Hospital visits capital to discuss impact of proposed budget

Kurt Barwis, president and CEO of Bristol Hospital, makes a point to state representatives Frank Nicastro (D-Bristol), Cara Pavalock (R-Bristol), and Whit Betts (R-Bristol, Plymouth) at a meeting at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford last Wednesday.

Kurt Barwis, president and CEO of Bristol Hospital, makes a point to state representatives Frank Nicastro (D-Bristol), Cara Pavalock (R-Bristol), and Whit Betts (R-Bristol, Plymouth) at a meeting at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford last Wednesday.

State representatives Cara Pavalock, Frank Nicastro, and Whit Betts-- who all represent Bristol-- talk to officials from Bristol Hospital last Thursday in Hartford.

State representatives Cara Pavalock, Frank Nicastro, and Whit Betts– who all represent Bristol– talk to officials from Bristol Hospital last Thursday in Hartford.

By LISA CAPOBIANCO
STAFF WRITER
As discussions of Governor Dannel Malloy’s proposed budget remains ongoing, Bristol Hospital met with local legislators at the capitol last week in response to the potential cuts the non-profit faces.
In February, Malloy recently proposed a two-year budget plan at nearly $40 billion that increases overall spending 3.3 percent in Fiscal Year 2016 and 3.1 percent in Fiscal Year 2017.
Hospital officials report that a proposed $5.1 million reduction from the state is 3.9 percent of Bristol Hospital’s entire operating budget, which is the highest cut in the state.
Due to state and federal cuts, Bristol Hospital has projected a $10 million loss annually, which puts the nonprofit on a path to bankruptcy in three to five years.
Kurt Barwis, CEO and president of Bristol Hospital, said he was surprised by the proposed budget.
“We’ve really focused our energies on trying to lobby against these cuts and to make people aware,” said Barwis.
Last Wednesday marked Connecticut Healthcare Day at the Capitol in Hartford.
Barwis, along with a group of hospital employees from different departments, gathered in a roundtable at the Legislative Office Building to discuss how the governor’s proposed budget could devastate the nonprofit financially.
During the meeting, employees asked questions and shared questions and concerns.
Frank Nicastro, state representative for the 79th district, said the state has “a tough time ahead” with the governor’s proposed budget.
“I’m proud of our hospital,” said Nicastro, who was born at Bristol Hospital. “I want to see this hospital stay.”
According to the Connecticut Hospital Association , state funding for Connecticut hospitals has been cut by near half a billion dollars over the past two years. Under the governor’s proposed budget, hospitals in the state would pay $165 million more in taxes.
In addition, the proposed budget includes a reduction in reimbursement to Medicaid providers and cuts in Medicaid eligibility.
Representative Whit Betts for the 77th District said since 2011, every state hospital has lost money. He said “enough is enough,” and legislators will try to put the $165 million back in the budget for hospitals.
“We use hospitals like an ATM machine,” said Betts, calling Bristol Hospital the third most efficient hospital in the state. “When we’re in trouble and we don’t have money, we take money from the hospitals and we use it to pay off our deficits.”
“It’s not going to be an easy legislative session,” added Nicastro. “We’re not pleased with what is going on.”
Betts encouraged employees of Bristol Hospital to contact local legislators, particularly those who serve on the Finance Committee.
Representative Cara Pavalock (R-77) said she has received countless e-mails in response to the effect of the governor’s proposed budget on Bristol Hospital.
“You always need those checks and balances,” said Pavalock, adding how the letters have made an impact. “I just don’t think that has been happening.”
Connecticut pays Bristol Hospital $3,590.39 per admission, the third lowest reimbursement in the state, the hospital reports. If Bristol Hospital closed, those admissions would transfer over to Hartford area hospitals at an average cost of $6,683 per admission, which would cost the state $5 million more.
Jim Iacobellis, senior vice president of CHA’s government and regulatory affairs office, said the timing of Bristol Hospital meeting with local legislators is “extraordinary.”
“We know of the significant work that Bristol Hospital is doing,” said Iacobellis. “We’re going to need you to continue to have conversations.”
“It’s not a partisan issue,” said Betts. “It is one that all of us really feel passionately and deeply for.”
Barwis encouraged members of the community and hospital employees to use their voice, and to continue sending letters and e-mails before the budget gets finalized on June 30. To date, Bristol Hospital has received messages from over 800 individuals representing more than 20,000 e-mails.
“That has clearly helped us in prior budget cycles,” said Barwis. “Everyone spoke up and talked about what the place means to them, how important it is…and we got a better outcome.”
For more information about the proposed budget’s effect on Bristol Hospital, or to get involved with the legislative process, visit http://www.bristolhospital.org.
Comments? Email lcapobianco@BristolObserver.com.