analytics in addition to outlined structural plans, such as the composition of the new board of trustees.

This process, King said, is what delayed filing the agreement.

Within the same 120-day period, the attorney general’s office will be accepting public comment, but King said the March hearings might help streamline the approval process. King said they are anticipating a full acceptance of their proposal within the 120-day window.

The Charitable Trusts Unit will ensure all funds on the New London Hospital balance sheet stay focused on the patients who receive treatment there and that the affiliation would not create a monopoly.

“Dartmouth-Hitchcock and New London Hospital share a common mission of improving population health and looking at more efficient ways of delivering health care,” Dartmouth-Hitchcock CEO and President Dr. James Weinstein said in a news release.

The affiliation would not look like a merger or takeover, but would integrate clinical services and enhance primary and specialty care services to patients. King explained that, as a small hospital, New London doesn’t demand the services of, for example, a full-time cardiologist, so a visiting physician from Dartmouth-Hitchcock would fulfill their part-time demand and save money at the same time. Additionally, officials from both institutions intend to create a common system for electronic record keeping.

New London Hospital and Dartmouth-Hitchcock anticipate an approval by August. At that time, officials would begin implementing the plan for the collaboration.

Katie Mettler can be reached at kmettler@vnews.com or 603-727-3234.