By Lindsay Carey
A large standing room only crowd voiced their opinions on the proposed changes and future of Bradley Memorial Hospital at Monday’s Town Council meeting. By and large, residents seemed to agree that Southington needs a hospital.
As the meeting moved forward, residents began to share their experiences and disappointment with the downsizing at the hospital. Several people said they were displeased with the level of care at New Britain General Hospital in comparison to their hometown hospital that was once fully functioning. A discussion of putting an Emergency Room on Queen Street also sparked debate, because of concerns about traffic.
Doctors and patients stood together to convey the importance of having an inpatient care unit at Bradley.
“As a cancer survivor of nonhotchkins lymphoma, I am in a critical state in my life,” said resident Rosemary Champagne, who invited many of the people who attended and shared. “I need a hospital. I don’t need a health spa. I’ve seen the plan. I don’t need an ER with all this knowledge and technology. They’re not going to give me a room when I need one. I need a hospital that I can go to when I can’t breathe at night.”
Champagne collected 3,000 signatures in five weeks in support of keeping Bradley Memorial Hospital open. She also suggested renovating the hospital to make it up to date and expanding it so that it can compete with hospitals in surrounding areas, instead of just closing its doors.
Dr. Farid Shafik, one of the three doctors to speak, questioned why the town would throw away the 3.5 million dollars that had already been put into a hospital.
Shafik was a part of a group that felt the decision had already made and that inevitably Bradley will close. The doctor said he doesn’t attend the medical staff meetings anymore, because whenever the group of doctors was consulted it seemed deals were already cut –once regarding the merger with Hartford Hospital and second about closing the operating room at Bradley.
“I feel I’ve been duped,” said Shafik. “I signed on to be in a very nice community within a strong system of personalized care and slowly that has eroded.”
Bonnie Sica, who said that she has been in and out of several hospitals, said she felt the town was being stolen from. She shared financial reports from the Hospital of Central Connecticut’s (HCC) website with the council.
According to those reports, in 2012 the HCC made a profit of $35 million and in 2013 there was a profit of $23 million.
“They have been profitable seven of the last eight fiscal years,” said Sica. “We didn’t lose our surgery, we didn’t lose our ICU. They took them and they took them strategically and financially and they are dismantling our hospital to bring money to their hospitals.”
Sica asked the town council write a letter showing their support in keeping Bradley Memorial Hospital open. The Town Council voted unanimously to pen the letter.
“When I first got into politics, it was for causes like this,” said Town Councilor Tom Lombardi. “This is a team. We’re going to do this together to make sure your concerns are heard.”
Members of the council said they were just hearing about the issues at the hospital.
“This was not the town council’s decision,” said Town Councilor Chris Palmieri, who was shocked by some of the accounts shared at the meeting. “We are just as shocked by what’s going on tonight as you as residents are, we had no knowledge of this.”
Town Council Chairman Michael Riccio echoed Palmieri’s sentiments. Both Riccio and Town Manager Garry Brumback have been in discussion with Hartford Healthcare over the future of Bradley Hospital.
Palmieri, Riccio and fellow Town Councilor Victoria Triano will serve on a committee to help work on a plan for the hospital. Tricia Walden, a local resident and a representative fro Hartford Healthcare asked the three councilors to serve on the committee, which was just recently announced publicly.
Walden also spoke before the Town Council Monday night.
“I know you’re worried that Southington will be left without access to the health care services that are most need,” Walden said. “I know you care deeply about our town; I say that, because it’s my town too. My role here tonight is to listen. I want you to know that I continue to listen and your opinions and thoughts and feelings and concerns need to be incorporated into any strategy and plan that Hartford Healthcare might consider.”