As published as an editorial in the New London Day, March 17, 2009.

Fear of Competition No Reason to Block Dempsey Plans

The plan to build a new Dempsey Hospital in Farmington understandably raises financial concerns, but the failure to support the project could cost the state in the long run.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell announced Monday she will not support the plan to merge the University of Connecticut Health Center and Hartford Hospital. The governor said that given the state's current financial crisis it cannot afford the $475 million cost of constructing a new, 250-bed John Dempsey Hospital in Farmington, a key element of the plan.

Her position essentially kills the project, which is more than unfortunate. The merger plan would have produced the “University Hospital,” a top-tier, 1,100-bed teaching and research medical institution for UConn, transforming it into one of the country's largest academic hospitals and attracting millions of more dollars in research grants.

As part of the project to create a two-campus hospital, Hartford Hospital had agreed to spend $425 million to $565 million for academic support, technology, research and new construction over the next 10 years.

Investing in this kind of public/private project generates a return in better doctors and dentists, good jobs, new business opportunities, in other words, economic growth. How frustrating to think of the hundreds of millions of dollars the state has borrowed for dubious projects and now finds itself holding the line on this worthwhile endeavor.

The state can expect to keep spending about $20 million a year to subsidize Dempsey Hospital, so outdated and burdened with state mandates that it cannot function profitably. The inadequate facilities threaten the standing of the dental and medical schools and the quality of the students and faculty they can attract.

Not coincidentally, the governor made her announcement the same day as news accounts describing how other hospitals in the region were complaining about the competition the proposed University Hospital would provide. Gov. Rell wants to refine the plan to ensure it does not cause economic hardship to other hospitals in the area.

If the governor is waiting for a perfect plan that no one complains about, there will never be any plan.