By LISA CAPOBIANCO
Bristol Hospital is facing more challenges from the state budget—again.
If passed by state lawmakers, Governor Dannel Malloy’s $20 billion budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2017-2018 would allow municipalities like Bristol to tax hospital property that is currently non-exempt.
Malloy’s proposed budget also eliminates $11.8 million in annual funding for small hospitals. Bristol Hospital is included in this group, which is known as the Small Hospital Pool.
For Bristol Hospital, Malloy’s proposed budget means an increase to its current tax by more than $400,000 a year. Currently, Bristol Hospital pays $7.6 million in taxes annually to the state.
“I was personally shocked,” said Barwis, adding how he does not believe that the proposal will pass. “When you add up all of the tax that we will pay, it’s $10 million if this goes through.”
Under Malloy’s proposed budget, however, the state would allow hospitals to offset their new costs by providing $250 million in supplemental Medicaid payments annually.
As this method allows the state to generate federal matching funds, hospitals would receive just under $88 million from the Connecticut—and $162 million in federal funding, reported CT Mirror.
Regardless of these new supplemental pools, noted Barwis, Bristol Hospital has not experienced consistency in this area from the state. The state makes payments of $4.4 million annually, which are supposed to be made in quarterly installments, said Barwis. But historically, the state has either delayed or rescinded portions of those payments. So far this year, said Barwis, the state has paid the hospital a third of the payments that are due.
To date, the state owes Bristol Hospital over $2 million back in supplemental payments, said Barwis.
This was something that Barwis also shared at the state capitol, where he testified before the Connecticut General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee.
Noting how Bristol Hospital provides $1.3 million in free care annually to those in need, Barwis said the money that the state taxes from the non-profit are belongs to the communities it serves.
“I don’t want to have to fight for every penny, and I certainly don’t want to be giving back money that belongs to the community, to the community that I serve,” Barwis said to the Appropriations Committee. “You have to end this tax.”
After Malloy’s proposed budget was announced, Bristol Hospital has received 5,700 messages to date from employees and other community members who wrote to local legislators, advocating for the non-profit. Those interested in getting involved can do so by going to Bristol Hospital’s website, www.bristolhospital.org/.
Director of Clinical Excellence Nancy LaMonica is one of Bristol Hospital’s employees who have become engaged in the letter writing campaign.
LaMonica said this will make an impact on the delivery of care.
“We use every dollar we have to really stay afloat and to keep people in positions, try to hire the best nurses and the best people who can lead,” said LaMonica, who began working at the hospital last May. “It’s all about taking care of the patient the best way we can take care of the patient.”
As the state budget process moves forward, Bristol Hospital’s downtown project at Centre Square continues to be “alive and well,” said Barwis.
While the hospital is working to meet the Feb. 28 deadline for its purchase and sales agreement with the city, Barwis said working with the developer, Rendina, has gone “extremely well.”
Operating for over 29 years, Rendina has over seven million square feet of development in its portfolio. The developer, which is based in Florida, also has experience with medical office buildings in urban areas as well as parking structures.
“It’s a great cultural fit,” said Barwis, adding how Rendina also is accessible and flexible. “They’re experts in healthcare.”
Although he worries that Malloy’s budget proposal could pass, the hospital is still committed to bringing a medical office building on the corners of Riverside Avenue and Main Street.
“That could potentially derail some of the things we’re doing, but I’m not stopping anything,” said Barwis. “We’re not backing off that project. But that doesn’t mean that if all of a sudden, everything that the governor proposed comes true that it wouldn’t make us take a huge pause.”