The legislative session ended Wednesday with no final action on a proposed plan for the future of the ailing University of Connecticut Health Center.
The ambitious proposal, introduced in February, called for merging the financially troubled Health Center with Hartford Hospital and building a new $475 million hospital in Farmington — with taxpayer money — to replace John Dempsey Hospital.
UConn and Hartford Hospital officials touted the plan as a way to bolster the region's economy, transform the health care landscape and address persistent problems at the Health Center, which has been running deficits, and at Dempsey Hospital, which is considered too small and outdated to be viable.
But the plan ran into fierce opposition. St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center and Bristol Hospital criticized the plan, saying the state would be giving their competitors major advantages, including a new hospital that could lure away privately insured patients and hurt the hospitals financially. The unions representing Health Center employees raised a host of concerns about what the merger would mean for workers and for the Health Center.
And Gov. M. Jodi Rell said she could not support the plan because it was too costly for the state. In addition to the expense of building the hospital, the plan calls for the state to pay an estimated $13 million a year in labor costs.
Still, supporters of the proposal hope it will come up again in the special session to resolve the state budget impasse.
House Majority Leader Denise Merrill, D- Storrs, said the hospital proposal could be a powerful engine that drives the Hartford region's economy in coming decades. "Irrespective of all the complex issues of hospital consolidation and ranging among hospitals, I am hopeful we can bring people together."
Hartford Hospital spokeswoman Lee Monroe said Wednesday that the hospital is hopeful the proposal will win support from the legislature and the governor.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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