SVHC, Dartmouth-Hitchcock To Develop Partnership

13 May 2011
Media Contact: Kevin Robinson

BENNINGTON, Vt. — The board of trustees at Southwestern Vermont Health Care (SVHC) has approved a strategic plan that prepares the health system for a new era under health care reform. The plan’s linchpin strategy calls for the health system to affiliate with Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health, based in Lebanon, N.H.

“Healthcare is changing not only in Vermont but throughout the country,” explained Dr. Mike Brady, Chairman of the SVHC Board of Trustees. “Dartmouth-Hitchcock has a national reputation for advancing the quality of health care, physician collaboration, and creating new ways to provide care. Affiliating with Dartmouth-Hitchcock will allow SVHC to continue its long history of bringing the best health care to the people of Southwestern Vermont. The Board is pleased to support this effort.”

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health is an integrated health system designed to efficiently coordinate resources, expand access to the specialized services and research available at New Hampshire’s only academic medical center, and enhance the value and quality of care in communities throughout New Hampshire and Vermont. The system includes Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital, the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Clinic, the Norris Cotton Cancer Center, the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (CHaD), and community group practices in Manchester, Concord, Nashua, and Keene, N.H. It is affiliated with Dartmouth Medical School, one of the nation’s leading medical schools, and with the Veterans’ Administration Medical Center in White River Jct., Vt.

“Our partnership with Dartmouth-Hitchcock is about creating a larger network of physicians and services to bring better care to patients in our region,” explained Thomas A. Dee, SVHC president and chief executive officer. “This is not a merger or a takeover.”

SVHC chose Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health after an exhaustive process that included assessing several other affiliation opportunities. Dee said SVHC chose Dartmouth-Hitchcock for many reasons, including their focus on physician relationships, their experience with partnering with other organizations, their reputation for quality care, their advanced thinking around health care reform, and a general cultural “fit.”

“Our medical center and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center are both Magnet hospitals for nursing excellence,” Dee explained. “That tells you something about the cultures. Both institutions value openness and collaboration, and they strive to create a culture that delivers the best care for patients.”

“Discussions such as these are consistent with Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s vision of achieving the healthiest population possible and leading the transformation of health care in our region,” said Dr. Thomas A. Colacchio, president of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health. “We see this relationship with SVHC as a logical extension of our stated mission of advancing health through research, education, clinical practice, and community partnerships.”

SVHC’s leadership team already has begun discussing the details of the partnership with Dartmouth-Hitchcock. The discussions should be complete by autumn. Dee added that relationships with other hospitals, such as Albany Medical Center, will continue. “Patients always have a choice of where to go for care we cannot provide locally. And, when it’s appropriate, we will continue to send patients by helicopter or ambulance to Albany Medical Center,” he said.

Benefits to both organizations
Although the details remain to be worked out, an affiliation stands to benefit both organizations. For example, it may expand specialty care in Bennington, and provide Dartmouth with a larger network of physicians and sites for medical education. SVMC will be able to access the intellectual resources of an academic medical center to improve quality of care. It also offers the potential to expand educational opportunities for SVMC’s staff. In addition, the affiliation may allow SVMC to introduce new treatments and research in a wide range of areas including cancer care and chronic disease management.

“An affiliation with Dartmouth-Hitchcock will be very beneficial to physicians in our area,” explained Dr. Mark Donavan, SVHC’s chief medical officer. “Our health system employs about 65 physicians. Over time, that number will grow. Affiliating with Dartmouth gives our physicians a larger network of professional colleagues who are available for consults, both formal and informal. In addition, Dartmouth’s national reputation for excellence will help us recruit physicians to our area.”

As part of its effort to lead the transformation of health care in the region, Dartmouth-Hitchcock is developing new care models in preparation for the federal health care reform efforts. Affiliating with SVMC allows Dartmouth-Hitchcock to work with a smaller health system that already offers the full range of care — primary care and specialist physicians, a community hospital, a sub-acute care center, a nursing home, and a visiting nurse association and hospice.

“Our goal is to provide our patients with the best care, in the right place, at the right time,” added Colacchio. “Working with SVHC, we can continue to provide that care to the people of southwestern Vermont and the nearby communities in New York and Massachusetts.”

Now that the strategic plan is in place, Dee said SVHC is revisiting plans to renovate the hospital and medical office building. “Our hospital is the second oldest facility in Vermont, with no major upgrades since 1997,” he explained. “In the coming months, we will take a close look at our capital requirements. By fall, we will have a new master facility plan ready for the Board of Trustees to review and to share with the community.”

Southwestern Vermont Health Care is an integrated health system serving southwest Vermont, and the neighboring communities in New York and Massachusetts. SVHC includes Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, the Centers for Living and Rehabilitation, Southwestern Vermont Regional Cancer Center, the VNA & Hospice of SVHC, the SVMC Northshire and Deerfield Valley Campuses, and other medical practices. A not-for-profit, SVHC exists solely for the benefit of the communities it serves.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock is a national leader in evidence-based and patient-centered health care. The system includes hundreds of physicians, specialists, and other providers who work together at different locations to meet the health care needs of patients in northern New England. In addition to primary care services at local community practices, Dartmouth-Hitchcock patients have access to specialists in almost every area of medicine, as well as world-class research at Dartmouth Medical School and centers such as The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock includes:

  • Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, New Hampshire's internationally known and nationally ranked academic medical center
  • The Dartmouth-Hitchcock Clinic, a network of more than 900 primary and specialty care physicians located throughout New Hampshire and Vermont, with major community group practices in Lebanon, Concord, Manchester, Nashua and Keene.
  • Children's Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (CHaD), New Hampshire's only children's hospital
  • Norris Cotton Cancer Center, one of only 40 National Cancer Institute designated comprehensive cancer centers in the United States.