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By Richard Asinof
PROVIDENCE – The application by Lawrence + Memorial Hospital of New London, Conn., to purchase Westerly Hospital for $69 million has been deemed complete by state regulators under the Hospital Conversions Act, according to a announcement made on Jan. 29 by the R.I. attorney general’s office.
Moving forward, state regulators will now have 90 days to conduct a formal review and evaluation under the expedited review for financially distressed Rhode Island hospitals being bought by another nonprofit hospital.
Since December 2011, Westerly Hospital has been in receivership under the management of Special Master Mark Russo.
In August 2012, Superior Court Judge Brian Stern approved Lawrence + Memorial Hospital’s bid to buy Westerly Hospital.
“From the start of this process, the hope was to bring stability to Westerly Hospital as soon as possible,” said Russo, in a news release. “Now, we are one step closer to that reality – and we look forward to a swift conclusion.”
One potential stumbling block is the recent announcement made on Jan. 15 that Westerly Hospital will stop delivering babies after June 1, a decision made by Russo and Dr. Christopher Lehrach, Westerly Hospital’s chief transformation officer.
In making that decision, Lehrach said that declining births at the hospital – about 320 in 2012, reflecting the changing demographics with fewer young couples now living in the town, according to The Westerly Sun. That decision was also influenced by the loss of a midwife at the end of March and the decision by one of the hospital’s two remaining obstetrics physicians to move from Westerly Hospital to South County Hospital in Wakefield.
Lawrence + Memorial Hospital and Westerly Hospital are now developing a plan about how best to maintain other maternity services at the Westerly facility. The plan will require the approval of Dr. Michael Fine, the director of the R.I. Department of Health.
The sale of Landmark Medical Center in Woonsocket to Prime Healthcare Services of Ontario, Calif., is currently under review by state regulators, to determine if the for-profit California-based hospital chain’s application is complete. Once it is deemed complete, state regulators will have 120 days to approve or reject the application.
Also, Care New England and Memorial Hospital of Pawtucket are moving ahead with a planned merger, and hospital officials say that they will be submitting an application to state regulators in the near future.