By KAITLYN NAPLES
Officials from local hospitals, like Bristol Hospital, attended a public hearing recently in front of the state’s Public Health Committee in an effort to explain to decision makers how becoming a for-profit organization is beneficial for all parties involved.
At the hearing, which was held at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, President and CEO of Bristol Hospital Kurt Barwis said the hospital, and the healthcare industry in general, have been experiencing declining reimbursements and reduction in patient volume.
“In spite of cost savings realized year after year through innovative redesign and renegotiations, continued diligence in expense management will not be sufficient to maintain a positive operating margin and pressure will continue to increase in the coming years as Bristol Hospital will be unable to make capital improvements to an aging physical plant.”
He said in the past five years Bristol Hospital’s operating margins have ranged from -0.6 percent to 0.6 percent, when a minimum operating margin of 4- to 5 percent is needed to be able to reinvest in a physical plant.
Bristol Hospital officials explained the process it went through before selecting Vanguard Health Systems (now Tenet Healthcare Corporation following the Vanguard/Tenet merger in October 2013), because “it best meets all the key characteristics of a partnership identified by the board and medical staff in the five year long strategic planning process,” said chair of the Hospital’s Board of Directors Marie O’Brien. “Tenet has a shared commitment and focus with Bristol Hospital on quality, safety, service and best practices,” she said, adding Tenet’s “size, scope of resources, access to capital, longevity in healthcare, proven performance as a high quality healthcare provider, culture of maintaining locally governed health care and ability to successfully navigate in a dynamic and rapidly changing health care environment” will ensure Bristol Hospital’s commitment to care for the Bristol community for the future.
Last year, Gov. Dannel Malloy vetoed a bill that would allow a nonprofit hospital become a for-profit one, which put the brakes on the deal between Bristol Hospital and Tenet.
Between 2009 and 2011, O’Brien said in her testimony, hospital officials had been mapping out the future of the organization and determined the hospital wouldn’t be able to thrive in the future as an independent community hospital.
Among several key characteristics of Tenet and benefits Bristol Hospital would see if the merger is able to happen, O’Brien said “the affiliation with Tenet will help Bristol Hospital attract and retain the most highly qualified physicians; Tenet has committed to retain all Bristol Hospital employees in their current positions and at their current salaries.”
Hospital officials have said right along, since the announcement of the preferred merger, the partnership is wanted now so that the hospital can continue to provide the best care possible.
In a recent statement, State Representative Whit Betts(R-78) and State Senator Jason Welch (R-31) said they will continue to support the hospital’s decision to join Tenet Healthcare. After the public hearing recently, both legislators said they left feeling that “this proposal is absolutely the best course to follow if Bristol wants a financially strong community hospital that will offer the best quality medical care for present and future generations of families who live in Bristol and the surrounding communities.”