By Rosana Garcia
Yesterday was the public hearing on the proposed sale of Waterbury Hospital to Prospect Medical Holdings, the same out-of-state, for-profit company that is proposing to purchase Eastern Connecticut Health Network (read about that March public hearing here).
The public hearing, run by the Office of Health Care Access (OHCA) and the Office of the Attorney General (OAG), included a presentation by Prospect Medical Holdings. But the bulk of the hearing was made up of public comment and testimony about the deal.
Employees of Waterbury Hospital, and the parent company, Greater Waterbury Health Network, came out in full force in support of the deal. Clearly, employees of the hospital and the health network have a lot at stake here. Waterbury Hospital officials appear to have rallied the troops after Tenet walked away from the deal with Waterbury Hospital (and four other Connecticut hospitals – St. Mary’s, Bristol, Rockville and Manchester) in late 2014. In fact, most of those supporting the Waterbury Hospital / Prospect deal were all employed, in some way, by the hospital or health network.
There was little outright opposition to the deal, though there were some, including us, that outlined concerns about the deal, and offered potential conditions on the deal if approved. You can read the testimony we submitted here. Lynne Ide, our Director of Program & Policy, spoke, highlighting concerns about:
- Prospect being an out-of-state, for-profit company that may not have the Waterbury community’s best interest at heart
- Cost of care increasing without a comparable increase in quality
- Waterbury residents potentially losing access to important and essential services because they are not profitable for Prospect
We suggested conditions for the deal, including:
- Requiring Waterbury Hospital, under Prospect Medical Holdings, to continue to conduct Community Health Needs Assessments, and to implement plans to address high priority health needs of the Waterbury region
- Ensuring that Waterbury Hospital has a local board that is not entirely controlled by the hospital and PMH, in particular including local residents who truly represent the community
- Requiring that an independent monitor oversee whether or not Prospect Medical Holdings abides by any conditions and agreements that are a part of this transaction
- Ensuring the protection of charitable assets in the conversion from non-profit to for-profit, and that charitable assets not be used to offset uncompensated care, but to provide services that address community needs
The main bone of contention had to do with a community benefits agreement left unsigned by Prospect Medical Holdings at the time of the hearing. You can read a guest blog by Steven Schrag of the group Community Untied, which worked on the community benefits agreement, here: Waterbury Hospital Must Remain Accountable to its Community.
Officials from Prospect argued that they had, in fact, sat down with representatives of Community United, and explained that many of the community benefits being asked for were in the asset purchase agreement. Prospect believes that signing the community benefits agreement would create a complicated system of reporting to various people and entities.
In reality, though, the community is simply seeking assurance from Prospect that they will be listened to, and that they will have a role in determining what the community needs from the hospital. Prospect’s reticence to sign the document, and claims that their model includes community, may be the wrong strategy here.
Prospect’s stance only serves to spur distrust of Prospect—they would do well to offer an olive branch. In the end, the community is better as a partner. In the end, everyone wants the hospital to succeed.
Tenet articles on CT Mirror – A little history