By SHERIDAN CYR
Any change in location is unacceptable. That was the Town Council’s resolution on the ongoing discussions with Hartford HealthCare (HHC) about the Hospital of Central Connecticut Bradley Campus. At Monday’s meeting, the resolution was passed in a 6-2 vote after lengthy debate.
The resolution confirms the official town stance regarding services at the local hospital, which is an entity of HHC. The council supports a plan to continue providing medical services at the Meriden Avenue location. The resolution agrees that “Southington residents should receive world class health care, but [the council believes] that care should be at a central location that is conducive to the overall accessibility and infrastructure of our community.”
The resolution also states the council would support the transformation of the current facility and/or site in to a micro-hospital, “as is the recent trend in the health care industry.”
Town Attorney Carolyn Futtner and Town Manager Mark Sciota advised that a vote on the resolution is based on the facts currently available and does not bind the council or prohibit them from making decision later on when new information is presented.
During public communication, Hospital of Central Connecticut president Gary Havican thanked the council and stakeholders in the community for their time and advice in recent discussions, but said he would “respectfully request the council pause on this resolution until I have had the chance to present facts and findings to the council.” He said these facts and a recommendation would come before the council at the end of September.
Councilor Mike Riccio (R) said he believed a vote on the resolution would be premature since HHC has not presented their facts and recommendation yet. He questioned what the importance was of maintaining services at the Bradley campus as opposed to another location.
“If I’m having a heart attack, and I’m in an ambulance, do you think I care what address I go to as long as it’s in my community?” he said. “Ninety percent of communities in this state don’t have, and never will have, an emergency room. If it’s on Queen Street, or Meriden Avenue, or Berlin Avenue, or West Street, I want the best healthcare we can get, and if we sit here and we tie ourselves to some antiquated, outdated building just because of sentimental value, that’s not going to necessarily be the best we can get for our residents.”
He also pointed out the council holds no legislative power over healthcare other than ambulatory care. Riccio made a motion to table a vote on the resolution, which failed in a 5-3 vote.
“We agree Southington residents should receive world class health care. We agree with HHC on that,” said chair Chris Palmieri (D). “The only difference is this [resolution] states our position that we would like it on the Bradley campus.”
Vice chair Dawn Miceli (D) said her perspective on the resolution was to give residents some “closure” and show them where the council stands on the matter. Kelly Morrissey (D) added the council was requesting, through the resolution, that HHC give a formal proposal and provide some details on their plans.
Tom Lombardi (R) advised councilors to think about what the goal of the resolution was and said it is easy to get lost in the emotional aspect of the discussion.
“A ‘yes’ vote may imply we are okay with leaving Bradley alone as it is without hearing from what plans HHC has,” he said. “If we support the current structure, HHC may decide to continue on the same path with minimal resources and lack of investment on the Southington campus. Furthermore, what will happen if HHC completely shuts down the hospital and only maintains an under-funded, under-utilized, sub-par emergency room?”
He said if that were the case, it leaves a “vacant eyesore of a building that does nothing for our residents and creates a stagnant economy.”
The resolution was voted on and was passed in a 6-2 vote. Lombardi and Riccio voted no. Victoria Triano (R) disclosed her affiliation with Southington Care, a HHC operation, and abstained from the vote and the discussion.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Cyr, email her at SCyr@SouthingtonObserver.com.