By Thomas P. Caldwell, InDepthNH.org
COLEBROOK — The proposed merger of Indian Stream Health Center and Upper Connecticut Valley Hospital will be the subject of a public hearing at Colebrook Academy on Tuesday, Sept. 14.
Approval by the Charitable Trusts Unit of the Attorney General’s Office is one of final hurdles in moving forward with the merger which Indian Stream’s board chair Gail Fisher has said is essential to the future of primary care in the North Country.
Under the terms of the merger proposal, the hospital would assume the assets and a limited amount of debt from Indian Stream, and it would establish a rural health clinic that would provide care for residents of the health center’s 850-square-mile service area.
Indian Stream Health Center currently operates as a federally qualified health center, a designation that affords patients a greatly reduced cost of care and special prescription prices. The switch to a rural health clinic will reduce those benefits, but the hospital has agreed to carry forward some of the benefits, including a charity benefit that provides free care to patients with incomes below 300 percent of the federal poverty level; and patients who pay on their own will receive a 40 percent discount on charges. Pharmacy discount pricing also would remain in effect.
The agreement provides for the new clinic to operate for at least three years.
Indian Stream has suffered from financial challenges and high staff turnover, as well as the burden of updating its health record system. It had looked into other partnerships before settling on the merger with Upper Connecticut Valley Hospital, which is located a few hundred yards from the Indian Stream building.
In announcing the upcoming hearing, Attorney General John M. Formella said that, at the request of the health care institutions, attendees will be required to wear masks and practice physical distancing regardless of vaccination status. Those who choose not to wear masks will be able to view the hearing and submit comments and questions from a separate room. The public also may participate through videoconferencing.
The hearing will run from 4 to 6 p.m., with doors at Colebrook Academy’s gymnasium opening at 3:45 p.m. There will be an opportunity to submit written comments through Sept. 17 at firstname.lastname@example.org or by regular mail to Director of Charitable Trusts, Department of Justice, 33 Capitol St., Concord NH 03301.
Colebrook Academy is located at 27 Dumont St., Colebrook.
Additional instructions on how to participate remotely will be posted at https://www.doj.nh.gov/charitable-trusts/ with further information and supporting documents about the transaction at https://www.doj.nh.gov/charitable-trusts/indian-stream.htm.