As published as an opinion in the New Britain Herald, August 6, 2008.

Many Winners Possible in UConn Decision

A new vision for John Dempsey Hospital holds the promise, not just of much-needed relief for Connecticut taxpayers, but of world-class medical care for patients throughout the region.

On Monday, the University of Connecticut said its Health Center in Farmington had received four proposals from five hospitals in the state: Hartford Hospital, in partnership with The Hospital of Central Connecticut; St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center; Connecticut Children's Medical Center; and Bristol Hospital.

Several of these institutions were once rivals and critics of Dempsey, a teaching hospital for the UConn Medical School rated in the Top 100 by HealthGrades, the leading independent health-care ratings company - and a regular money loser for the state. Now, however, they are eager to link their future to the young men and women who come to Connecticut to study medicine.

UConn President Michael Hogan suggested one reason for the change in attitude: new leadership. Himself a recent recruit, he pointed to new leaders at the helm of both Hartford and St. Francis. These people bring with them a new vision of cooperation, a new willingness to step away from a competitive attitude among hospitals.

"The idea of hospitals racing to keep up with [the] competition is an expensive proposition," Hogan said Monday. "We would like to harness all that energy for cooperative purposes ... not by having them going tooth and nail as angry suitors for our hand, but working collaboratively."

His hopes are reflected in the report of a study group commissioned by the General Assembly, the Health Center and regional hospitals; it recommended establishing affiliation agreements that would improve clinical care in the region and support excellence in teaching at UConn's medical school - the only public medical school in the state and the key to excellence in care in the state's future.

Hogan said he and his team are just beginning to look at the proposals but he hinted that there may be no winners and losers in the selection process.

"Our hope," he said, "is to go as far as possible to harmonize all viable proposals into a regional health-care system that benefits each partner, provides the highest quality health care, and serves as an economic engine for the region and state."

Such a vision would serve the medical school, its students and the taxpayers; it would also serve the people of Connecticut by providing them with the finest in medical research and patient care.

It's a win-win proposition.