By SHERIDAN CYR
On June 30, a familiar scene played out in Southington as protesters lined the sidewalk near the new Hartford HealthCare medical center on Queen Street, soliciting beeps and waves from passing cars as they exercised their fight to maintain the emergency room at Hospital of Central Connecticut (HCC) at Bradley Memorial Campus.
Protests are nothing new when it comes to the Southington hospital’s plans. Locals have been objecting to changes to the Bradley facility since the financially struggling hospital merged with New Britain General in 2006 to form the HCC partnership.
After several years of the merger, the HCC merged with Hartford HealthCare, which owns a conglomerate of hospitals and medical facilities across the state, including Hartford Hospital, MidState Medical Center in Meriden, Windham Hospital, and Backus Hospital in Norwich. HCC president Gary Havican said that the latest merger was necessary because the HCC was not fulfilling its intended potential.
“In 1998, Bradley and HCC started to have conversations around a potential merger because Bradley was distressed,” he recalled. Leading up to those conversations, a trend had ensued where patients were being admitted long-term and then transferred out to HCC New Britain General Campus. “The two hospitals became one, then, moving forward, as has happened many times in this state, there was further financial distress. HCC looked for a larger partner, and in 2011, we partnered with Hartford HealthCare.”
Havican said after the partnership became official, the significant decline of total number of patients going to the Bradley campus did not improve. He reported an average of less than four patients admitted per day.
“There is a shifting of care from inpatient to outpatient as a national trend. It’s an evolving landscape of healthcare,” said director of strategic planning and business development, James Shimer. “We have to be continuously assessing the landscape of it, and make sure we are delivering the right care, at the right place, at the right time.”
Havican agreed, saying that most of the changes to the Bradley facility has been to meet the shifting needs from inpatient to outpatient treatment.
“Medicine is changing, so care and treatment of patients that is required on the inpatient side has reduced from 50 percent, to about 25 percent,” said Havican. “We’re only seeing about 25 percent of total healthcare needs being delivered on the inpatient side, which means those patients admitted to hospitals require care that is sub-specialized.”
Havican said more money is put toward the Hartford HealthCare facilities like New Britain General and Hartford Hospital, so they can offer state of the art care that is needed to maintain a high level of treatment for patients. A majority of those patients require inpatient admission.
“Long story short, that’s kind of why volume of inpatient admissions to Bradley has declined, because it’s becoming a destination-type of care. Physicians are sending patients to facilities with higher levels of care, and it’s very difficult to sustain that in multiple community hospitals, such as Bradley,” he said.
When Bradley Hospital was built back in 1938, the population in Southington was almost half of what it is now, and medicine was delivered with a strong focus on inpatient care. As the president of HCC, Havican said he has to question whether inpatient units need to exist when nearby facilities like New Britain General Campus and MidState Medical Center are able to manage those inpatients.
“I have the responsibility to provide state of the art care to citizens in communities we serve—Southington being one,” Havican said. “I know we can do a better job of providing emergency department care in the community, and that’s what we have engaged town leadership in a conversation around.”
The HCC president said Southington would be an ideal community for an expanded emergency department, offering state of the art technology and advanced, 24/7, residency-trained physicians, as the population continues to grow. As conversations continue, Havican said he is happy to be soliciting feedback and engaging in a collaborative effort to maximize and improve the care delivered.
Though nothing official has been decided, Havican said that whatever happens on the Bradley campus will have a medical focus. Any decision that is ultimately made will have to be put through a state regulatory process, which can take up to two years. Because healthcare is strictly regulated in Connecticut, and because the infrastructure of Bradley is 80 years old, regulations are a big obstacle when it comes to the Southington facility.
“For us to do something within regulatory code, it’s getting to the point where if we want to do something with that campus, we would really have to raise the building, clean the land, and then put something medical on that facility—whatever is decided,” Havican said.
He said that Hartford HealthCare has made a “significant commitment” to the town, and the company wants to do what is best for everyone.
“I am so happy to have these conversations, because people are listening and understanding better that this is not self-serving. It’s serving the residents of Southington,” said Havican. “That’s my job as president of the region—to make sure these services are provided to them, and that they’re the best that they can be.”
Coverage of the subject will continue in next week’s edition of the Southington Observer as we talk to Hartford lawmakers about hospitals, medical facilities, and healthcare issues in the Connecticut. To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Cyr, email her at SCyr@SouthingtonObserver.com.