By Frances Padilla
How many Waterbury residents know that their hospitals are being sold in a fire sale to a for-profit company from Texas, whose first duty is not to the people of Waterbury but to their shareholders?
Last Wednesday, the foundation provided testimony at a public hearing run by the Connecticut Attorney General’s office and the Office of Health Care Access (OHCA) concerning the sale of Waterbury Hospital to Tenet Health Care, a for-profit company based in Texas. The Waterbury Hospital deal is one of five deals on the table in Connecticut. Tenet is also looking to purchase St. Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury, Rockville Hospital in Vernon, and Manchester and Bristol Hospitals. You can read more about all of this at the CT Mirror.
We called for a moratorium on not only the Waterbury Hospital deal, but all pending sales. As a state, we cannot look at this deal in isolation. This is not about one hospital, but the entire hospital system in Connecticut. There is little strategic intent by state regulatory and legislative bodies to ensure that Connecticut has a hospital landscape that meets the needs of our state now and in the future.
Until Connecticut has a deeper understanding of the needs of all its residents across the state and develops a long-range vision for Connecticut hospitals, we firmly believe that a moratorium on these deals is imperative. That is no simple task—comprehending the needs of the diverse residents of the state requires thoughtful engagement of residents, and all stakeholders in the healthcare field. An inclusive approach for the state may be challenging to create. Moving forward on these deals may seem like an easy way to save our hospitals, in the short-term—but at what cost?
If we cannot pause these deals, then conversions should be examined by the state with rigorous parameters and strict conditions. Yes, these are hard questions—but answering them now will allow for better planning, and better protection of the Waterbury and other potentially affected communities.
- Are hospitals being sold to for-profit companies essential to the communities they serve?
- If a hospital is struggling financially, but essential to its community, are there alternative avenues to keep it open?
- If a hospital is converted to a for-profit operation, will the change in financial incentives affect access to care in the community? If so, how?
If the Office of Health Care Access and the Attorney General decide to approve this sale, we recommend the following:
- Protections ensuring the preservation of good jobs
- Commitment to hiring locally
- Requirement to conduct inclusive community health needs assessments—and implement services and programs that address those needs
- Community access to essential services, as defined by the community needs assessments
- A clear commitment and demonstrated plan for ensuring access to those who are uninsured and under-insured
- A governing boarding that includes 51% patients, doctors and other members of the hospital workforce
A hospital is a public good. Our health belongs to each of us individually, and we trust that hospitals will ensure our health as a population. There can be no secrets, no “proprietary” information hidden, and no shadow agreements when governing hospitals.
Despite the AG and OHCA staff asking probing questions, confusion still remains regarding the complex deal set forth by Tenet. How exactly will the resulting foundation (a part of the conversion process to protect assets intended for charitable purposes) be structured? And what are the critical details of the capital influx being promised by Tenet?
Again, this is why a moratorium on these deals until more information is unearthed is critical. The more we hear about this deal, the more questions arise. We cannot take the health of our communities lightly. We need clarity and answers.
Read Frances Padilla’s complete submitted testimony from October 2014.
Watch the entire hearing.
Click here to read Frances Padilla’s February 2013 testimony at the CT legislature discussing hospital sales.
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