South County Hospital in ‘very preliminary’ talks with Yale

Photo credit: South County Health

SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island’s frenzy of hospital mergers may not be over.

Vin Petrini, a spokesman for Yale New Haven Health System, confirmed Friday his organization is in talks with South County Hospital, Rhode Island’s last independent hospital, about forming a partnership – though he declined to say whether Yale is looking to formally acquire South County outright.

“South County Hospital, Westerly Hospital and Yale New Haven Health are informally reviewing potential opportunities to collaborate on the provision of exceptional patient care in southwestern Rhode Island,” Petrini told Eyewitness News in response to questions. “However, since these discussions are at a very preliminary stage, we are not in a position to offer further details.”

Yale New Haven, a not-for-profit affiliated with the Ivy League medical school of the same name, is Connecticut’s largest hospital group. It employs more than 20,000 people and posted $3.8 billion in revenue in 2015-16. Yale New Haven already made inroads into Rhode Island last year when it acquired Westerly Hospital’s parent company.

The discussions between executives at Yale New Haven, Westerly and South County “are focused on looking at solutions that would best meet the health care needs of patients in southwestern Rhode Island in the current environment,” Petrini said.

The disclosure about South County and Yale comes just days after Partners HealthCare, Massachusetts’ largest hospital group, announced plans to acquire Care New England, Rhode Island’s second-largest group. Partners and Care New England are now working on a definitive agreement and would then need approval from regulators to merge.

If the Partners deal goes through and Yale New Haven were to then acquire South County, it would leave Rhode Island Hospital parent Lifespan as the only hospital group in the state that isn’t controlled by out-of-state entities, an enormous change from a decade ago. Lifespan, the largest of the state’s hospital networks, also owns Miriam, Bradley and Newport hospitals.

South County Hospital posted $166 million in revenue in 2014-15, according to its annual report.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook