Care New England CEO expects decision on Partners merger this month

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The head of Care New England, Rhode Island’s second-largest hospital group, said Wednesday he expects its merger talks with Partners HealthCare to conclude by the end of this month, though he’s not tipping his hand on whether he thinks the deal will go through.

“I have made it clear that the intent of the CNE Board is to proceed with the Partners affiliation process until its conclusion, which we expect should be later this month,” Dr. James Fanale, who just took over as Care New England’s president and CEO, wrote in an email to staff.

Care New England first announced last April it planned to sell its hospitals to Partners, the largest hospital group in Massachusetts. But the talks slowed down after a separate deal to spin off Memorial Hospital collapsed, eventually leading to the effective closure of that facility. The company’s other hospitals are Women & Infants, Kent and Butler.

Yet another complication emerged last week when Brown University and Prospect Medical Holdings, the California-based owner of Roger Williams Medical Center and Fatima Hospital, went public with their own alternative proposal to take over Care New England.

Fanale held private meetings with Care New England employees on Tuesday partly to discuss the Brown-Prospect proposal, and in Wednesday’s follow-up email he again insisted the company is solely focused on the Partners merger. Care New England has agreed to negotiate exclusively with Partners through the end of this month.

Fanale asked his staff to “please remember last week’s Brown announcement was solely done on their own with Prospect.”

A spokesman for Care New England declined to comment further.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook