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Health Center Merger Would Benefit Economy, Medicine


June 14, 2009

Our governor and legislative leaders are working hard to find a way out of our region's economic quagmires. Tens of thousands of jobs statewide have disappeared, with the threat of many more to come. This recession has hit us all very hard, but there is hope and many of our leaders are finding unique and creative solutions. One possible solution being discussed is the University of Connecticut's plan to improve its medical and dental schools and once and for all create a sustainable academic medical center.

Each year, UConn's John Dempsey Hospital costs the state millions of dollars in overruns. With each passing year, deficits are expected to grow, all at the state's expense. Dempsey is simply too small and antiquated to be a successful hospital. However, it provides vital services to the local community and to the medical and dental students who hone their skills at the hospital each day. In addition, UConn's health center represents one-half of the University of Connecticut's budget. As goes the medical center, so goes the University of Connecticut.

The proposal to form a partnership between the medical school and Hartford Hospital would be a huge boon to our students, patients, research, health care services and the economy, and will solve the growing deficit problem at the Dempsey. In fact, earlier this year the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering, the organization charged with finding a solution to the Dempsey, supported our plan.

And, according to estimates from the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis, the plan would save the state more than $45 million in operating expenses in the first three years alone. In total, the plan will generate billions in revenue, netting over $900 million for the state and creating over 18,000 new jobs by 2040.

In Connecticut, all of our hospitals, clinics and private practices are in dire need of doctors. We also have the seventh-oldest population in the country. This critical need for more doctors will only worsen in the coming decades. By matching up Hartford Hospital's state-of-the-art, lifesaving programs with UConn's outstanding students, faculty and research programs, we will also be able to attract more and better clinicians, teachers and students. This will increase the medical and dental school enrollments, resulting in more physicians and dentists to serve our population.

Ultimately, this proposal is about answering the fundamental question of how we improve our programs, knowledge and services to save more lives and improve our struggling economy. That is really what this partnership is all about: improving our region's health care and enhancing economic development.

For the past six months, we have been working together, not just between the two hospitals, but also with many different partners to create a cohesive and unified vision of the future of health care in our region. As a result, we have created the Educational and Research Collaborative, involving six area hospitals, including Hartford Hospital, the Hospital of Central Connecticut, St. Francis Hospital, Bristol Hospital, Connecticut Children's Medical Center and UConn, working together as equal partners for the enhancement of regional health care.

We believe that this plan represents a rare and precious opportunity to transform health care in our region, to create a world-class destination for biomedical advances, and to form the nucleus for an expanded biotech industry for our region.

Our plan would not only build on our existing educational and research foundation, it would expand it and give our young surgeons and practitioners a health care industry to work and thrive in, right here in Connecticut. Most important, it will lead to even better health care for the residents of all our communities.

Our state faces serious economic challenges. UConn's plan has the potential to dramatically help in both the long and the short term. We recognize the decisions being made by the governor and the General Assembly are very difficult, and there are no easy answers. However, we have a genuinely unique and tremendous opportunity before us. This vision could radically change the future of our region and its effects could be felt for generations.

We may never get a chance like this one again.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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