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Baystate Health to Acquire Wing Memorial Hospital and Medical Centers
PALMER — The boards of trustees of UMass Memorial Health Care (UMMHC), Baystate Health, and Wing Memorial Hospital and Medical Centers have authorized the organizations to sign a letter of intent to transfer of ownership of Palmer-based Wing Memorial to Baystate Health. The potential transaction now enters a period of review and due diligence within the organizations and in partnership with the relevant regulatory and oversight bodies. This work is expected to occur over the next several months. In the meantime, it will be operations as usual at the two organizations and at Wing Memorial. This letter of intent builds on a long-existing relationship between the two not-for-profit health systems and is also a result of the closer collaboration that UMMHC and Baystate Health announced in September, when the two systems agreed to explore a number of possible opportunities with the intent of improving quality, access, and affordability of care. Thus far, those discussions have advanced in the areas of sharing best practices in quality and population health management and jointly applying for grant funding for public-health research. The two organizations continue discussing other opportunities, including shared training methodologies and better coordination of specialty services.
“Wing Memorial Hospital has a strong, historical place in the community it serves. Our dedicated staff and employees live and work in this community, and the high-quality care they provide has earned the trust and support of our neighbors and patients,” said Dr. Charles Cavagnaro III, president and CEO of Wing Memorial Hospital and Medical Centers. “For us to potentially be part of a vibrant, local and regional health system closer to home that allows for improved access to and recruitment of specialists, access to capital investment, an accountable-care organization, and further supports for our patients and their families is a win-win. This continuum of care for our patients, which starts at our front door, is most importantly at the center of these discussions.” Added Mark Tolosky, president and CEO of Baystate Health,
“while we recognize that we are only at the beginning of a long and complex process, we are very excited at the prospect of welcoming Wing Memorial, its patients, and employees to the Baystate Health family. We at Baystate Health have a great deal in common with Wing Memorial: excellence in clinical care, common missions to improve health, well-established histories of caring for patients and our communities, and a strong shared geography.” Dr. Eric Dickson, president and CEO of UMMHC, called Wing a valued member of the UMass Memorial system since 1999. “This is a difficult decision, but it makes the most sense for the patients — who are at the heart of our decision — to become part of a regional academic healthcare system that will keep patients home, healthy, and free from needing to travel outside the area for advanced care. A potential transfer of ownership allows both of our healthcare systems to provide high-quality, safe, and affordable care, close to home.”
Neither UMass Memorial Health Care nor Baystate Health expect to change their academic affiliations as a result of the potential transfer of ownership, nor will the letter of intent limit the ability of either party to pursue other strategic opportunities.

Holyoke to Fund Facade Improvement
HOLYOKE — The City of Holyoke has awarded the Greater Holyoke Chamber Centennial Foundation $50,000 through the city’s Community Development Block Grant Program to reinstate the Facade Improvement Program (FIP), which was run by the chamber in past years. “As downtown Holyoke moves towards its revitalization, it is important to appropriately allocate funding for projects that send the message to business owners that our city is as invested in the success of their business as they are,” Mayor Alex Morse said. “This is an important program that I am excited to see return, and I am confident that these improvements will not only benefit business owners, but also the downtown community as a whole.” The funds are in the form of a grant that must be matched in equal amounts of the request up to $25,000. The Facade Improvement Program was designed to strengthen and enhance Holyoke’s business districts by restoring and improving existing facades. The FIP is administered by the Greater Holyoke Chamber Centennial Foundation with funding from the City of Holyoke Office for Community Development. It offers rebates to eligible property owners for up to 50% of the façade-improvement project cost. The minimum rebate is $2,500 for at least a $5,000 project, and the maximum rebate is $25,000 for at least a $50,000 project. “We are very excited to be able to offer this program to our downtown businesses in an effort to help them improve their facades and hopefully their business as well, said Kathleen Anderson, president of the Greater Holyoke Chamber Centennial Foundation. “We appreciate the award from the city in an effort to support downtown business. We have such beautiful architecture downtown, and this program will help to restore these buildings so that they can last for another 100 years.” Applicants should apply through the Greater Holyoke Chamber Centennial Foundation. Potential applicants may contact Kathleen Anderson at (413) 534-3376 to determine FIP eligibility and to request an application package. The funds are used strictly to renovate the front facade of a building.

State Awards $79 Million to Infrastructure Projects
BOSTON — In continuation of the Patrick administration’s efforts to stimulate job creation and support long-term economic growth, state Housing and Economic Development Secretary Greg Bialecki announced more than $79 million for 33 MassWorks Infrastructure Program grants to support development throughout the Commonwealth. “The MassWorks program is a key tool in  our growth strategy of investing in education, innovation, and infrastructure to create jobs and economic development,” said Gov. Deval Patrick. “By partnering with municipalities, these MassWorks projects will strengthen communities for generations to come.” Added Bialecki, “we remain committed to working with local communities to help identify opportunities to support growth and spur regional development. I look forward to our ongoing partnerships with municipalities across the state and private industry leaders to explore additional ways to promote continued growth in every region of the Commonwealth.” Through these grants, the state will partner with cities and towns to target investments in infrastructure such as roadways, streetscapes, water, and sewer to facilitate and support new and sustained housing and economic growth throughout Massachusetts. The 2013 application round generated 108 applications for more than $263 million in infrastructure requests. Of the 33 approved projects, 11 are in the four counties of Western Mass., including: Conway, downtown parking and safety improvements ($997,521); Deerfield, River Road roadway reconstruction ($952,463); Easthampton, Pleasant Street infrastructure improvements, phase 2 ($1.5 million); Hadley, Shattuck Road improvements ($61,815); Mount Washington, BashBish Falls Road project ($1 million); Pittsfield, streetscape improvements, phase 3 ($2 million); Savoy, Black Brook Road drainage improvements and road reconstruction ($997,112); Tolland, Route 57 improvements ($990,000); Wales, Union Road roadway and drainage improvements ($881,923); Warwick, Winchester Road paving ($495,000); and West Stockbridge, downtown improvements ($1 million). Administered by the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (HED), the MassWorks Infrastructure Program provides a one-stop shop for municipalities seeking funding to support housing, economic development, and job creation with a particular emphasis on assisting communities to advance multi-family housing development. Each year, the program allocates 10% of its funds to assist municipalities with populations of 7,000 or fewer complete roadway safety-improvement projects. For more information, visit www.mass.gov/eohed/massworks.

State’s Unemployment Surpasses National Rate
The Massachusetts unemployment rate in November surpassed the national rate for the first time in more than five years, suggesting weaker conditions in the Bay State even as the national economic recovery accelerates. The state unemployment rate was 6.4% in April, compared to 7.5% nationally. In November, the state rate was 7.1%, compared to 7% nationally, according to the state Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development. It was the first time since May 2007 that state unemployment exceeded the national rate. Economists said automatic federal budget cuts, known as sequestration, have taken a disproportionate toll on the state economy because of the high concentration of research institutions and defense contractors here that rely on federal grants and other funding. A recent report by the UMass Donahue Institute estimated that sequestration has cost the state about 14,000 real or expected jobs in roughly the past year. It also estimated that the cutbacks reduced the state’s economic output by $1.4 billion, resulting in a $63 million decrease in state tax revenues.

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