William Jennings, president and CEO of Bridgeport Hospital, one of the city’s largest employers, writes “it’s crisis time” for Connecticut hospitals. Governor Dan Malloy’s budget proposal on the verge of a vote by the state legislature will cause serious damage to health care institutions, according to Jennings. His commentary, which also appears in the Connecticut Post, follows:
Balancing a budget is always a painful and precarious undertaking, whether it’s the household budget, the company budget or the state budget. And so we understand the challenge the governor has as he tries to close a $1.2 billion deficit in his $43.8 billion two-year budget.
The problem is we don’t want Connecticut’s health care system to be destroyed in the process, and that, tragically, seems to be the direction the state is taking. In the memorable words of Yogi Berra, it’s déjà vu all over again, particularly when you recall that the last time the state had budget woes, it tried to solve them by instituting a hospital tax.
The latest budget proposal calls for massive hospital cuts–more than $550 million to hospitals statewide over the next two years, on top of the $103 million that has been cut from hospital funding for the current two-year cycle.
The irony is that Gov. Malloy, who has a zealous commitment to jobs creation in a troubled state, clearly has gone down a path that will lead to real job cuts when it comes to Connecticut’s 30 hospitals. In short, the proposed cuts will adversely affect thousands of people in our towns and cities.
On a local level, there is already fear and anxiety because when you include the rescissions Gov. Malloy made in December, the overall impact on Bridgeport Hospital alone will be nearly $27 million. These cuts, as you can imagine, will be devastating to health care in Bridgeport and the communities we serve. Similar cuts are proposed at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport, so our detrimental regional impact is doubled.
Moreover, they come at a time when the health care industry is undergoing structural changes. Safety and quality of care are on everyone’s mind because of the increasing pressure to control costs with the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). As a result, we’ve spent significant time and resources becoming more efficient while simultaneously preserving the excellence and safety that have characterized Bridgeport Hospital and its parent, the Yale New Haven Health System.
Despite a promise two years ago to protect Connecticut’s safety net, current efforts to balance the budget jeopardize care for the poorest and most fragile among us. Beyond a doubt, these cuts will jeopardize programs that serve low-income families and provide mental-health services, including clinics for the poor, the uninsured, the homeless, the frail elderly, and children and adults with special needs.
They will require that we make serious cost cuts and staff reductions, and as a result, I am presenting a formal plan to our board of directors that examines closing services that are not part of our core hospital operation. Quite simply, we will be forced to cut certain services that don’t pay for themselves. The state’s proposed cuts will harm the people who can least afford to lose care because they will compel us to curtail services that no one else will be willing or able to provide.
As the city of Bridgeport’s largest employer, Bridgeport Hospital provides 2,500 jobs, and many could be lost as a result of the governor’s budget proposal.
However, consider this. A recent analysis by The New York Times showed that each year the state of Connecticut offers $860 million in tax breaks, economic development loans and grants for development and jobs creation, to a host of different companies–among them the Royal Bank of Scotland, which received about $100 million in credits and rebates, and hedge fund Bridgewater Associates, which got $115 million in incentives to build a headquarters in Stamford.
Many of these “incentives” are used to attract businesses to stay in the state or come to the state. More power to them if they can capitalize on Connecticut’s generosity when everyone else is struggling.
But let’s not forget the home team. Let’s not forget the state’s 30 hospitals, which employ local workers who are going to be the ones that suffer because of the governor’s budget proposal.
It’s crisis time in Connecticut. It’s time to show some sensitivity to the needs of our hospitals because our hospitals generate almost 110,000 jobs and $10.8 billion in annual payroll. Our hospitals contribute more than $20 billion to the state’s economy. And our hospitals are committed to quality health care for the residents of Connecticut.
It’s time for our elected officials to acknowledge that reality and stop penalizing us. Let your legislators know that it is time to do the right thing for Connecticut.