HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – Health care workers from three Connecticut hospitals rallied at the state capitol in Hartford on Monday.
Employees from Manchester Memorial Hospital, Rockville General Hospital and Waterbury Hospital began rallying around 10 a.m., alleging the facilities are suffering because of cost-cutting measures by their owner, Prospect Medical Holdings.
Yale New Haven Health is set to purchase the three facilities from Prospect, but the state has yet to approve the deal, which some health care workers claim is impacting patient care.
“Behind the scenes, though, when vendors aren’t getting paid, and our supplies are short, those are some things that we see on a daily basis,” Anne-Marie Cerra, a Manchester Memorial Hospital nurse, said. “Some of the doctors aren’t getting paid that are contracted out, and their frustration is palpable even though they still come in and do everything they need to for their patients.”
The deal requires a Certificate of Need (CON) from the Office of Health Strategy. CON is a regulatory program requiring certain types of health care providers to obtain state approval prior to making major changes in the healthcare landscape, such as mergers, substantial capital investments in new equipment or facilities, changing access to services, or discontinuing a medical service.
Workers said if the deal doesn’t come through, hospitals could be forced to close, leaving about 600,000 patients without medical care and some 4,000 people without jobs.
“It’s an insult to us that this process is taking so long cause all we want to do is do our jobs well,” said Dr. David Hill, a pulmonary critical care specialist at Waterbury Hospital.
State Sen. Saud Anwar (D-South Windsor), State Rep. Jason Doucette (D-Manchester), and State Rep. Kevin Brown (D-Vernon) supported the workers at the rally.
“We have a responsibility as the people who provide hands-on care to make sure that we state that this a time for us to stand united and work closely together, including everyone in the state, to make sure we allow Prospect to leave our state forever,” Anwar said.
This comes as the so-called “tripledemic” season of RSV, COVID-19 and the flu is fast approaching. Emergency rooms across the country are already full.
News 8 asked Gov. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.) about this; he is confident a deal will be reached soon.
“I can tell you that the Office of Health Strategy put in place the perimeters for what the deal is, very conventional in what we’ve done in previous hospital deals,” he said. “This will get done.”
In a statement late Monday afternoon, the Office of Health Strategy said, in part, “It is not unusual for complex hospital acquisitions that require multiple layers of review to take a year or more to complete.”
The statement went on to say, “OHS’s process for this application is still well within the statutory guidelines. Notably, despite contrary assertions, previous applications involving only one hospital and without a medical group transfer have taken nearly the same amount of time.”
Prospect owns the Eastern Connecticut Health Network, which runs Manchester Memorial and Rockville General. A spokesperson issued a statement saying in part:
“This rally is neither coordinated nor sanctioned by ECHN leadership or Prospect Medical. However, we understand that some members of our medical staff and other employees feel compelled to participate in this event due to its relevance to our future. While we respect the rights of our employees to engage in civic activities, patient care remains our utmost priority. We are continuing to provide quality, compassionate care to our patients today, as we do every day.”
A Yale New Haven Health spokesperson said they are not able to comment.
The Connecticut Hospital Association issued a statement:
“Those served by these hospitals deeply value their role in providing care and support to patients, their families, and communities. Everyone must continue working together to preserve access to that care. The state’s Certificate of Need (CON) regulatory review process, which is required to approve such acquisitions, has moved much too slowly in this and many other cases, creating delays that can negatively impact access. If CON is only about process and not about how decisions affect patient care, jobs, and the economy in our state, then we’ve lost our way. This situation is one of far too many that show the significant need to reform this system.”