In the past year, Connecticut shed nearly 30,000 jobs. And the numbers continue to grow. My industry, the construction trades, has been especially hard hit and construction workers represent a disproportionate number of these losses.
Construction across the country ceased as the economy slowed, and with it millions of jobs were lost. Behind each statistic is a hard-working person who has a family that depends on his job to put food on the table and a roof over its head. These are your neighbors, your friends and maybe even your family. They are the backbone of our society, and they are hurting.
The recent recession has hit our community especially hard, but we are beginning to see relief and an opportunity in the form of the proposed University of Connecticut Health Center and Hartford Hospital partnership. This plan will not only benefit all the hospitals in the area and improve the quality of care; it will also be an economic engine in a region that is desperate for one.
The partnership would establish a two-campus university hospital system that will rival some of the best in America, making the Hartford region a medical destination. It will elevate the UConn medical school to top-tier status and further strengthen its dental school, long regarded as one of the finest in the country. The partnership will attract new patients and millions of dollars more in biomedical research, bring health-related firms to the Hartford region and, perhaps most important, it will generate thousands of jobs in the short- and long-term — creating sustained growth.
Further, the proposed partnership will not upset the current balance of hospital beds in the region. The existing number of beds in Hartford's hospitals will remain exactly where it is today. But although the number of beds will remain the same, the quality of care will be enhanced by new state-of-the-art facilities and services — services that I know many of my colleagues and their families may one day have to use.
UConn is also proposing a collaborative designed to strengthen the medical and dental schools' academic and research relationships with Hartford Hospital, St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center, Connecticut Children's Medical Center, the Hospital of Central Connecticut and Bristol Hospital. This would bring all of our hospitals together to better serve our communities and possibly find solutions to some of medicine's most vexing problems.
But still opponents of the partnership persist with a do-nothing mantra. It's time we face facts. The region is continuing to shed jobs, as most recently evidenced by the struggle at Pratt & Whitney. There is no visible driver for economic growth and job creation — or even job preservation. The challenge that Hartford, the region and the state must confront is how to build a more promising future.
The fundamental beauty of the proposed university hospital initiative is that, by generating more than 18,000 jobs, drawing new enterprise to the region, raising the quality and breadth of health care — in so doing, building health care "tourism" and attracting patients from outside the region — every hospital in the area benefits.
Unfortunately, the General Assembly recently voted to remove critical funding for the partnership. But this partnership is not dead, far from it. The potential and promise of this plan is too great to let this opportunity slip through our fingers. That's why Operating Engineers Local 478 and the Connecticut Building and Construction Trades Council support the University Hospital plan.
I'm not supporting the university hospital solely because it will create thousands of new jobs and generate roughly $1 billion in net proceeds to the state. I'm supporting the university hospital initiative because it creates a "positive-sum" world — one in which the gains of one are not at the expense of another. Rather, everyone shares in the region's growth and new vitality. That is a future that we all need and one that we can all have with the university hospital plan
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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