As shared with The Caledonian-Record on Friday, October 27, 2023
By Robert Nutter
President & Chief Executive Officer
For us at Littleton Regional Healthcare, autumn means the close of one fiscal year and the start of a new budget with new priorities for the year to come. I wanted to highlight a few of the upgrades we will be making that will be visible to those visiting LRH and provide an update on the ongoing affiliation process LRH embarked on this past spring. While many will notice the addition to the parking lot outside the main entrance or the thousands of new energy-efficient LED light fixtures, more exciting projects are planned.
First, in late August we held our 29th Annual Dr. Moose Golf Tournament, LRH’s largest annual fundraiser. I want to thank the generous sponsors and the many golfers who came out and nearly avoided the rain to support us and have some fun together. The funds raised are supporting LRH’s laboratory renovation which is well underway. This upgrade to automated, state-of-the-art analytical equipment will decrease turnaround times, increase capacity, and improve accuracy. With this investment, LRH will be the first Critical Access Hospital (CAH) in New England with this modern technology.
As a complex, technologically-driven organization, we will be making several other investments this fiscal year, not unlike past years, that will help improve operations, safety, responsiveness, and above all else, our ability to deliver high-quality patient care. These investments include upgrading our Digital Imaging System for our MRI machine and completing the final phase of the upgrade to our Nurse Call System. Additionally, the Emergency Department expansion, which was initially announced in 2019 and then paused due to the global COVID-19 Pandemic, is also still on our priority list and we expect to report on plans for this major project in the coming months.
The biggest initiative for this fiscal year continues to be our ongoing exploration of affiliation options that align with our vision to provide exceptional patient care and grow to meet future community needs, while enabling us to maintain our local identity. The board-driven process began last winter and has moved through a comprehensive exploration process to thoroughly analyze and evaluate potential affiliation options.
There has been much speculation on where this journey will take us and how it might impact our staff and operations as the leading employer in the region. While we expect that this journey will take us well into 2024 before any decisions are reached on potential partners, I wanted to provide an update on this initiative’s progress and what an affiliation could look like.
First, our approach continues to be a full focus on an affiliation model and we have no interest in or intention of being acquired. Because we are in a position of financial and organizational strength, one of the core principles we have adopted in considering potential partners is the requirement that beyond maintaining our current physical presence in and across the region, we support our team by maintaining our market-leading compensation and benefits, which make us the region’s employer of choice and is key to conducting effective employee recruiting.
People have been asking what exactly an affiliation is. Affiliations are designed to enable the involved parties to better serve their communities through the sharing of knowledge, resources, best practices, and potential economies of scale. They can take varying forms, including (a) a contractual arrangement or partnership between LRH and another organization, (b) a corporate reorganizational/structural change in which LRH would become a subsidiary of a larger healthcare system while still retaining its separate corporate identity, or (c) a merger in which LRH would be merged into another healthcare entity and completely lose its separate corporate identity. LRH is currently exploring the desirability of (b) a corporate reorganization in which it would become a subsidiary of a larger healthcare system while retaining our separate identity.
In this type of affiliation, LRH would retain its separate corporate identity and all of its assets. We would continue to be governed by a community Board of Trustees that will retain considerable decision-making autonomy. Given the strength of our financials and the quality of our staff, combined with the modern facility LRH is fortunate to call home, the Board of Trustees would never consider anything but an affiliation model that maintains our high standards of care, supports our dedicated workforce, and preserves the community board that has served us well over the years. The affiliation partner will likely be larger than LRH. Joining a larger system can bring various benefits such as economies of scale, stronger purchasing power, enhanced access to clinical resources, improved clinical pathways, financial stability and sustainability, improved recruitment efforts, and potentially lower costs of care. These long-term benefits are what ultimately drive this process forward.
At the end of the summer, we asked several organizations that fit the broad criteria established by the Board of Trustees for an affiliation partner to submit a Request for Proposal in late fall. The criteria focuses on considering organizations that can enable both parties to better serve their communities through the sharing of knowledge, resources, best practices, and potential economies of scale. The confidential review process will run into 2024. This review and evaluation would dictate any future steps and the timeline will be fluid to allow for a thorough review.
Before a decision is finalized, LRH will take many factors into consideration, including but not limited to cultural compatibility, level of autonomy, costs, impact on patient care and services provided, and long-term benefits. We do not want to speculate on an overall timeline at this point but do expect several more changes in the seasons before any formal announcement.
While new light fixtures and an additional 67 spaces in our parking lot might be more visible and lab enhancements might speed up key test results, we believe an affiliation, like the one LRH is currently exploring, will bring the biggest positive change to healthcare across our region for many years to come. We look forward to sharing our progress as this process evolves.
Robert (Bob) Nutter is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Littleton Regional Healthcare