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Backus and Hartford HealthCare agree to affiliate, seek needed approvals

August 17, 2012

NORWICH (August 17, 2012) — Backus Corporation and Hartford HealthCare have formally agreed to an affiliation. The health care systems now will seek state and federal regulatory approvals for the partnership. Once the affiliation is approved, Backus will become a member of the Hartford HealthCare system.

The Backus Corporation Board of Directors voted Thursday evening to approve the definitive agreement the two organizations created over the past five months. The Hartford HealthCare Board has also approved the agreement.

The agreement outlines how a partnership of the health care systems would function and clears the way for the organizations to jointly file a Certificate of Need application with the Connecticut Office of Health Care Access, seek approval from the state’s Attorney General, and file for federal approval from the Federal Trade Commission. That process is expected to take several months.

The agreement contains several key provisions, pending state and federal approval:

  • A capital commitment to the Eastern Connecticut region in support of a new regional strategic plan
  • An ongoing fund for medical staff development
  • Maintenance of a trauma program at Backus, with a commitment that a LIFE STAR helicopter will be permanently stationed at the hospital
  • Establishment of an extensive primary care and outpatient care network, with certified Patient-Centered Medical Homes, which are health centers that provide comprehensive primary care and promote ongoing relationships between patients, their families and a physician that coordinates their care
  • Organization and development of a comprehensive cancer services network for the region, building on the existing Backus cancer center, using the expertise of local medical specialists
  • Enhancement of cardiac care services in the region, using the expertise of local medical specialists
  • Creation of a Preventive Medicine Institute at Backus, which would focus on helping people live healthier lives before they are hospitalized or develop chronic conditions
  • Development of an outpatient surgery network in Eastern Connecticut
  • Enhanced neonatology coverage at Backus, meaning that the birthing center would have more access to neonatology specialists • The exploration of a Hartford HealthCare data center developed and housed within the eastern Connecticut region

The agreement also includes commitments to funding community benefit activities, which include improving access to healthcare for underinsured and uninsured individuals, community education and bringing healthcare and screenings out to the community; the use of existing and future donations to Backus as donors intended, and ongoing robust charity care policies for those unable to pay for their medical care. 

Patients are expected to benefit from expanded access to home care and rehabilitative care services, a more coordinated behavioral health network, and enhanced programs using local specialists for cardiac, vascular and cancer care.

“When approved, this will be a major milestone for our entire regional community, and an important moment for Backus,” said David Whitehead, Backus president and chief executive officer. “In the midst of sweeping change in health care, this strategic partnership will create a viable, high-value health care delivery system for the future. If you live, work or do business in eastern Connecticut, this affiliation is great news.”

“We are excited about the opportunities our affiliation will bring to our patients, communities and staff members,” said Elliot Joseph, president and chief executive officer of Hartford HealthCare. “Together, we will improve the quality of care by increasing the sharing of best practices, treatments, services and innovative technology throughout our system. Our staff members will benefit from the greater professional opportunities available in a larger health care system.”

The affiliation agreement calls for the creation of a new Eastern Connecticut health region for Hartford HealthCare, comprised of New London and Windham Counties, with the Backus Health System serving as the region’s clinical nucleus. Working as a coordinated system, system members will develop a strategic plan for fully integrated health care delivery in the region. The plan, which will be developed after final approvals, will include information from existing health and human services organizations, community leaders and regional stakeholders.

“The top reason the Backus board sought an affiliation was to secure viability and enhance access to health care for our patients,” Whitehead said. “We are proud and pleased to say that Hartford HealthCare has provided those assurances.”

Backus and Hartford HealthCare agree to affiliation 

The Backus Board of Directors will remain, with the addition of two new members from the Hartford HealthCare system. Likewise, two Backus board members will be added to the HHC Board of Directors.

Backus will retain its name, identity, medical staff and separate hospital and affiliate licenses.

If the affiliation is approved, Backus will become a member of the Hartford HealthCare network, which includes Hartford Hospital, the Hospital of Central Connecticut, MidState Medical Center, Natchaug Hospital, Windham Hospital, and a wide spectrum of additional health services.

The governing boards of both organizations signed a Letter of Intent in February to explore a formal affiliation. Subcommittees from both boards worked to create the affiliation agreement to ensure the affiliation would be in the best interests of patients and communities served by the institutions.

Hartford HealthCare’s members include Hartford Hospital (an 867-bed regional referral center that is one of the largest teaching hospitals and tertiary care centers in New England), a community tertiary hospital and two acute-care community hospitals: The Hospital of Central Connecticut (414 beds, with campuses in New Britain and Southington), MidState Medical Center (144 beds, in Meriden) and Windham Hospital (130 beds, in Willimantic). Other system member providers include two regional behavior health centers, a statewide clinical laboratory operation, a large primary care physician practice group, a large multi-specialty
surgical group, a regional home care system, long-term care facilities and a physical therapy and rehabilitation network.

Backus Corporation is the parent of the Backus Healthcare System. The system includes The William W. Backus Hospital, a 213-bed acute care hospital that is the only state-licensed Trauma Center east of the Connecticut River; Backus Home Health Care; primary care and walk-in urgent care centers in Ledyard, Plainfield, Montville and Colchester; Backus Physician Services, a multi-specialty surgical group; and Community Medical Partners, a medical foundation. Backus is one of two sole members of Hospice Southeastern Connecticut, and has an ownership interest in dialysis centers in the region.

Hartford Hospital