More Questions than Answers on Proposed Hospital Conversion

Connecticut has only one for-profit acute care hospital, but for-profit hospital chains and hospital leaders alike are showing increasing interest in conversions as a way of addressing complex financial challenges facing today’s hospitals. There is currently talk of Eastern Connecticut Health Network (ECHN) going to for-profit ownership and last week there was a public forum on the move to convert Waterbury and Bristol hospitals to for-profit entities. Universal Health Care Foundation is watching this trend with an eye on protecting the quality of patient care, meeting community health needs and respecting the rights of hospital employees. A member of our staff attended last Thursday’s forum.  Here’s his  blog report. 

by David Desiderato 

It was standing room only last Thursday when over 100 Waterbury and Bristol area residents and public officials gathered to learn what might happen if for-profit hospital chain, Vanguard Health Systems, takes over two local nonprofit hospitals.

The public forum was called by area residents and labor unions concerned about the latest proposal by an out-of-state hospital giant to convert both Waterbury and Bristol hospitals. State Sen. Teri Gerratana of New Britain, co-chair of the state legislature’s Public Health Committee, reflected the evening’s urgent tone.

“I have a lot of questions about this proposal. You (the public) are raising more questions. Frankly, my colleagues in the Legislature are not thinking about this, and they need to. We’re going to get answer,” she said. Facts and figures about for-profit hospital conversions packed the first hour of the meeting, with presentations by Ellen Andrews of the CT Health Policy Project and a researcher from the national office of the AFSCME union.

They reported that for-profit hospital conversions result in lower quality care, higher costs, reduced community support, and a workforce with worse pay, benefits and working conditions. A draft Community Benefits Agreement that could be a guide to securing community and worker protections if the proposal moves forward was distributed to the audience.

Waterbury Hospital, Bristol Hospital, and Vanguard Health Systems were not officially represented at the forum.

Next steps include an August 29th fact-finding hearing hosted by the state legislature’s Public Health Committee about the state Certificate of Need process administered by the Office of Health Care Access, and the role of Connecticut’s Attorney General in conversions. In September, the Public Health Committee will convene to seek answers from executives of for-profit hospital chains interested in acquiring hospitals in the state.

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