Connecticut Lawmakers Try To Keep Hospital Merger Idea Alive
ARIELLE LEVIN BECKER
April 17, 2009
Lawmakers hoping to keep alive plans to remake the UConn Health Center on Thursday recommended authorizing $50 million in bonding for the effort, despite Gov. M. Jodi Rell's opposition to the UConn plan.
The $50 million recommended by the legislature's finance, revenue and bonding committee represents a small piece of the $475 million in bonding that the UConn proposal calls for. And it may mean little if Rell maintains her position that the proposal is too costly for the state during an economic crisis. Rell controls the agenda for the State Bond Commission and has final say on what bonding projects move forward.
But state Rep. Cameron Staples, the finance committee's co-chairman, said the move was intended to make sure that discussions about the Health Center's future move forward. UConn's John Dempsey Hospital is considered outdated and inadequate for current medical standards, and Staples said that state officials must come up with an alternative.
"Doing nothing is not necessarily an appropriate response," he said.
The UConn proposal calls for merging the Health Center with Hartford Hospital to create a two-campus "University Hospital." It also calls for the state to fund the cost of building a new, $475 million hospital to replace Dempsey and pay an estimated $13 million a year in labor costs.
UConn leaders have fought vigorously for the plan, saying it is necessary to save Dempsey and to enhance the medical school. They have also argued that the potential for job growth from a new academic medical center would make it a worthwhile investment for a state that is losing highly skilled young workers to other states.
In announcing her opposition last month, Rell called the proposal intriguing but unaffordable, a view that Rell spokesman Adam Liegeot said Thursday that she still holds. "The state cannot afford to take on the debt service that would be necessary to build a new hospital," he said.
The merger proposal itself also still needs approval from the legislature and Rell.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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