As reported by The Register Citizen, June 6, 2010.

State Rep. Roberta Willis Praises Hospital Law

HARTFORD — A local state representative praised a new bill signed into law Friday that will authorize a $362 million proposal to renovate and expand a University of Connecticut hospital.

State Rep. Roberta Willis, D-64, called the bill “critically important” that the University of Connecticut’s John Dempsey Hospital “produce the next great generation of physicians.” The federal money goes towards renovating and expanding the hospital.

“They require facilities that can accommodate excellent teaching-research and clinical-all of which require 21st century facilities,” Willis said. “This is especially true if we want to continue to attract the best and the brightest to our only public medical school. This bill is a major step in that quest.”

Willis, the house chair of the Higher Education and Advancement Committee, said she played an important role in the compromise legislation that came after years of trying to find a solution by establishing the UConn Health Network with hospitals in central Connecticut.

The $362 million project includes renovating the 35-year-old hospital, building a new patient tower and increasing classroom and laboratory space for the medical and dental schools. About $30 million of the project would go toward the UConn Health Network.

Willis added the UConn plan could eventually create 5,000 jobs as well as enhance the reputation of the university’s medical and dental schools.

The UConn Health Network would help support a regional primary care institute that is being developed at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford and a regional simulation center at Hartford Hospital, which would allow health professionals to practice techniques using advanced technologies.

The network would also work with the Hospital of Central Connecticut, which is moving ahead with plans for its cancer program. UConn officials are working on plans for a regional cancer program and a center aimed at studying and eliminating health disparities.

The UConn proposal, signed into law Friday by Gov. M. Jodi Rell, is contingent upon $100 million in federal funding. The deadline for receipt of the funding is June 30, 2015. Officials have said that if the funding isn’t approved, they will look to other sources, including philanthropy.