—Flu vaccines are now mandatory for Rhode Island healthcare workers who have direct contact with patients in healthcare facilities in the state. The policy, proposed by the Rhode Island Department of Public Health, gained approval despite objections from the American Civil Liberties Union and Service Employees International Union Healthcare District 1199 New England, which represents healthcare workers in Rhode Island and Connecticut. The Rhode Island policy requires flu vaccines for all healthcare workers, including nurses, volunteers and physicians. New York officials adopted a similar mandate in 2009, but lawsuits by unions and others halted the policy. Among their objections was that such provisions should be part of collective bargaining. Rhode Island was already one of nine states, according to HHS, that require vaccines to be offered by healthcare facilities, even though workers could decline them. The Rhode Island mandate offers medical and religious exemptions and requires employees to submit any exemptions to their facility by Dec. 15 of each year. Those who aren't vaccinated would have to wear surgical masks. The Hospital Association of Rhode Island supported the mandate. “Rhode Island is a recognized leader in providing quality healthcare,” association President Edward Quinlan said in an e-mailed statement. “This regulation is another example of our state's dedication to providing the best possible care for patients. We recognize Rhode Island Department of Health Director Michael Fine for his leadership on this important issue.”
—Montefiore Medical Center is planning to spend $142.3 million on what will be its first free-standing ambulatory surgery center. The hospital is seeking state permission to build the facility in the Bronx, the second new tower of the growing Hutchinson Metro Center campus. Montefiore has an agreement to lease a 12-story, 278,000-square-foot building to be constructed at the site along the Hutchinson River Parkway. The lease term is for 16 years, with three five-year renewal terms. Simone Development Cos. is the owner and developer of the Hutchinson Metro Center. Total project costs will be funded with a $35 million lease from the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York's Tax-Exempt Equipment Leasing Program, or TELP; $14.3 million in cash; and a $93 million loan from M&T Bank, with a term of 16 years at 3.5%. The project won approval Sept. 19 from the Establishment and Project Review Committee of the Public Health and Health Planning Council. The full council will vote on the project this month. The plan calls for relocating some of Montefiore's ambulatory surgery cases from operating rooms at its hospitals to what it calls a “more efficient and patient-friendly environment.” The patient experience is a key factor driving the project. Improving access to care and patient satisfaction would “retain patients in the system, critical to an accountable care organization,” Montefiore noted in its certificate-of-need application.
—Crain's New York Business
POMPTON PLAINS, N.J.—The directors of Chilton Hospital in Pompton Plains approved a plan to merge with Atlantic Health System, Morristown, N.J., the prospective partners announced. Atlantic Health directors also approved the deal, according to a news release. The deal, which would add the 260-bed Chilton Hospital to Atlantic Health's three acute-care hospitals, is expected to close in the middle of next year. Atlantic Health includes Morristown (N.J.) Medical Center, Newton (N.J.) Medical Center and Overlook Medical Center in Summit, N.J. “By joining Atlantic Health System, we can assure the local community that we are proactively taking the steps necessary to remain a vital healthcare resource for years to come,” Deborah Zastocki, Chilton president and CEO, said in the release. “Partnership with Atlantic Health will provide Chilton with the resources to support and strengthen its mission and strategic initiatives.” Chilton posted an operating loss of $2.9 million on revenue of $166.9 million in fiscal 2011, which ended Dec. 31, compared with an operating gain of $2 million on revenue of $163.1 million the prior year, according to financial statements. “The healthcare landscape in New Jersey and throughout our nation is changing, and we are changing with it,” Joseph Trunfio, CEO of Atlantic Health, said in the release. “We have concluded a merger is the best option for us to deliver the highest quality care to our patients and region,” Trunfio said. Regulators must review the deal, the release said.
Tullman: Allscripts’ bid was comparable
to its rival Epic.
—New York City Health and Hospital Corp.'s decision to select Epic Systems Corp. as its electronic health-record vendor has drawn a protest from Allscripts. Allscripts declined to release its protest, saying it was confidential. Glen Tullman, Allscripts CEO, said in an interview that the vendor rejected claims by HHC that rival bids by Epic and Allscripts were comparable on cost. Tullman said the Allscripts system would cost HHC $700 million less, and the competing bids should be publicly reviewed. HHC spokesman Ian Michaels, however, said Allscripts' projected savings failed to include anticipated costs such as an estimated $375 million for HHC personnel to design, build and maintain the system and $146 million to connect the EMR to devices such as MRIs. Tullman said the company “included all of the costs” and would be cheaper because of its reliance on Microsoft Corp. The 15-year cost to the New York system to adopt and maintain Epic's EMR totaled $1.435 billion, which was minimally more expensive than the $1.404 billion for Allscripts' system, Michaels said. After a four-year process of reviewing its options, HHC selected Epic because the vendor better met its needs, he said. Epic would replace HHC's existing electronic medical-record system for up to $302.8 million under the contract, which is under negotiation, Michaels said. Allscripts' bid was $299 million.