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Oct 18, 2016 11:20 PM

NH1 News Reports: Sununu, Van Ostern trade fire over controversial contract

NH1 News Political Director

CONCORD – The state’s controversial $36.5 million contract with health care provider Dartmouth-Hitchcock to staff New Hampshire hospital is front and center this week in the race for governor.

In a one-on-one interview with NH1 News on Tuesday, Republican gubernatorial nominee Chris Sununu criticized fellow executive councilor and Democratic rival for the Corner Office Colin Van Ostern over the contract.

Last month Dartmouth Hitchcock announced that it would potentially lay off hundreds of employees by the end of the year. That announcement came just two days after all five executive councilors voted ago to approve the three-year contract with Dartmouth Hitchcock, which was the only bidder to take over operations of New Hampshire Hospital in Concord. That vote came amid rising concerns of staffing shortages at the facility.

For weeks Sununu’s criticized Van Ostern and Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan over the contract.

“The governor and Colin have been wrong from day one. We were calling for a rebid of this months and months ago when there were discrepancies in what was going on. There were a lot of red flags up there. There are even more red flags today, when you look at everything that’s going on,” Sununu said.

“So was this contract driven directly to Dartmouth Hitchcock? It looks like that may be the case. What I want to do is have an investigation. I want a commissioner and a governor that’s willing to look at this from both sides and understand that when you have choice, options in this state, that’s how you are going to get the best services for the people. And we’re talking about mental health services for a very sensitive constituency. Whether you’re talking about New Hampshire Hospital, the Sununu Center, there’s a lot of people affected by this and I just think they’ve been done wrong,” he added.

And Sununu once again urged that the contract “has to be rebid. We have to re-look at this. This type of mismanagement can't go on any longer.”

Van Ostern says he’s concerned about the contract but doesn’t support a re-bid. Last month he told NH1 News “if there’s anything that would give anyone any reason to think that won’t be happening, I’ll be the first one to say that we should pull out of that contract.”

And Tuesday Van Ostern campaign communications director Matt Trojan said “Colin will not engage in partisan politics three weeks before an election in a way that would jeopardize the healthcare of some of our most vulnerable patients."

Earlier this week Dartmouth-Hitchcock announced that it would be letting go of 84 employees.

The New Hampshire GOP said that recently released emails prove evidence of collusion between the health care provider and state officials well before the contract was awarded. The NHGOP filed a right-to-know request regarding the contract that reveled hundreds of emails.

Gov. Hassan responded, saying “the most recent attacks are baseless political attacks, and they are very concerning.”

“People shouldn’t be politicizing the care for the state’s most vulnerable citizens,” she added.

Sununu and Van Ostern are running to succeed Hassan, who’s challenging Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte instead of bidding for a third term in the Corner Office.

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