Dartmouth Health system adds Bennington, Vt., medical center

An agreement between Southwestern Vermont Health Care, which includes Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington, Vt., and Dartmouth Health is expected to give the smaller network access to a shared electronic medical record platform and joint purchasing, among other benefits, it says. File photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

An agreement between Southwestern Vermont Health Care, which includes Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington, Vt., and Dartmouth Health is expected to give the smaller network access to a shared electronic medical record platform and joint purchasing, among other benefits, it says. File photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger Glenn Russell

By NORA DOYLE-BURR

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 07-14-2023 5:48 PM

LEBANON — Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington, Vt., has become the newest member of the Dartmouth Health system, according to a DH news release.

The agreement, formalized on July 1, makes the Bennington hospital the sixth to join the Lebanon-based network. The organizations had previously announced plans to join forces last December.

The agreement adds to the DH fold the 99-bed SVMC, as well as 25 primary care and specialty care practices, two nursing homes and a foundation at nine total locations in Bennington and nearby New York and Massachusetts, part of the Southwestern Vermont Health Care system.

The new additions come amid economic challenges to rural health systems — including DH, which implemented a financial recovery plan last year. The challenges include labor shortages, the high cost of contract labor, delayed hospital discharges due to staffing shortages at other facilities, a rising demand for services and an increase in uncompensated care, Dr. Joanne Conroy, DH’s CEO, said in the release.

“We know we can’t solve these problems alone, but working together we are stronger,” Conroy said. “Our partnership with Southwestern Vermont Medical Center will serve to fortify our critical healthcare institutions against the fluctuating challenges of the market, and we also believe it will strengthen and expand the services we already provide, through shared resources, and more collaboration between providers.”

Other hospital members of the DH system include Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital in Lebanon; Cheshire Medical Center in Keene, N.H.; Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon; Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center in Windsor; and New London Hospital. The system also includes a visiting nurse association and several clinics, including those in the more populous southern New Hampshire.

Valley Regional Hospital in Claremont also is seeking regulatory approval to join the health system.

The addition of SVMC comes following the failure last year of a plan for DH to join forces with GraniteOne Health, the health system including Catholic Medical Center in Manchester and two New Hampshire community hospitals. Those two community hospitals filed paperwork with the New Hampshire attorney general last month to dissolve GraniteOne and terminate their relationship with CMC.

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The new relationship between SVMC and DH builds on more than a decade-long affiliation in which DH has employed most of the physicians who work at SVMC. In addition, DH operates a cancer center at SVMC.

As a system member, SVMC will be required to participate in DH’s regional strategic planning process by developing plans that are approved both by the hospital’s board and by DH, according to FAQs attached to a Wednesday news release from SVMC.

“The patients of our regional communities will benefit significantly from the intellectual capital and system strength of Dartmouth Health,” Tom Dee, CEO of Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, said in the SVMC release. “Our two organizations have enjoyed a longstanding relationship for over a decade, providing exceptional care to our communities. It’s only going to get better.”

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.