March 9, 2009

Bristol Hospital chief opposes new Farmington hospital

Reporter Jackie Majerus wrote this story last week:

After waiting for hours to testify against a proposal to build a state-financed facility in Farmington for the University of Connecticut and Hartford Hospital, Bristol Hospital President Kurt Barwis came out swinging.

“From Bristol’s perspective, we’re talking about $605 million, plus $13 million per year in costs that are going to be covered by the state,” said Barwis of the plan to replace John Dempsey Hospital with a 225-bed facility that would be run by Hartford Hospital.

“This is ridiculous,” said Barwis. “It’s astronomical.”

Given three minutes to make his case – and then a little extra time beyond the buzzer to finish his remarks – Barwis spoke before the state Committee on Higher Education and Employment Advancement at the Capitol on Thursday.

He aimed to show that the proposed new hospital would be poor and costly public policy, that it would hurt community hospitals like the one in Bristol and that the deal would give Hartford Hospital, UConn and its affiliates nearly half the region’s share of the market.

It’s not an easy battle for Barwis. Not only was he limited in speaking time during the hearing, but the economic study supporting the new hospital wasn’t done by an independent party, he said.

“It was compiled by a professor at UConn,” said Barwis, who said lawmakers deserve a report that couldn’t be considered biased. “They need to engage completely independent finance and economic experts to do the work.”

The impact on Bristol Hospital and other community hospitals if this plan comes to pass, said Barwis, would be “dramatic.”

If there’s a brand new hospital in a neighboring town and patients have a choice, the local hospital, without benefit of a state-sponsored expansion, could lose out, according to Barwis.

“We can’t compete with that,” he said.

Barwis told the committee that Bristol Hospital, with more than 1,700 employees, is the second largest employer in Bristol. The hospital’s economic importance to Bristol “cannot be underestimated,” Barwis said. The proposal, if adopted, would jeopardize the hospital’s stability and role in the community, he said.

Like other hospitals in the state, Barwis said, Bristol Hospital has no access to capital in this economy and depends on its investments for income.

“That’s vaporizing,” said Barwis. “We’re fragile.”

Another problem brought on by the recession, according to Barwis, is that job losses mean more uninsured patients, which means less income for the hospital.

“People are losing their jobs,” said Barwis. “There’s going to be more people on the state programs.”

Currently, the hospital provides more than $11 million in uncompensated care and charity every year, according to Barwis.

It is under these conditions that Bristol Hospital is facing what Barwis called an “incredibly competitive monopoly” if the proposed deal goes through.

Barwis said Bristol Hospital supports UConn having multiple affiliations to make the medical school stronger, but not if it means creating an unfair advantage in the medical marketplace.

The University Hospital, Barwis said, could eventually include not only Hartford Hospital, but also MidState Hospital and the Hospital of Central Connecticut. If it did, Barwis said, that combined entity would hold more than 47 percent share of the Greater Hartford market.

Having almost half the market share will give the combined hospitals a competitive edge when dealing with insurers, according to Barwis.

“They’re going to be able to negotiate a higher price for their services,” said Barwis, which he said could eventually lead to higher insurance rates.

“A little bit of competition is never bad,” said Barwis. “It keeps everybody honest.”

Barwis said that John Dempsey Hospital is likely outdated, but that other hospitals also need investment.

“Many of Connecticut’s hospitals require substantial renovations and improvements,” said Barwis, adding that there’s nothing to indicate that the massive investment proposed for a new hospital for UConn would solve its financial problems.

Barwis said he isn’t against everything that’s being proposed.

Bristol Hospital supports the health education and research collaborative, which would have medical students working and learning at hospitals in the region. The collaborative would play a vital role in the development of a statewide solution for clinical care as well as medical education and research, Barwis said, benefiting both students and hospitals.

He said Bristol Hospital is “eager to be an academic partner” of the UConn Health Care Center, and said such collaboration with community hospitals can be done without building an expensive new facility.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at


Frank Smith said...

I being a Laryngetomee and was operated on by the states only Otolaryngologist was operating UCHC
and the uchc provided me with the best of care for the four months duration.

with no disrespect to the gentlemen representing the Bristol hospital but your facility I would not have gone too if your were the only hospital available.

UCUC needs expand and the local press neglects to point out teaching facilities they provide like the dental school, school of nursing,otolyngology specialty for doctors,and many specialized practices are in place at the hospital

An Addition to the UCHC is a must and would penny wise and pound foolish for the legislature to not recognise the gem they at UCHC

frank smith, New Britain, Ct

Anonymous said...

