Charlotte Hungerford Hospital in Torrington has become the latest independent hospital to begin the process of joining a larger health system – in this case, Hartford HealthCare, the parent company of five Connecticut hospitals.
The board on Wednesday signed a nonbinding memorandum of understanding to work toward a formal affiliation with Hartford HealthCare, which allows both sides to go through a due-diligence process and, potentially, prepare plans for a partnership. Charlotte Hungerford spokesman Tim LeBouthillier said the process is expected to conclude in the fall.
In a letter describing the hospital’s plans, President and Executive Director Daniel J. McIntyre and board Chairman John E. Janco said joining a larger system would lead to better care coordination, enhance the hospital’s services and programs, allow for infrastructure improvements, and “help position our hospital to remain a financially viable local health care resource.”
McIntyre and Janco wrote of increasing challenges recruiting and retaining doctors, increased competition and financial pressures. They said the board had begun examining the need to affiliate with a larger health system two years ago, and determined that, “Hartford HealthCare demonstrated the greatest desire for a partnership, a mutual commitment to grow services, and a vision and culture similar to ours.”
LeBouthillier said the 109-bed hospital considered four systems during the process.
In a statement announcing the plan Thursday, Janco said the health care environment is now more complicated than it was 10 years ago.
“The affiliation process helped us determine that the hospital is in a secure position and that now is the time to be proactive in considering a strategic partner,” he said.
During the 2014 fiscal year, Charlotte Hungerford had 767 fulltime-equivalent employees, according to the state Office of Health Care Access. It has had modestly positive margins in recent years, averaging 2.42 percent during the five-year period from 2010 through 2014. (The statewide average margin for hospitals during that period was 6.22 percent.)
Three-quarters of the state’s 28 general acute care hospitals are now either part of larger health systems or in the process of joining one.
Hartford HealthCare includes Hartford, Backus and Windham hospitals, The Hospital of Central Connecticut and MidState Medical Center. The company was previously in talks about a potential affiliation with the parent company of Day Kimball Hospital in Putnam, but those were called off last fall. At the time, Hartford HealthCare officials blamed state funding cuts.
Bristol, Griffin, Day Kimball, Stamford, Middlesex and Milford hospitals remain independent. Griffin Hospital is in Derby. St. Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury is currently independent but is seeking regulatory approval to join Trinity Health, the parent company of St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford and Johnson Memorial Hospital in Stafford Springs.
Waterbury Hospital is seeking approval to be acquired by California-based Prospect Medical Holdings, while Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London is seeking to join the Yale New Haven Health System.