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After exploring merger options, South Shore Health will stay independent

South Shore Hospital in Weymouth.
South Shore Hospital in Weymouth.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

After years of pursuing mergers and other deals, South Shore Health has decided to remain independent.

Officials at the health system began a review last year that included hiring an investment bank and issuing a request for proposals from other health care companies. They received many responses from local and national organizations, including offers to be acquired.

But South Shore Health is not pursuing any of those offers. Instead, the organization, which includes South Shore Hospital in Weymouth, will work to increase its patient base and become more efficient on its own.

The decision is a boon to Mass General Brigham, the big health system that has clinical ties to South Shore and will get to keep those ties, while it comes as a blow to Wellforce, a smaller health system that was seeking a merger with South Shore.

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South Shore conducted a rigorous analysis and determined that it could remain financially stable without linking up with another organization, said Dr. Allen L. Smith, its chief executive.

“This is really having the power to chart our own path,” Smith said. “This is the best decision for us in terms of meeting the needs of the community.”

Smith, former president of the 1,800-member Brigham and Women’s physician group, became CEO of South Shore in November. That was more than a year after former chief executive Dr. Gene E. Green abruptly departed following a suspension for his conduct; South Shore never explained what Green did wrong. Rose Di Pietro, a former South Shore executive, came out of retirement to serve as interim CEO in between Green and Smith.

Green, in 2019, had been negotiating a deal with Wellforce, the parent company of Tufts Medical Center, and he wanted the CEO job at Wellforce, people familiar with the matter told the Globe at the time. That upset officials at Mass General Brigham, which already had ties to South Shore.

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Wellforce officials, though, remained interested in negotiating a merger with South Shore.

“I think they may have missed an opportunity to do something more distinctive in ways that would allow them to keep more high-quality, cost-effective care in their market,” Michael Dandorph, chief executive of Wellforce, said Wednesday.

Several years ago, South Shore Hospital sought to be acquired by Mass General Brigham — then called Partners HealthCare —but Attorney General Maura Healey in 2015 opposed that deal amid concerns that it would reduce competition and raise costs.

South Shore has clinical partnerships with Mass General Brigham, as well as Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Boston Children’s Hospital, and it plans to keep those ties.

“Mass General Brigham and South Shore Hospital have enjoyed a long relationship, including many clinical partnerships established for providing the best patient care possible,” Mass General Brigham spokesman Rich Copp said. “We look forward to continuing our work together.”

In addition to treating patients at its 393-bed hospital, South Shore has been building its own regional health system with a network that includes urgent care clinics, hospice care, paramedics who deliver care in patients’ homes, and other services.

South Shore has launched a five-year strategic plan and does not expect to explore merger options again during that time, Smith added.

Smith said South Shore would work to better coordinate and integrate care across its sites and improve the flow of patients, particularly in the busy emergency department.

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“We need to be more efficient in how we admit patients and move them through the system,” he said. “That does create significant savings.”

South Shore collected about $780 million in revenue in the last fiscal year and reported a small operating loss of $8.9 million.

“South Shore Hospital is large enough to safely deliver high-quality care to its patients ... It should be able to enjoy a solid flow of revenue. And it should be able to attract sufficient competent physicians,” said Alan Sager, professor at Boston University School of Public Health.

“If it merged, it might be able to charge higher prices. This might be good for the hospital, at least for a while,” Sager said, “But it would mean higher health insurance premiums for everyone who lives, works, or does business in its service area.”


Priyanka Dayal McCluskey can be reached at priyanka.mccluskey@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @priyanka_dayal.