YORK, Maine — York Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital have signed a clinical affiliation to share resources and expertise in several areas of medical care such as pediatrics, oncology and intensive care.
York Hospital is the first in Maine to enter into such an agreement.
“This is truly a momentous occasion,” said York Hospital President Jud Knox in announcing the affiliation last week at an event attended by Mass General administrators, including Dr. Peter Slavin, hospital president. “This affiliation certainly ranks with the most important developments of our hospital community.”
The affiliation is intended to provide York Hospital doctors and patients with MGH specialists and subspecialists who people would otherwise have to travel to Boston to see. Doctor and nurse education and best practice guideline training also are part of the agreement.
“Health care is in a tough place right now,” said Dr. David Torchiana, chief executive officer of the Mass General Physician Organization. “We’ve never been able to deliver so much so effectively to so many people.” But the care comes with “two significant pieces of baggage”: many doctors in many subspecialty fields, which not every patient wants or needs; and, as a result, “fragmentation and increased cost.”
The beauty of an affiliation between two hospitals is that each can work with the other to provide what each patient needs, Torchiana said.
According to Slavin, Mass General has similar affiliations with a number of hospitals in New England, including Wentworth-Douglass Hospital in Dover and Southern New Hampshire Medical Center in Nashua.
The affiliation between the two institutions builds on one started in 2007 to provide remote “telestroke” services. Under that agreement, a patient coming to the emergency room at York Hospital with a stroke can be assessed by video connection 24 hours per day with stroke neurologists at Mass General. Records also are shared electronically.
Four to six stroke patients per month, on average, are taken to Mass General. One York Hospital emergency room patient, Alan Nichols, said Friday that he owes his life to the fact that he was able to get to Mass General so quickly following a teleconsultation.
“I could be in a wheelchair, I could be spoon fed right now. It’s amazing I’m here,” he said.
Knox said the hospital does pay Mass General for its stroke consultation services. The recently signed affiliation agreement does not require York Hospital to make any upfront financial commitment in other areas of patient care. As services are developed, negotiations between the two hospitals would ensue, he said.
For instance, the hospital is already in talks about formalizing a teleconsultation program in pediatrics, Knox said.
“We do see complicated conditions in some of our pediatric patients. Having a second set of eyes from a specialist in any subspecialty such as infectious disease can be very comforting when needed,” said Russell Shipman, York Hospital pediatric medical advisor.
The affiliation also does not require York Hospital to mandate patients be sent to Mass General, “although why wouldn’t you want to go to probably the best hospital in the world?” Knox said.
Slavin said in the eight years that Mass General and York Hospital have worked together on stroke care, he has seen “a cultural fit” between the two. “And central to that is caring for people”