As published as an opinion in the New London Day, March 13, 2010.

Health Network Would Cure Many Ills

By Governor M. Jodi Rell

If anyone in government - local, state or federal - had the cure for all of the problems in health care today, they would be a miracle worker. The question is immensely complex and the issues incredibly diffuse.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer that resolves all of the problems all at once. However, working together, we often can find solutions that take giant steps forward.

This week - in concert with the University of Connecticut, the UConn Health Center, hospitals throughout the region, our Congressional delegation and many others - I have proposed a landmark partnership that will transform the delivery of health care in Connecticut and lead to the creation of thousands of new jobs.

This new UConn Health Network is not a "cure-all" - but it is a cure for many of our ills: Improved health care and greater access to quality care. Job creation. Training our health care work force. Economic development.

This plan brings together the resources of the state, UConn's schools of medicine and dentistry, Hartford Hospital, Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center, Connecticut Children's Medical Center and other health care facilities and providers. The centerpiece of the partnership is a new state-of-the-art patient tower and totally renovated hospital at UConn Health Center campus in Farmington.

It will produce a totally renovated, state-of-the-art John Dempsey Hospital as well as a health network with incredible reach throughout Connecticut. The updated teaching hospital will have increased classroom and lab space - helping to offset an expected shortage in medical and dental professionals. It will also have a nationally recognized cancer center and specialized institutes and advanced training - facilities that will be open to all health care professionals in the state.

These facilities will help lift the UConn schools of medicine and dentistry into the top tier of academics and research in the nation and create thousands of jobs for our economy.

The plan I have developed relies on $100 million in federal funding - money that must be approved before the project moves forward. Assuming the federal funds are forthcoming, the plan also requires $25 million for design and planning that is to come from already approved UConn 21st Century funding, and $227 million in future state bonding.

This is much cheaper than the previous proposal for a completely new UConn hospital, which was projected to cost $450 million - and this plan comes with a far more robust partnership and far greater job and economic development prospects.

Among the components of the plan is the establishment of a federally designated Comprehensive Cancer Center on the UConn Health Center's Farmington campus, making it the second in the state outside of Yale.

The network would also include a Primary Care Institute at Saint Francis open to all health care professionals to develop new models of chronic disease management and primary care education and treatment.

Under my proposal, the neonatal intensive care unit, a specialized unit that cares for premature babies and infants with other life-threatening conditions, would remain at John Dempsey Hospital but be run by Connecticut Children's Medical Center's regional children's system.

My plan also calls for establishing a bioscience enterprise zone offering state tax breaks to private companies that create jobs and work with UConn Health Network partners.

It doesn't take a doctor to tell us that the economy, here at home and around the world, is still ailing. The patient may no longer be in mortal danger, but the recovery has only just begun.

This proposal is not just a prescription for improving the overall health of the UConn Health Center, which has struggled for several years, but for revitalizing the health care delivery system and the economy of our state, both of which are in need of the proverbial shot in the arm.