Lifespan CEO: Care New England merger still makes sense

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The head of Rhode Island’s biggest hospital group, Lifespan, said Thursday he still thinks its chief local rival, No. 2 group Care New England, should have merged with his company rather than a competing firm from Massachusetts.

Lifespan, whose flagship is Rhode Island Hospital, made a bid for Care New England, whose flagship is Women & Infants, earlier this year. But Care New England’s board opted instead to enter into merger negotiations with Partners, the largest hospital group in Massachusetts.

In an interview on this week’s Executive Suite, Lifespan President and CEO Dr. Timothy Babineau said he’s told his counterpart at Care New England, Dennis Keefe, that his door is always open if the other company changes its mind in the future.

“The merger has always made sense – it continues to make sense,” Babineau said. “I’ve been very public about saying that I believe a merger between Care New England and Lifespan would be good for patients, would be good for the state, would be good for the economy, would be good for health care.”

With roughly 14,000 employees, Lifespan employs more workers than any other private organization in Rhode Island. Its finances have been on the upswing in recent years, and Babineau said improving patient numbers are a good sign for its work force.

“I feel good – we’re doing OK,” Babineau said. Lifespan’s goal is to continuing improving quality and patient satisfaction, he said.

“If we do that, we’re going to need more people to take care of these patients,” he said. “I don’t see us anytime in the near future needing less people.”

Babineau also said Lifespan is keeping a close eye on the new health care bill being debated in Congress. He said any significant funding cuts could hurt patients since more than half of his hospitals’ revenue comes from government programs.