BENNINGTON — Southwestern Vermont Health Care and Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center are planning a merger that could be completed by March, according to officials from both facilities.
Tom Dee, SVHC’s president and chief operating officer, sent an email to employees in late November recently disclosing the general plan, calling it “exciting news.”
“The SVHC Board of Trustees unanimously approved and authorized the signing of our integration agreement with Dartmouth Health, permitting SVHC to become the newest member of its system,” Dee wrote. “Over the next 90 days, both organizations will be meeting with state officials and regulators, so we can officially close on the agreement.”
Dee told employees that the organization would hold town meetings on the merger.
The merger comes as both hospitals — like those nationally — are dealing with financial losses and working with regulators to overcome challenges such as staffing and workforce shortages, inflation on routine and specialized items, and more.
Dartmouth Health recently reported a $22.1 million loss (on its $2.9 billion operating budget) last year — a financial challenge that has extended into the current fiscal year. This quarter, the medical center saw a $41.4 million loss on its nearly $770 million operating budget, according to the Valley News in Lebanon, N.H.
Southwestern Vermont Medical Center saw similar problems, with Dee and his executive team going before Vermont regulators in August to present and seek a 6.35 percent budget increase in 2023, which was approved.
Forces driving the proposed SVMC increase of about $11.3 million included: financial uncertainty (the hospital faces its first potential operating deficit since 2009), workforce shortages, capital projects, inflationary pressures up to 40 percent over budget, uncertainty over COVID’s continued effects, health system gridlock and a growing number of incidents of violence against health care workers.