Of course Barwis opposes it. But what's good for Bristol Hospital's bank accounts isn't what's good for our health care.

Anonymous said...

I bet if Uconn offered Barwis double his salary, he would change his mind!! UCHC is good and we need a new facility. Especially for advanced medical procedures. Bristol is good for minor stuff,kinda like first aid. But I wouldn't go there for anything remotely serious. They don't even have an advance NICU for newborns in Bristol. So why would I have a child there? I'd rather go somewhere like UCHC that I know is capable of handling the medical condition in a proper and urgent manner. This is our healt and our life we are talking about here. People can't afford ineffecient and ineffective care that Bristol provides, or at least thats the image they project. It's all about how people view you. Your building and equipment is outdated and much of your staff is unfriendly, unprofessional and not properly trained (my personal opinion). Whenever I am there, I just don't EVER get the feeling that they actually give a damn about me, about their job, about their co-workers, about my quality or level of care. I feel like they hate being there and always worried they will miss something. Barwis needs to change the hospitals overall image before he goes around expecting success. I think a lot of us in town want to support Bristol Hospital, but in its current state, we can't.

john cullen said...

This one really befuddles me. The UCONN Health Center has been unable to make money or even break even as an operating entity. Those who are presumably wise have been able to conclude nothing else but that the facility must be replaced, a facility that is one of the most modern in the State. They would like $475 mil for this, as a start anyway.

And these academia nuts concede that operating costs will be +/- $13 mil over and above the norm for a similar privately run facility, an amount the State will provide Hartford Hospital annually to compensate for incongruous salary and benefit expenses for UCONN/State employees. And the new facility will not be located in Hartford, where the primary need for a State subsidized hospital in this region exists.

The essence of the argument for this plan reeks of the same warped sense of need and purpose and solution that has this country teetering and backpedaling to a place where reality is a bit more clearly based on facts and information than contrivances. The notion that excellence can only be achieved through the investment in facilities says little for our leaders. I detect nothing in this proposal that would lead me to believe that this new hospital would be any less broken than the existing one. UCONN officials need to take off their mortar boards, roll up their sleeves, talk to each other and their fellow hospitals about what really needs to be repaired and ‘built’ and have the courage to follow through and do it Our elected officials need to expect and demand nothing less.

If UCONN officials and our elected ‘leaders’ want excellence, provide it. Don’t try to buy it. If they want to improve the State Medical and Dental Schools, there is a great deal that can be fixed without dropping a dime. If the management of the Health Center can’t make things work, it is time for some fresh approaches and faces. There are clearly issues that need to be addressed regarding how this facility and the Medical/Dental Schools should evolve, and the involvement of the private sector hospitals – all of them – is critical to making them ‘the best they can be’.

Squandering further time and resources trying to justify spending millions on a building to solve the problems facing the UCONN Medical/Dental Schools and the regions health care needs is folly. Improve the management, administrative structure and human capital. Make the whole thing work. Earn a new facility. Don’t arrogantly feel entitled to one or blame the one you have for your woes and ineptitude.

Suck it up and do what is necessary to prove the efficacy of this entity. Right now, the whole thing is a dud as it exists and there is no reason to hang a hat on that this will change. And it wouldn’t hurt to give a guy like Kurt Barwis and his ilk more than three minutes to help understand where efforts should be focused and what the priorities are that need to be addressed. And to help illustrate some of the damage this plan would likely do. It is a disgrace and a disservice to Connecticut citizens that officials have exhibited such arrogance in ‘formulating’ this silly plan by focusing so narrowly on solutions and paying little more than lip service to how and where input was sought . Small wonder we so frequently wind up at the same place – no better off than when we started. And needing more cash…


There was quite a bit of flag waving about the job creation and economic returns relative to this expenditure. Are more people going to be getting sick? Is the new entity of UCONN/Hartford Hospital/Hospital for Special care going to become a ‘destination’ people are willing to pay even more for than they already do? Are patients going to be flocking here from Yale and Boston and New York? Or are we just going to bleed further the ‘other’ hospitals in the region for the sake of UCONN?

Anonymous said...

While a patient in Bristol Hospital a funny thing happened to me. I was undressed in the hall bathroom and about to step into the shower, when a custodial staff person let herself in with her key. She looked at me and proceeded to take a bottle of booze from a locked cabinet. She took a few swigs, locked it away, and left. Never spoke or even offered me a sip! I'll never forget that.

Anonymous said...

To John Cullen....As part of the initiative to Bristol Hospital, how about UCHC gives over its CMHC (Correctional Managed Health Care) division to Bristol Hospital and see how much of a profit you will turn..