By TAYLOR HARTZ
After nearly a year of adjusting ideas for the future of Bradley Memorial Hospital, Hartford HealthCare (HHC) has developed a plan that will improve health care efficiency in Southington and satisfy community concerns with a new universal care unit on the Bradley campus, and a new family health care center on Queen Street.
Announced on Wednesday, the $15 million investment will resolve the long community fight to “save Bradley,” and increase the number of beds available to patients.
“We’ve been through a years’ worth of engaging the community,” said Lucille Janatka, president of the Hospital of Central Connecticut. “We have been looking at the needs of the community around our plans, and how to really use the Bradley campus in the best way possible.”
On the Bradley campus, HHC will develop a universal care unit, with 20 beds available for observation and care in private rooms. The unit will join together the emergency room and inpatient care center, which are currently located on separate floors.
Combining the two units in a state-of-the-art, fully updated facility will allow emergency patients who require additional care to be treated by “expert staff available in the same, continuous space,” said Janatka.
Janatka said the hospital developed the design when they combined a “need for high quality care and inpatient safety,” with their “commitment to the community.”
While the new unit and care center will improve the quality and efficiency of local medical care, the team at the Hospital of Central Connecticut and HHC are most proud of providing solutions to community concerns with their new plan.
Following months of community advocacy, advisory, research, and rallying, the plans for Bradley represent a compromise between HHC and the community in Southington.
Janatka said they were able to reach a fair middle ground on the issue surrounding beds on the Bradley campus, “because there was honesty and openness, and Hartford Health Care was ready to put the resources in place to provide access and service to the community.”
Representatives from HHC have been working with the Bradley Community Advisory Committee, a group comprised of town councilors and community organization leaders who have met monthly to create a plan for compromise.
In what Janatka called a meeting of the minds across Southington, the hospital used outside consultants, including independent consulting firm Navigate, focus groups, open community meetings, and the advisory committee to hear ideas that would help them update Bradley in a way that was appropriate for “the changing landscape of healthcare,” said Janatka.
Following the establishment of the Bradley Community Advisory Committee, Southington residents Bonnie Sica and Rosemary Champagne co-founded the Community Committee to Save Bradley (CCSB) in September and began advocating for an increase in inpatient beds.
Sica, who consulted the HHC, Navigate, and the Office of Healthcare Access, said she has been researching the issue for eleven months in order to develop a plan that represented both the historical preservation needs and the healthcare concerns in Bradley’s future.
The 20 beds proposed in the universal health care center had been a major point of the committee’s interest.
In March, the CCSB hosted a rally to advocate for “Beds for Bradley.” The group marched from the Southington Public Library to the Bradley campus urging HHC to add 20 more inpatient beds, with support from Sen. Joe Aresimowicz (D-Conn.), Sen. David Zoni (D-Conn.), and Southington Town Council Chairman Michael Riccio (R).
Although no beds will be added at Bradley, merely consolidated between the ER and inpatient care unit, Sica said she is very happy with the increase from 15 to 20 beds, which she views more as a “progressive new concept,” than a compromise.
“This is exactly what we were looking for, we knew that it was doable and financially viable,” said Sica, whose committee held support from 300 residents, with more than 10,000 signatures collected in favor of saving Bradley’s beds.
Though she has her concerns about opening an urgent care facility, Sica said she thinks the plans announced by HHC represent “a new way to think about developing hospitals.”
Construction will begin later this summer on the new family health care center on Queen Street
Investing $6 million of their $15 million budget into the new center, HHC will begin an “intensive planning process to look at the community need,” said Janatka.
The hospital will once again consult Southington residents and community leaders as they begin to develop plans for the new facility, looking at what services are needed most, including ideas for imaging lab services, geriatric care and outpatient rehab in addition to the urgent care unit.
Janatka said that she hopes the community engagement and compromise between HHC staff and Southington residents can act as a model of development for future healthcare centers across the state.