Frequently Asked Questions

1. How will patients benefit from the transition in care?

Simply put, we will offer increased access and better care at lower costs while maintaining vibrant healthcare facilities in both Salem and Lynn.

We are meeting the most pressing needs of our patients and communities by structuring our practices and facilities to improve access to high-quality primary, urgent and specialty care. Additionally, we are increasing capacity in behavioral health, and making the best use of our resources across the system to keep health care cost-effective and still close to patients’ homes.

With these changes, our mission to provide the finest care to the patients of greater Lynn, Salem and throughout the North Shore remains unchanged.

Our ability to deliver on this mission will be enhanced further by:

  • Expanded access to primary and urgent care for the entire region, including a Center of Excellence on the Union Hospital campus.
  • Better coordination of care through Patient Centered Medical Home development and high-risk care management.
  • At Salem Hospital, a new, expanded state-of-the-art Emergency Department, new inpatient units with all private rooms providing the latest family-centered facilities, and reconfigured access areas such as the main entrance and parking to provide a more welcoming and efficient experience.
  • Increased capacity in behavioral health, psychiatry and substance abuse services operated by Massachusetts General Hospital.
  • Enhanced community health resources including the Lynn Community Health Center and North Shore Community Health Centers.

2. What services will be offered on the Union Hospital campus in Lynn?

Center of Excellence in Primary Care:

As more and more care is able to be provided on an outpatient basis, we have designed the Center of Excellence in Primary Care and the North Shore Physicians Group (NSPG) Lynn practice to meet many of our patients’ health care needs. Expanded urgent care services will provide for patients who need to see a doctor the same day and who do not need the services of an emergency center.

Expanded Specialty Care:

The NSPG Lynn practice will offer expanded primary and specialty care (Endocrinology, Gynecology, Gastroenterology (GI) and Rheumatology) as well as lab services for blood work and similar routine tests. Infusion, nutrition counseling and diabetes management will also be available.

It is also important to note that NSPG extends well beyond Lynn and the services offered in that location. While the Lynn practice is among the most robust, additional services and expertise is available through NSPG’s nearly 200 clinicians in 19 locations and an even broader array of NSMC physicians and specialists in many disciplines throughout the North Shore.

Emergency Care:

NSMC intends to maintain emergency services on the Salem and Union campuses. The level of emergency care at each site will be based on the needs of the community and patient safety priorities. The plan is expected to take three years to implement during which time Union Hospital will remain open as a full-service, acute care hospital.

Center of Excellence in Behavioral Health:

By bringing together programs from Salem Hospital, Union Hospital and Lawrence Memorial Hospital and partnering with Mass General and Melrose-Wakefield Hospital, this new center of excellence in behavioral health will exemplify a deep collaboration between an academic medical center and strong community centered programs. Drawing upon these unique strengths, affiliations and best practices of these programs, the new center is planned as a regional resource for outstanding and innovative care for children, adolescents, adults and seniors with psychiatric conditions and diagnoses such as depression, anxiety, dementia and eating disorders.

Developing a center of excellence from previously separate units will greatly enhance coordination and will also enhance access to expert clinical services and supportive resources for patients and families. This strong new partnership with Mass General, a nationally recognized leader in psychiatry, will expand opportunities for professional development, retention and recruitment of the best doctors, nurses, social workers and other caregivers. It also provides greater access to expert clinical services and allows for greater innovation in providing the best possible clinical care.

3. Where will patients currently treated at Union be treated in the future?

We have taken great care to ensure that the health care needs of Lynn residents continue to be met. Where patients receive care will depend on the nature of their health needs.

On the former Union Hospital campus, the NSPG primary and multispecialty practice will expand to meet many of the day-to-day needs of the community, including urgent care.

Again, we intend to maintain emergency services on both campuses and will determine the level of emergency care to be provided at each site based on the needs of the community and patient safety priorities. This transition is expected to take three years during which time Union Hospital will remain open as an acute care hospital.

Behavioral health will also be provided with outpatient programs throughout our communities. Inpatient and some outpatient behavioral health care will be operated by Massachusetts General Hospital on the former Union Hospital campus.

Patients who need hospital-based or complex emergency care will be cared for at Salem Hospital. We are making a significant investment there in a new state-of-the-art Emergency Department and additional inpatient units with private rooms to accommodate our Union Hospital patients. Key access areas such as the main entrance and parking will also be reconfigured to improve way finding and provide a more welcoming and efficient patient experience.

Additionally, we are committed to building on years of collaboration with our local community health centers and community organizations to support them in increasing access to a robust spectrum of community-based care. We will work with them to identify needs and to address them.

4. Will this change of services reduce the cost trend?

Partners estimates savings associated with delivering care more efficiently and in lower cost settings across the system to be in the range of $300 million over five years. This savings will be reflected in Total Medical Expense, the measure the state uses to track health care expenses.

Our experience in the Pioneer ACO Model shows that when we redesign primary care and develop mechanisms to keep people out of the hospital, quality goes up and cost growth slows significantly.

