By TAYLOR HARTZ
Crowds gathered on the lawn of the Southington Historical Society last Sunday, with dozens of residents holding signs advocating for reform at The Hospital of Central Connecticut Bradley Memorial Campus.
Their slogans, including “Beds for Bradley”, rang out as passers by honked their horns in support and posters were held high emphasizing the community’s concern.
Organized by the Community Committee to Save Bradley (CCSB), the rally was held to encourage an increase in the number of inpatient beds available at the hospital.
Supported by Sen. Markley (R-Conn.) Rep. Zoni (D-Conn.) and Southington Town Council Chairman Mike Riccio (R) who attended the rally, the committee is asking for an increase in the number of inpatient beds.
While the Bradley campus is licensed for 84 inpatient beds, they are currently staffing just 15 inpatient beds. Southington residents are calling for an increase in this number, asking Hartford Healthcare to add 20 beds, nine double beds, and two singles.
The CCSB is urging Hartford Healthcare to specifically add more inpatient beds, rather than observation beds.
As head of the committee Bonnie Sica explained during the rally, observation beds are short-term and are considered an outpatient service. Although Medicare provides better reimbursements for patients treated in observation beds, these patients face higher deductibles, co-pays, and out-of-pocket costs.
Sica warned patients to be mindful of what type of bed they are assigned, explaining that a patient who starts in an observation may often face higher fees in later care, as well. Sica explained that a patient who is seen in an observation bed and then sent to a nursing facility will not have their nursing care covered, and could be responsible for monthly care expenses that can run up to tens of thousands of dollars.
However, a patient seen in an inpatient bed for three or more days before being sent to a nursing care facility will have the entire cost of the nursing facility covered by Medicare.
Following this information, Bonnie asked the crowd if the Southington community wants more out of pocket expenses, and the response was a resounding “No.”
When asked if the community wanted to keep their inpatient beds, a crowd wide “Yes” was the response.
Southington resident Rosemary Champagne said she joined the committee after an attempt to visit the emergency room at Bradley, where she expected to be seen by her familiar doctor, left her traveling by ambulance to New Britain General Hospital.
Champagne, who was concerned about the discomfort, inconvenience, and cost of such an ambulance trip, said the lack of beds has already begun to affect the community’s use of the hospital. “I miss our hospital,” said Champagne. “The community misses it.”
Dr. Shafik, ophthalmology specialist at Southington Eye Associates, shared the transportation concern.
In addition to discomfort and cost, Shafik said that from a physician’s standpoint, the travel time could mean life or death for some patients.
“By the time you put somebody on an ambulance and send them to New Britain General or Midstate Medical Center, its too late,” said Dr. Shafik.
“The reality is you need to be seen within 30 minutes, beyond that 30 minutes you can’t guarantee anything in terms of preserving life,” he said.
The committee, who marched from the historical society to the entrance of the Bradley campus with their posters and chants for beds, fears that high out-of-pocket ambulance expenses and a long commute might cause residents to go elsewhere.
Sica shared her concern for the success of Bradley’s emergency room if there are no beds available. She raised the question of why a Southington resident would bother attempting go to the Bradley emergency room if they knew there weren’t enough inpatient beds for them to stay in.
“This hospital is where many residents were born. It is where we go when we are at our weakest and most vulnerable,” said Sica of the hospital that has served the community for seventy-seven years.
The committee hopes that Hartford Healthcare will avoid “compromising the community’s healthcare options,” by increasing the number of inpatient beds to ensure that residents continue to have access to affordable, timely care right here in Southington.