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Norwich — The William W. Backus Hospital and Hartford HealthCare, the parent company of Hartford Hospital, announced Thursday that they have signed a memorandum of understanding outlining how a partnership between the two organizations would function.
The memorandum is a significant step toward reaching a formal agreement, said Rebecca Stewart, spokeswoman for Hartford HealthCare. The two organizations announced in February that they had begun discussions about an affiliation.
The parties will now negotiate a formal agreement that is expected to be completed by July, Stewart said. After that, applications would be submitted to state and federal regulators seeking approval of the partnership.
If approved, Backus would become part of the network that includes Hartford Hospital, The Hospital of Central Connecticut, MidState Medical Center, Natchaug Hospital, Windham Hospital and a large primary care physician group and other health care services. In 2011, the Hartford HealthCare network provided care to 78,152 hospital patients and provided 2.3 million outpatient and home care services, according to company information. Its primary service area includes 63 towns.
“My colleagues and I are enthused about this process, and the stronger, more integrated system of care we believe an affiliation will provide,” David Whitehead, Backus president and chief executive officer, said in a news release. “After serious review, our board has concluded that the integration of Backus and Hartford HealthCare would provide the necessary benefits for the individuals and communities we serve.”
Backus spokesman Shawn Mawhiney said the partnership will make the hospital better able to withstand the rapidly changing health care landscape.
“Health care organizations are more likely to thrive when they create a formal partnership and work together,” he said. He noted that Backs and Hartford Hospital have already worked together on a 12-year agreement with Life Star helicopter. The partnership would enable the two hospitals to further coordinate care, share expertise and new technologies, he said.
“As part of Hartford HealthCare, we would be able to serve more communities, and Backus patients would benefit from a more coordinated system ... not just in the hospital but prior to and after hospitalization,” he said. “This includes laboratory services, complex hospital care, home care or other services.”
Mawhiney said it is too soon to say whether the partnership would result in an increase or decrease in jobs at Backus.
“Staff members would have greater opportunities for professional development in a large system,” he said. “With or without an affiliation, there are likely to be changes in the way we do things.”