Bristol Should Have the Right to Determine its Health Care Future

By Kurt A. Barwis, FACHE, President & CEO

1484743_700564060004636_6567864135581072783_nBRISTOL – A significant issue has been overlooked in the discussions about the proposed Tenet Health acquisition of Bristol Hospital, and that is the right of the Bristol community to determine its own health care future.

Our Board of Directors, stewards of the Bristol community, unanimously endorsed an acquisition proposed by investor-owned Tenet Health. Our business community agrees. Jim Albert, president and CEO of the Central Connecticut Chamber of Commerce, wrote a letter to Governor Dannel Malloy, stating that this partnership “is the best way to preserve the viability of Bristol Hospital.”
Bristol area legislators have championed the acquisition plans for Bristol Hospital.
Our decision is the result of a deliberative process that has taken years. Bristol Hospital did our due diligence, studying the impact of acquisition on other community hospitals across the country.
 Meanwhile the Legislature faces a May 7 deadline on proposed bills that could dramatically affect the future of health care for all of Connecticut.
Let’s look at this issue another way. There are examples of for-profit companies seeking to enter, expand, or even just STAY in Connecticut.
CareCentrix, a nursing home management company, was given $24 million in state incentives to move 150 call center jobs from East Hartford to Hartford at the risk of losing them to Tampa, Florida.
Compare this to Tenet Health, an investor-owned national health system with 77 hospitals coming to Connecticut to secure hospital care in four cities; Bristol, Manchester, Rockville and Waterbury. Each of these hospitals is a valued community asset, employing thousands of people all together.
Tenet Health is not asking for any state incentives; in fact, Tenet-owned hospitals would pay property taxes to the communities in which they are located.
Tenet, the third largest investor-owned health system in America, employs 59,000 people and in 2012 cared for four million patients.
In Connecticut, lack of a sustainable solution to the financial situation of our state’s hospitals has been debated for years. In 2013 Connecticut’s hospitals lost a combined $175 million and 1,400 jobs were eliminated.
At issue in the current session of the Legislature is a concern that acquisitions of community hospitals by for-profit health systems will reduce quality of care and eliminate jobs to make a profit.
Let me add a more recent study to the argument, endorsed by the Federation of American Hospitals and the American Hospital Association that makes a compelling counter argument.
The study conducted by the Center for Healthcare Economics and Policy, says that hospital realignments through mergers and acquisitions provide “enhanced access, higher value and greater efficiency.”
Noting that hospital mergers are reviewed by the federal government for potential antitrust impact, the study said the majority of mergers do not negatively affect competition.
Further, the report says “negative realignment effects often cite outdated data not reflective of today’s market.”
“Without realignment, patients and communities could face disruption and instability, hospital closures, and reduced access to care.”
It is time for us to let the Legislature know what we think of Bristol’s right to determine our own health care future.
Author: The Roundup
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