Hospi­tal merger meets re­sis­tance

The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT) - - NEWS - By Ka­t­rina Ko­ert­ing

DANBURY — Un­cer­tain about how a com­pany will pro­vide health care in the area, Sharon res­i­dents on Tues­day night spoke out against a pro­posal to merge two hospi­tal net­works in western Con­necti­cut and the Hud­son Val­ley.

Un­der the merger, a new com­pany would over­see the Danbury-based Western Con­necti­cut Health Net­work and Hud­son Val­ley-based Health Quest Sys­tems, cre­at­ing a $2.4 bil­lion med­i­cal sys­tem to serve 1.5 mil­lion peo­ple in New York and western Con­necti­cut.

Un­der the pro­posal, Danbury, Nor­walk and New Mil­ford hos­pi­tals would join forces with Health Quest’s four hos­pi­tals, in­clud­ing Sharon Hospi­tal, which it ac­quired last year. Its other hos­pi­tals are in Pough­keep­sie, Carmel and Rhinebeck, N.Y.

But res­i­dents on Tues­day said Health Quest has al­ready re­neged on its word, not even a year into its three-year agree­ment when it

an­nounced Sharon Hospi­tal was clos­ing its ma­ter­nity unit and then giv­ing con­flict­ing ex­pla­na­tions about what would hap­pen. Res­i­dents said this cre­ated mis­trust in Health Quest and they asked the state to hold off on ap­prov­ing the merger un­til Health Quest re­veals how they will con­tinue to pro­vide ser­vices.

Health Quest Ser­vices Pres­i­dent Robert Fried­berg said the hospi­tal al­ways in­tended to of­fer ma­ter­nity ser­vices. But chal­lenges arose when Sharon OB an­nounced it was leav­ing the net­work, caus­ing Health Quest to hire other ob­ste­tri­cians who have al­ready left be­cause they weren’t able to de­liver a lot of ba­bies.

“Our com­mit­ment is to pro­vide ser­vices as long as we have ob­ste­tri­cians,” he said.

Tues­day’s hear­ing is part of Con­necti­cut’s ap­proval process for the plan, which needs to be ap­proved by New York and the Fed­eral Trade Com­mis­sion. The pres­i­dents of both net­works said the plan al­lows for bet­ter ac­cess to care, of­fers more choices, as well as cre­ates more pro­grams to bet­ter serve the com­mu­ni­ties’ needs. They said a larger net­work al­lows them to bet­ter re­cruit physi­cians and be­come more ef­fi­cient. The merger would cre­ate a net­work of about 2,600 physi­cians and 12,000 em­ploy­ees.

“Both or­ga­ni­za­tions are fi­nan­cially strong and deeply rooted in the com­mu­nity,” said John Mur­phy, pres­i­dent of the Western Con­necti­cut Health Net­work in Danbury.

Mur­phy said cre­at­ing the larger net­work al­lows them to make the needed in­vest­ments in tech­nol­ogy and peo­ple in the chang­ing health care field.

The two pres­i­dents stressed the sim­i­lar­i­ties in the two net­works’ vi­sion.

“We both can de­velop and strengthen our com­mit­ment to med­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion,” Mur­phy said.

Health Quest is work­ing with Marist Col­lege in Pough­keep­sie to de­velop a school of medicine to train physi­cians. The first class is ex­pected to start in 2022. Western Con­necti­cut State Uni­ver­sity in Danbury al­ready has a pro­gram with the Uni­ver­sity of Ver­mont School of Medicine.

Some of the res­i­dents asked those med­i­cal stu­dents work in Sharon Hospi­tal so they can ex­pe­ri­ence a ru­ral com­mu­nity.

Pro­vid­ing care for a ru­ral com­mu­nity was the big­gest con­cern raised by the pub­lic.

“You hear about the good things of ef­fi­cien­cies, but in ru­ral ar­eas we know by na­ture that health care is more ex­pen­sive,” said Rep.-elect Maria Horn, who will rep­re­sent Sharon and the rest of the state House 64th dis­trict when the new Leg­is­la­ture is sworn in in Jan­uary. “We worry about ser­vices be­ing rolled into larger hos­pi­tals.”

Mur­phy said they use iPads to work with doc­tors at dif­fer­ent hos­pi­tals to cre­ate care plans in the field and at New Mil­ford Hospi­tal, and a sim­i­lar ap­proach could be done for Sharon Hospi­tal.

He stressed the need for com­mu­nity in­volve­ment at all of the hos­pi­tals. Each hospi­tal will have a lo­cal board of di­rec­tors to re­port to the board that over­sees the over­all net­work to en­sure the ciom­mu­ni­ties’ needs are be­ing met.

“We be­lieve in the moral sense that the com­mu­ni­ties own the hos­pi­tals,” Mur­phy said. “It’s ter­ri­bly im­por­tant to have open chan­nels of com­mu­ni­ca­tion.”

Sharon res­i­dents said Health Quest wasn’t work­ing with the com­mu­nity, to the point that the Fund for Com­mu­nity Health and Health Quest are go­ing to court be­cause the fund hasn’t got­ten any of the in­for­ma­tion or in­ter­ac­tion it needs.

They ap­plauded Mur­phy’s re­sponse and praised the Western Con­necti­cut Health Net­work’s ap­proach to the rolling out pro­grams us­ing com­mu­nity needs as­sess­ments.

H John Voorhees III / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Brent Col­ley, first se­lect­man of Sharon, speaks dur­ing the Con­necti­cut Of­fice of Health Strat­egy pub­lic hear­ing for the ap­pli­ca­tion for the trans­fer of own­er­ship of Western Con­necti­cut Health Net­work, Inc. and Health Quest Sys­tems on Tues­day night at Broad­view Mid­dle School in Danbury.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.