Massachusetts General Hospital officials said Thursday that they have finalized plans to acquire a community health system in Exeter, N.H., in the latest move by the Boston hospital and its parent company, Partners HealthCare, to expand beyond Massachusetts.
Mass. General, along with Exeter Hospital’s parent company and Wentworth-Douglass Hospital in Dover, N.H. — which Mass. General already owns — said they plan to create a new regional health care system.
State and federal regulators must approve the deal before it can be completed, a process that is expected to take about a year.
Officials from the three hospitals said the transaction — which they first discussed publicly in 2018 — would strengthen health care services in New Hampshire’s Seacoast region.
“We’re going to operate as a regional delivery organization in New Hampshire,” said Tony James, senior vice president of network development and integration at Mass. General.
James said the merger would allow the New Hampshire hospitals to expand services in newborn medicine, cardiology, cancer care, orthopedics, and other specialty areas.
“They came to us first,” James said of Exeter Hospital. “We weren’t looking to bring anyone else on board. But as soon as they presented the proposal to us, we said, ‘This makes tremendous sense for the people of the Seacoast.’”
The 100-bed Exeter Hospital is part of Exeter Health Resources, which also includes a physician group and a home care and hospice agency. Chief executive Kevin Callahan said in a statement that the deal would help Exeter Health invest in services that it could not provide as a stand-alone organization.
Mass. General’s proposed expansion in New Hampshire comes as Partners HealthCare pursues an even bigger deal in Rhode Island. Partners and its other major Boston teaching hospital, Brigham and Women’s, are planning to acquire Care New England Health System of Providence. The deal has been in the works for more than two years and is pending approval from Rhode Island regulators.
Partners is Massachusetts’ largest network of doctors and hospitals, followed by the newly formed Beth Israel Lahey Health system.
In 2015, after Partners’ plans to take over additional Massachusetts hospitals were thwarted, it redoubled efforts to expand in other states. Executives decided to expand north and south, into New Hampshire and Rhode Island.
Last year, Partners also acquired Massachusetts Eye and Ear, a specialty hospital in Boston.
In Massachusetts, Partners is planning to grow by opening additional outpatient clinics. Mass. General is also seeking approval for a more than $1 billion expansion at its main campus in Boston. That project would include two connected 12-story towers and hundreds of new patient rooms.
In New Hampshire, Mass. General has had an affiliation with Exeter Hospital for more than a decade. Officials at Exeter Hospital and Wentworth-Douglass Hospital said they will hold community forums so residents can learn more about their proposed new partnership.