Optima Healthcare has decided to dissolve, bending to the will of the people and the New Hampshire attorney general.
The three hospitals that constitute the Manchester, N.H.-based system mutually agreed to end their joint operating company effective last week.
"While we are disappointed that the relationship in Optima Healthcare did not prove to be longstanding, we believe this action is in the best interest of the communities we serve," said Douglas Dean, who has been president and chief executive officer of Optima Healthcare since July 1998.
It will take time to disentangle Elliot Hospital and Catholic Medical Center, the two Manchester hospitals at the center of a simmering controversy over consolidation.
"None of us fully understand how difficult it will be to unwind two acute-care hospitals that were in the process of merging," said Michael DeLucia, director of charitable trusts in the state attorney general's office.
The first step was a joint filing in state probate court last week by the attorney general and Optima Health, the regional organization that controls 238-bed Elliot and 242-bed CMC, the only acute-care hospitals in Manchester. The petition seeks a special master to oversee the disaffiliation and the rapid transfer of governance to new hospital boards. A judge could rule on those matters as early as this week, DeLucia said.
The assets and clinical operations of the third facility, St. Joseph Hospital in Nashua, N.H., were not merged with those of CMC and Elliot. St. Joseph is not included in the court proceeding.
Community activists protested when Optima Health began implementing a consolidation plan that shifted acute-care services to Elliot from CMC. The attorney general said last year that the system had broken state law by flouting the charitable missions of the hospitals through consolidation.
Two special boards, created last summer to reflect the premerger governance of the hospitals, recommended last month that the system be abolished and that the hospitals pursue independent courses.