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New heart surgeons, physicians to work on Cape Cod as hospitals affiliate with Beth Israel Lahey

Cape Cod Hospital main entrance.
Alecia Orsini
Cape Cod Hospital main entrance.

Cape Cod Healthcare announced Tuesday that it plans to become an affiliate of Cambridge-based Beth Israel Lahey Health.

The affiliation pertains to clinical care — it is not a merger — but it will bring some changes to the Cape.

Beth Israel Lahey Health will receive a contract to provide cardiac surgeons, replacing Cape Cod Healthcare’s previous relationship with Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

The affiliation will bring 10 new primary-care providers to Cape Cod and improve physician recruitment, in part because graduate medical students will train on the Cape, said Mike Lauf, CEO of Cape Cod Healthcare.

“Having help filling key positions on the Cape will be instrumental to our survival, because if you don't have the physicians here locally, then that care will be transferred to Boston,” he said.

At the state’s largest health insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, CEO Andrew Dreyfus said such affiliations can sometimes result in better-coordinated care, “and that’s really important.” But he said the community should also ask about affordability.

“Mergers and affiliations both in Massachusetts and nationally tend to make costs go up, not down,” he said.

Affiliating with an academic medical center won’t raise prices on Cape Cod, according to Lauf. He said cost increases can occur in mergers and acquisitions in which, “they go in, they take over the services, and then they bill at the existing academic medical center rates. That is not going to happen here in the Cape. It's not what this affiliation is about.”

As part of the agreement, Beth Israel Lahey Health will be the preferred provider for Cape Cod Healthcare patients who need to be referred off-Cape for care. But Lauf said physicians will have complete latitude to refer patients elsewhere, and patients will have the choice as well.

“We're trying to clinically affiliate with Beth Israel Lahey Health to keep care local,” he said. “That will ultimately reduce the cost of care and improve the outcomes and the quality of life for our patients.”

The affiliation needs regulatory approval before it can be finalized.

The announcement came the same day Massachusetts state regulators on the Health Policy Commission criticized Mass General Brigham for its plans to expand ambulatory care in the Boston suburbs. The commission said a larger Mass General Brigham could destabilize community hospitals by pulling business away, according to The Boston Globe.

Beth Israel Lahey Health operates 13 hospitals; the closest to Cape Cod, the South Coast, and the Islands is the former Jordan Hospital in Plymouth. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center took over Jordan nine years ago, before BID merged with Lahey Health in 2019.

The relationship with Cape Cod Healthcare will be different; Cape Cod Healthcare will remain an independent entity with a local board of trustees.

Jennette Barnes is a reporter and producer. Named a Master Reporter by the New England Society of News Editors, she brings more than 20 years of news experience to CAI.