5. What is long-term impact on NSMC, its financial stability and scope of services?

NSMC will be better equipped to provide exceptional care to our community. This consolidation combined with investments in our facilities as well as in primary, urgent, and specialty care, behavioral health services, care coordination and community health resources is in the best long-term interest of the communities we serve.

In short, we will offer increased access and better care at lower costs.

As the region’s only safety net hospital, NSMC has been challenged by chronic underfunding from state programs that totaled $35M in 2012. This reimbursement rate barely covers 60 per cent of the actual costs to provide care.

Consolidation of NSMC’s medical and surgical care will not only save annual operational expenses, but more importantly, will improve care, enhance physician coverage, and support increased specialization by care teams.

6. How is this plan good for Lynn?

The plan offers multiple benefits to Lynn by:

  • Maintaining a robust medical facility in Lynn for patients and employees.
  • Expanding community-based outpatient medical care including primary, specialty and urgent care.
  • Expanding much-needed behavioral health services.
  • Supporting the Lynn Community Health Center and community health initiatives.

The plan is good for Lynn because it addresses the most important health needs of the community, namely expanded access to primary, specialty and urgent care and behavioral health both at the North Shore Physician Group (NSPG) practice in Lynn and at the Lynn Community Health Center. It includes investment in the health center and in local public health initiatives addressing obesity, teen pregnancy, substance abuse and other challenges. It also preserves a thriving medical campus in Lynn.

For the greater community, it provides much-needed behavioral health care at a time when the state is losing capacity. It also represents a transformative vision for how we can deliver better care to our communities by reorganizing the way that care is delivered to focus on the highest quality care that also adds the greatest value. Care can now be provided in lower cost outpatient settings and improvements in chronic disease and care management offer promising efficiencies for both patients and providers.

7. How has NSMC/Partners honored its commitment to address healthcare needs in Lynn since acquiring Union Hospital in 1997?

In 1997, when Union Hospital voted to become part of North Shore Medical Center and Partners, the combined organization made a two-part commitment to Lynn: 1) to keep Union open as a general hospital for five years, and 2) to invest, during those same five years, $15-20 million in facilities equipment, programs and services in the Lynn community.

By the end of 2001, as certified by the Department of Public Health, NSMC and Partners had already exceeded that financial commitment. In the years since, we have continued to demonstrate our strong commitment to Union Hospital and to improving health care in Lynn. In total, since the merger in 1997, NSMC and Partners have invested almost $57 million in health services in Lynn: more than $25 million in facility improvements at Union Hospital and more than $31 million in facilities and programming throughout the community. This new plan ensures continued investment in a model that better meets the most pressing needs of that community.

8. How does this plan meet the needs of Lynn residents ?

To guide us through this process, NSMC recently completed a comprehensive Health Needs Assessment of the City of Lynn and the other communities in NSMC’s service area. The results of that assessment clearly reflect the shift in health needs that has occurred over the last decade. Behavioral health and substance abuse services were the top priority (not just for Lynn but throughout the communities we serve), and improving access to care for vulnerable populations was a consistent theme.

This plan will enable NSMC to advance work on its New Model of Care initiatives, to support the Lynn Community Health Center in expanding services in downtown Lynn and at the North Shore Physicians Group practice on Lynnfield Street, and to preserve the Union campus as a thriving healthcare facility with an increase in the type of services that the health needs assessment identified as the highest priority. Additionally, we will continue to work with our communities, the Lynn Health Task Force and other organizations to build upon our historical record of supporting needed programs and services geared to improving the overall healthcare of local residents.

9. How do these changes affect jobs?

Overall, we expect to remain a significant employer in the City of Lynn. While some locations and specific positions will change, we will continue to care for all of our patients and will need the staff to provide that care.

Furthermore, construction and renovations associated with Partners plan is expected to generate approximately 2,500 construction jobs.

This change is expected to take three years so we will be working with our employees to transition any positions affected through turnover, retirement and reassignment within NSMC, NSPG or Partners. We will work with each and every affected employee to help with the transition, and do not expect the number of staff impacted to exceed our normal rate of annual turnover.

10. What is timeline for the regulatory process and construction?

We plan to apply for the Determination of Need this fall. Due to the need to sequence improvements to facilities, we expect the plan to take about three-to-five years to implement fully across all Partners sites.

11. How will we ensure quality and retain staff during transition?

We will work with individual employees and physicians on both retention initiatives and transition plans to ensure that high quality care is maintained and that our employees are treated fairly and equitably.

While change can be difficult, this particular evolution will have a disproportionate impact on our Union Hospital colleagues. We respect the camaraderie and culture the Union staff has created and will work to bring forward the best of that culture in our future plans.

Medical and clinical staff will continue to provide care at both Salem and Union hospitals as they do today, and we will work with them to ensure that our high standards for quality and safety are maintained during transition.

We will continue to make the investments necessary to ensure high-quality care during transition.