October 10, 2019

R.I. hospitals should coordinate, not split themselves apart

Once the hard feelings of the recent failed hospital merger abate, we need to get back to work improving health-care delivery in Rhode Island. Competition works in much of the economy, but not so well in health care; not when you’re brought to the emergency room unconscious; not for complicated illnesses; not for people managing multiple conditions.

Rhode Island has invested a lot of effort into building the elements of a smart, coordinated system to serve patients, especially in the areas of developing a statewide health information exchange and lowering costs through Accountable Care Organizations.

But nationally, our health-care system produces life expectancy similar to Croatia, for per-capita cost 50 percent higher than our most expensive international rival — all while leaving many without even adequate coverage.

Rhode Island has the right size, the right leadership, and the right elements to become a national model in the delivery of health care. The path to that success is through coordination, not splitting up our hospitals among mergers with out-of-state owners.

The charge of a hospital is not just to protect the corporate bottom line, it’s to serve the public in delivering world-class, efficient, safe, and affordable health care. When the raw feelings have abated, that public charge is still the great opportunity before us.

Sheldon Whitehouse, Newport

The writer is a Democratic U.S. senator.

By: Sheldon Whitehouse