February 1, 2019

Partnership pitches leave UConn Health wanting

UConn Health/Janine Gelineau
UConn Health/Janine Gelineau
No public-private partnership is imminent at UConn Health, the system told employees this week.
Contributed photo
An aerial view of UConn Health's Farmington campus

UConn Health's leadership has decided to take a pass on "several" proposals it received in December from potential healthcare business partners.

The decision is a setback in a long-running process that crystallized in 2018 after the legislature, concerned about the Farmington health system's steady stream of red ink and high costs, ordered officials to explore public-private partnerships.

Next steps were not immediately clear on Friday, as UConn Health said it's still weighing whether or not to engage those that responded to its October "solicitation of interest" in any further discussions.

The exact number of proposals, their content, and who submitted them has not been made public. UConn's leadership has remained tight-lipped over the past year about how potential deals might be structured.

In December, UConn Health's Office of the General Counsel denied a Freedom of Information request from the Hartford Business Journal for the proposals, citing an exemption in the law that protects responses to state-issued requests for proposals or bid solicitations prior to any contract being negotiated or executed.

UConn Health made it clear at the outset that it was under no obligation to pursue any proposals it would receive.

Its solicitation specifically sought partners for the system's clinical operation, including the 234-bed John Dempsey Hospital and UConn Medical Group.

UConn's intent is to grow its clinical market share in the region. Generating more patient revenue would also help subsidize its medical and dental schools, which were not a part of the partnership solicitation.

UConn Health updated employees on Thursday about the status of its partnership effort. A spokesman shared the internal memo with HBJ.

"By the early December deadline, we received several proposals but decided that none met all our goals as outlined in our solicitation of interest," it read. "Although we did not accept the specific proposals, we are in the process of deciding whether it makes sense to discuss with some of the respondents in an effort to develop new proposals that would meet our goals."

The news comes days before an expected vote by UConn trustees on the university's next president.

UConn Health is a part of the overall UConn system and governed by its trustees, but it also has its own board of directors.

UConn Health has grown its patient revenues in recent years, but expenses have well outpaced money coming in – to the tune of $383 million last year, according to an unaudited financial statement UConn Health included in the October solicitation.

After the state's annual appropriation of $275 million, the loss shrank to $111.4 million.

The system has said it's saddled with unusually high employee fringe benefit costs, compared with other hospitals.

UConn Health and Hartford Hospital proposed a merger in 2009, but it ultimately never took place.

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