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As published in the UConn Advance, February 9, 2009.

CASE Endorses Hospital Proposal in Report to General Assembly

By Carolyn Pennington

In a report to the General Assembly, the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering (CASE) has recommended that the General Assembly approve the clinical partnership being proposed by the UConn Health Center and Hartford Healthcare Corp., the parent company of Hartford Hospital.

During a Feb. 3 presentation at the Capitol to members of the legislature’s higher education, appropriations, finance, and public health committees, CASE representatives also recommended that the state authorize the construction of a replacement hospital on the Farmington campus.

“It’s clear that Connecticut is at a crossroads,” says Dr. Myron Genel, chairman of the CASE study committee that prepared the report. “We can maintain the status quo or look to the future by supporting this proposed partnership and replacement hospital.”

The partnership would form a new corporation called University Hospital Inc.

One hospital, two campuses
University President Michael Hogan told legislators during the hearing, “The partnership would create one university hospital that would have two campuses in Hartford and Farmington. With a combined total of 1,100 beds, it would create the clinical engine needed for us to achieve a top-tier status for our medical and dental schools, and build capacity for substantial economic development in biomedical technologies.”

The medical staff of University Hospital would consist of UConn School of Medicine faculty and Hartford Hospital full-time employed and voluntary physicians.

The partnership would also form a new faculty practice plan called University Physicians Inc. It would consist of two members – University Hospital Inc. and the UConn School of Medicine. This practice plan would combine the practices of the full-time employed clinical faculty at the Health Center and Hartford Hospital.

New faculty hires would be dually employed by University Physicians Inc. for clinical purposes and by the School of Medicine for academic purposes. Current UConn School of Medicine faculty may remain exclusively employed by the School of Medicine.

Employee matters
During the hearing, Hogan told legislators that the most important and difficult decisions involved employee matters. Current non-unionized staff managers may remain state employees or choose to be employed directly by University Hospital.

Newly hired non-unionized staff managers would be employed by the non-profit University Hospital. Current unionized staff supervisors and professional employees (UHP bargaining unit) would remain state employees, as would new hires within those categories. Current and new hires in other unions, including 1199, AFSCME, and CEUI, would remain state employees.

UConn and Hartford Healthcare Corp. would have cross-representation on governing boards. University Physicians Inc. would have its own board of directors.

Funding responsibilities
The financial risk for the operations of University Hospital and University Physicians would fall under Hartford Healthcare Corp., which means the state would no longer be responsible for the unpredictability of John Dempsey Hospital’s financial performance.

Hartford Healthcare Corp. would also be responsible for other major funding commitments, including a new downtown patient care tower, academic support, funding for growth of clinical faculty, and biomedical technology investments.

Over a 10-year period, the proposed Hartford Healthcare Corp. funding commitment would total between $425 million and $565 million.

The state would still be responsible for continued funding of the Health Center and the Schools of Medicine and Dental Medicine, the state employee fringe benefit differential, and a replacement hospital. Over a 10-year period, that would total nearly $605 million.

Most of that, $475 million, would be for the replacement hospital and that funding would be needed incrementally, with the largest financial payout for actual construction costs several years down the road.

During his concluding remarks, Genel noted that failure to act would jeopardize the status and research capacity of UConn’s medical and dental schools and also continue the operation of an inefficient, obsolete John Dempsey Hospital or assure its eventual closure.

The original CASE report presented to the legislature last March was prepared at the direction of the General Assembly and in response to UConn’s proposal to replace the aging John Dempsey Hospital with a new, 352-bed hospital.

The report concluded that Dempsey Hospital is outdated and too small, and the cost to revitalize the current facility as a hospital cannot be justified.

In response, UConn issued a Solicitation of Interest, which began a process of discussions with area hospitals. Hartford Healthcare Corp. and Hospital of Central Connecticut submitted the only comprehensive response to the Solicitation of Interest.

Hogan said he hoped the legislature would approve the proposal and authorize the bonding necessary for the construction of a replacement hospital during the current legislative session. Construction of the new hospital is expected to take six years.

Regional collaboration
Dr. Cato Laurencin, vice president for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, told legislators that efforts are underway with the other regional hospitals to develop the Connecticut Health Education and Research Collaborative.

Participating hospitals would include Bristol Hospital, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, St. Francis Hospital, Hospital of Central Connecticut, Hartford Hospital, and the Health Center.

The collaboration is designed to enhance the education and research missions of all participating partners. Laurencin says it would improve clinical care and patient safety, and help the Schools of Medicine and Dental Medicine achieve “top-tier” status.

Laurencin also outlined a proposed affiliation with Connecticut Children’s Medical Center that would turn the management and operation of the Health Center’s neonatal intensive care unit over to the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.