As reported by The Hartford Courant, August 14, 2008.

Here's to Good Health

So far, five hospitals have responded to the University of Connecticut's call for clinical partners who will collaborate to keep the Farmington academic health center, well, healthy.

This is a heartening response to a proposal that promises to strengthen care in the region.

Details won't be known for a few months while the proposals from Hartford, St. Francis and Bristol hospitals, the Hospital of Central Connecticut and the Connecticut Children's Medical Center are being evaluated. But all depend on a good medical school and reap economic benefits from their affiliation with UConn.

About half the dentists in the state are graduates of the dental school. UConn also trains pharmacists, physical therapists and nurses. All hospitals in the region have a stake in keeping the academic center afloat.

John Dempsey Hospital on the Farmington campus, which serves the medical school, is outdated and too small to support itself. Legislators can't keep allocating millions to cover deficits in the UConn hospital budget.

The losses are not the result of bad management, but speak to the responsibilities unique to a public hospital. UConn cares for the prison population, maintains a psychiatric unit and pays $12 million more in salaries and benefits for public employees than do the area's private hospitals.

It covers 80 percent of its costs, more than any other state agency. But it cannot stop the bleeding alone.

UConn's original idea — to build a bigger, better hospital that would compete with private institutions — was no solution and might have destabilized health care. That was the consensus of the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering in a report to the General Assembly.

But taking on regional partners who could find opportunity in having a presence in the affluent Farmington Valley while maintaining an affiliation with a top-notch medical school and research facility makes complete sense. We hope the thorny details, such as shared governance and financial arrangements between public and private institutions, can be worked out.

The alternative is unthinkable.