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What hospital consolidation means in a tiny state

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Downtown Providence, Rhode Island.

Here’s a look at what hospital and other healthcare consolidation means in one state — tiny Rhode Island. Kristin Gourlay of Rhode Island Public Radio concludes:

So there’s all this consolidation. What about the proliferation of {Rhode Island-based CVS} MinuteClinics and freestanding ERs? I think it’s a side effect of consolidation, a response to long waits, overburdened primary care doctors and emergency departments. And I think it’s a recognition that hospitals are changing. Not everything has to be done in hospitals – witness the growth of outpatient surgery, imaging centers, and more. And as community hospitals struggle and shut down, we’ll see more of these freestanding clinics or chains popping up to fill in the gaps. Of course, I don’t believe big trauma center/teaching hospitals are going anywhere any time soon. You still need catheterization labs and surgery suites and specialties. But maybe you don’t need as many of them within a small radius. Or at least, it’s turning out to be too expensive to maintain some of the same specialties at so many different sites.

Then again, it could be that consolidating so many services or hospitals under one roof leads to higher prices – we have yet to see what happens in the next couple of years in Rhode Island. With the consolidation that’s already taken place, spending has not risen as fast here as everyone thought it had.

Consolidation clearly has its up and down sides. Upsides include perhaps an easier-to-navigate system, maybe lower costs. The downsides include less patient choice, and, most importantly, the loss of jobs. But in a state that’s getting older and sicker, let’s hope there’s room for growth in healthcare jobs to take care of us.

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