MANHATTAN — Two major hospital networks are discussing a possible merger that could create one of the city’s largest health care systems.
NYU Langone Medical Center and Continuum Health Partners passed a resolution Wednesday to enter into a non-binding agreement, kicking off a six to eight month effort to explore whether they should formerly merge.
NYU Langone, a big player as an academic medical center, is already undergoing an expansion on the East Side. Its planned 800,000-square-foot pavilion on East 34th Street next to its Tisch hospital won't add any beds, but will allow for all patients to have their own rooms. NYU Langone has also opened health centers elsewhere in the city.
Its reach would dramatically increase by partnering with Continuum’s community-oriented hospitals — Beth Israel Medical Center and the New York Eye & Ear Infirmary (both on the East Side) and St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center (in Hells Kitchen and Harlem.)
“In this next phase, NYU Langone and Continuum Health Partners will consider how their partnership could create a fully integrated health care delivery system for the benefit of the people they serve, including underserved populations,” said a joint statement between the two networks, whose agreement was first reported by The New York Times.
“Both entities expect that a successful partnership would achieve economies of scale that reduce health care costs while enhancing the quality of care and allowing for investment in new facilities,” the statement continued.
Hospitals across the city have been scrambling to reduce costs in the face of changing insurance policies while increasing their patient rolls, opening new outpatient facilities and other types of clinics. Many Manhattan hospitals have been on expansion frenzies, particularly with new ambulatory care facilities.
“One of the reasons that hospitals are merging is to get better market share,” said Judy Wessler, of the Commission on the Public’s Health System, a watchdog group. “But it’s also to look at where there’s duplication of services and where to save money. That could mean a loss of services, which is often done quietly.”
Wessler worries what an NYU Langone/Continuum merger could mean for patient services.
“It’s too bad because the policies of Continuum are not like NYU, which does not take care of the poor and people of color and should not be spread,” she said. “We have been raising concerns about NYU for years and years.”
Even though the two hospital networks said a merger “would further enhance the collective abilities of the two entities,” Wessler is concerned that it could negatively impact patient care.
“The larger a system gets,” she said, “the less likely the focus is on what the community’s needs are.”
The merged networks could potentially rival another medical giant in the Manhattan: New York-Presbyterian, which combined Columbia University and Weill Cornell Medical Centers in 1998, joining the heavy-hitting research institutions in Washington Heights and the Upper East Side.
That hospital system, for instance, just announced this week that it ranks in more pediatric specialties than any other hospital in the metro New York area, according to the 2012–13 U.S. News & World Report Best Children's Hospital's rankings. It also was ranked among the top 10 nationally in the areas of Cardiology & Heart and Diabetes & Endocrinology.
A spokeswoman for New York-Presbyterian, however, did not want to comment or “speculate” on what a possible Langone/Continuum merger would mean for its network.
Some academic hospitals, like Mount Sinai — which is not only expanding its footprint in East Harlem but is also planning a 95,000 square foot expansion for clinical space and patient care in Queens and a 75,000 square foot multi-specialty physician practice in Brooklyn Heights — say there’s room for change.
“Our growing network confirms that there is an ample number of patients to serve and we are concentrating on our own expansion and continued excellence in health care delivery,” a Mount Sinai spokeswoman said.