South County Health is the last independent hospital standing in Rhode Island – but maybe not for long.
In serious discussions with Yale New Haven Health System, which currently owns Westerly and Lawrence + Memorial Hospitals, South County Health could be ready to decide whether to join that group by early fall.
“We’ve been talking whether or not – and I really want to emphasize that – we could together better serve the residents of Washington County,” said Lou Giancola, President and Chief Executive Officer of South County Health.
Giancola said South County Health is conducting an “intense study that will go on for about four months…So we’re talking. There are no commitments on either side. We’ve agreed to studying whether we could do a better job, really around the triple aim: better quality, better patient experience, at least managing cost better.”
South County Hospital was founded in 1919 in a small private home, and has grown to 100-beds, with outpatient facilities in Westerly and East Greenwich, and a staff of more than 1,500. It has distinguished itself by receiving five-star status from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for overall quality and patient experience.
Yale New Haven Health System was formed in 1995 and includes several hospital systems from Bridgeport, CT to Westerly, RI.
As the only independent hospital in Rhode Island, South County Health’s financial challenges are even greater than those in hospital groups during a most challenging time for health care.
“Everyone in healthcare these days are challenged,” Giancola said. “Costs of care are outstripped by what we’re paid. With larger systems, you can take advantage of economies of scale.”
South County Health has distinguished itself for its commitment to community, local health, participating in programs that strive to keep people out of the hospital, or minimize a patient’s stay. And that is what is of major concern to South County Health, maintaining Giancola said, the hospital’s “identity. It’s what we’ve really struggled with. We’re proud of our accomplishments.”
But in Yale New Haven, Giancola believes “people would have the same kind of experience…They (Yale New Haven) are very concerned about community, concerned about local care. They believe care is local, that most care is moving toward the ambulatory side … and they’re very smart … they’ve done some very innovative things.”