Calling it a great merger of two historic and value-aligned organizations, Manny Lopes, President and CEO of the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC), announced the official merger of his organization with the nearby South End Community Health Center (SECHC) in Boston on July 1.
SECHC sites will operate as locations of EBNHC and staff will become EBNHC employees, thus unifying the two health centers in providing comprehensive healthcare services to diverse Boston-area communities. SECHC patients will continue to see the same, nationally recognized team of providers and the name of the SECHC will not change.
“The SECHC has such a great history and has done such great work in the community,” said Lopes. “It’s an amazing opportunity to be able to bring these two organizations together. We’ve been doing great work in East Boston and serving the community in East Boston, and we’re excited to bring the two together to continue this work. It’s a chance to merge both of our great histories together.”
EBNHC’s Steven Snyder said the first few days were about working out the kinks, but things are now going smoothly.
“The first couple of days of the merger last week were challenging for sure”, said Snyder, Vice President of Human Resources, Marketing and Development for East Boston Neighborhood Health Center. “I’m really proud of the staff both in South End and back in East Boston, Revere and Winthrop. This took immense effort and teamwork by many staff. Now that many of the technical issues are running smoothly we will turn our attention to bringing our corporate culture and in particular our core values to the forefront for all staff as well as starting to market services to all of our communities. We have taken great effort to make our facilities safe for patients who cannot rely on TeleHealth to start coming in for care again – particularly those in high-risk categories. This is the case both at the South End location and back in East Boston – where for over 50 years patients have counted on us to be there for them.”
The health centers have similar roots, both founded during the Civil Rights Movement, and share a common mission of providing high-quality care to all without regard to age, race/ethnicity, insurance status, or ability to pay. The move by EBNHC to merge SECHC into its organization goes back to 2017, and had previously been announced in 2018 as the SECHC faced major financial difficulties. The details of the merger were being worked out all last year, and with the new fiscal year on July 1, it was the time to make it official.
Lopes said it is a great opportunity for scaling up SECHC and for strategic growth in EBNHC too.
“When South End approached us, they were looking for a partner that had the ability to scale and who had experience serving a similar population and who had shared values,” said Lopes. “I’m happy they selected us. For us, it fits into our strategic planning purposes…This fits nicely into our plans for growth. We’re excited about that.”
He reiterated there would be no change in the name, and there would be no staff reductions.
“That’s very important,” he said. “Having no staff reductions was our commitment that we made. That’s huge. I think the staff will agree coming into our organization. This is the scalability. There is more opportunity for mobility and growth with us. The quality of care will not change either. We have no plans to change any of that. We only hope to enhance it.”
The Board members of the SECHC said they are excited about the merger, and have spoken highly of the plan over the last year as well.
“EBNHC has shown time and again that they can thrive in today’s challenging health care environment. In 2017, our Board foresaw a looming financial cliff and, in 2018, approved EBNHC’s visionary proposal to merge. Since then, their leadership team and Board have been exemplary collaborators,” said David Gleason, SECHC Board Chair. “We are delighted to join together as one company in service to our patients.”
EBNHC Board Chair Rita Sorrento said, “It is a privilege to welcome SECHC’s staff and patients, as well as members of the South End community, into the EBNHC family.”
Some of the only differences will be on the patient electronic record system, which will switched over to the EBNHC system, though that will only be administrative.
Lopes said there will be further discussions about adding a shuttle service to the SECHC that would connect the other sites in East Boston and beyond – giving patients and employees better access to the new network of providers and opportunities.
Beyond that, EBNHC is very involved in their communities and pride themselves on being an award-winning workplace, Lopes said.
“I’m very excited to get out into the community and to begin learning about the South End,” said Lopes, who is also chair of the Boston Board of Health. “We’re looking forward to sharing what we know, learning from them and learning from the community…We want to be a great place to work for the staff. We’ve been recognized for that. We do that because the staff is big part of what we do…We want people to feel great about where they work.”
EBNHC provides comprehensive medical and behavioral health services, along with support services to address non-medical needs and promote healthy living. SECHC operations will continue without change in hours of operation or provider options. Additionally, SECHC patients will gain access to unique EBNHC services such as Neighborhood PACE, which serves older adults, and CATCH, which provides coordinated care for children with complex medical needs. EBNHC and SECHC will continue to coordinate COVID-19 response activities, including testing and tracing initiatives.
With an operating budget of approximately $180 million, EBNHC will remain one of the largest health centers in the nation, now serving more than 110,000 patients and employing nearly 1,300 staff members. Lopes will continue to oversee all EBNHC locations and services across the Greater Boston Area.