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Health Center Today, November 23, 2009

Focusing on New Options

By Carolyn Pennington

After a review by the leadership of its Board of Trustees, the University of Connecticut has concluded that it cannot marshal the support needed to win approval for the proposed partnership with Hartford Healthcare Corporation.

In a joint statement to University faculty and staff, President Michael J. Hogan and Dr. Cato T. Laurencin, vice president for health affairs and medical school dean, said the UConn Health Center will remain focused on providing outstanding health care, educating the next generation of physicians and dentists, and performing breakthrough biomedical research.

"Accordingly, the University is working with the legislative leadership and the Governorís office to assess other options," added Hogan. "Furthermore, as alternate plans develop we will continue to involve the faculty and staff and keep everyone informed."

The decision to end the partnership follows an extremely close vote by Health Center faculty to unionize and form a new chapter of the American Association of University Professors. By a two-vote margin, 223 to 221, the faculty voted last week to join AAUP which also represents UConn faculty on the Storrs and regional campuses.

Two previous attempts to unionize health center faculty in recent years had failed. Most of the Health Centerís employees are already unionized. Approximately 82 percent of the non-faculty workforce belongs to six unions representing health care professionals, administrative personnel and support staff.

The proposed Hartford Hospital partnership had called for building a new $475 million hospital on the Health Center's Farmington campus and turning that and Hartford Hospital into a two-campus "University Hospital. "The proposal failed to win support in the legislature this year.

"For over four decades, the UConn Health Center has played a critically important role in the delivery of high-quality healthcare, innovative medical education and cutting edge research in our state," Laurencin said. "Despite todayís challenging environment, the Health Center will remain a vital component of the health care landscape in Connecticut and our nation."