Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

March 4, 2024 On The Record | Q&A

Amid pending Yale New Haven Health deal, Weymouth takes on larger role with Prospect’s struggling CT hospitals

Deborah Weymouth, the new CEO of Waterbury HEALTH, has a background in finance.
Deborah Weymouth 
More Information

Deborah Weymouth — who recently became president and CEO of Waterbury HEALTH, in addition to her role overseeing the Eastern Connecticut Health Network (ECHN) — says her background in finance helps her in a very specific way as she leads three of the state’s 27 hospitals.

While many hospital CEOs come from a medical/clinical background, Weymouth has a degree in international finance.

“What that entitles you to is the power of the question,” she said during a recent interview with the Hartford Business Journal. “So, I have the ability to ask any question of anyone at any time, because it’s not assumed that I know it.”

She continued, “So, I can ask a clinical question or a process question … and the power in that questioning ability is … kind of the secret sauce, if you will, because it really does help me get to understand the critical data.”

Weymouth faces some profound challenges as she steps in to succeed Dr. Justin Lundbye, who announced he is leaving as CEO of Waterbury HEALTH, effective March 8, to become president of Good Samaritan Hospital in Long Island, New York.

Waterbury HEALTH and Waterbury Hospital, along with ECHN’s Manchester Memorial and Rockville General hospitals, have been in limbo for more than a year as Yale New Haven Health attempts to acquire them from California-based for-profit operator Prospect Medical Holdings.

State regulatory approval of the deal has stalled as Yale, Prospect and the state wrangle over the price and other conditions of the sale.

Further complicating the deal, according to the CT Mirror, is that Yale has asked the state for $80 million over five years to help the Prospect-owned hospitals recover from a devastating cyberattack that began last August, with Waterbury Hospital especially hard hit.

It has also been reported that Prospect Medical Holdings owes vendors tens of millions of dollars, and has not paid hospital user fees to the state since March 2022, a debt of $67 million.

Prospect’s Connecticut hospitals have experienced uneven financial performances in recent years. In fiscal 2022, Waterbury Hospital recorded a $9.2 million operating deficit, while Manchester Memorial reported an $8.8 million surplus.

Waterbury Hospital

Rockville had a $561,029 deficit, while Prospect’s overall Connecticut operations reported a $19.9 million operating loss in fiscal 2022, according to the latest financial data available from the Office of Health Strategy.

Weymouth said the pending sale is critical because it will provide the smaller community hospitals she currently oversees with access to a wider array of specialists and other services affiliated with Yale New Haven Health, which generated $6.1 billion in revenue in fiscal 2022.

By comparison, Prospect’s Connecticut operations generated $593.7 million in revenue that same year.

Weymouth didn’t share any updates on the potential sale. She also said she hasn’t been given assurances that she will be retained should the deal go through.

She did say she recently met with senior leaders at Waterbury HEALTH, which has operated independently from ECHN, even though the systems share the same parent company.

Weymouth said she can handle overseeing a third hospital, partly because she’s built a strong leadership team at ECHN since arriving there in 2019.

“And it’s not just a me thing, by the way. It takes all of us to make it work,” Weymouth said of her added responsibilities. “So, everybody’s going to pick up a little bit.”

Before joining ECHN in 2019, Weymouth led UMass Memorial Healthcare, a three-hospital system in Massachusetts.

Here’s what else she had to say in a wide-ranging interview. The Q&A was edited for length and clarity.

What have been your major accomplishments so far with ECHN and Manchester Memorial and Rockville General hospitals?

A. We’ve done a number of things that you can count, metrics wise. (One example she provided is that ECHN has gone well over 700 days without a central line-associated bloodstream infection.)

We’ve been profitable since our cyber event. And we’ve significantly reduced our reliance on travelers (freelance medical staff), down to just a handful, which has helped us in a variety of ways.

We have really dramatically focused on and improved our patient experience.

But at the end of the day, the big thing we’ve done is to address our culture. I know to lots of people, that’s kind of a soft word. What is it? How do you define culture? But for us, we’ve really focused on that, and we’ve been able to implement some new service values.

We’ve been able to hold each other accountable to maintaining those service values. And with that, we have really seen a turnaround in people understanding what their purpose in life is, and how it relates to what they do every day, … and how it impacts the next guy down the line.

With this culture change, we’ve really built trust with our physicians, with our team members, and that has been incredibly helpful in difficult times.

When you mentioned reducing your reliance on travelers, that’s traveling nurses, right?

A. Well, we have a variety of travelers, whether they be respiratory therapists, or even somebody who works in HR, for example.

But you recall, just a while ago, there was an explosion (in the use of temporary workers) in hospitals around the country because of the reduction in (full-time employees).

Hospitals post-COVID had to rely on these travelers, who were being paid pretty exorbitant rates to fill in. They don’t live in the community, they fly in and out. It just has an impact on their level of commitment and support of our patients in our community.

They’re also more expensive. In some cases, three and four times what you would normally pay, and then the bad news is your people — who are committed, who work for you — you can’t pay them. It’s just not right.

So, we moved away from relying on travelers and really hired people who cared, who wanted to be in this community and really wanted to contribute.

You mentioned the cyberattack and that ECHN has been profitable since that occurred. What is the status of the recovery overall on all three Prospect hospitals in Connecticut?

A. I can assure you that actually all the organizations are at the tail end of recovery. Of course, that involves a lot of catch-up paperwork and so forth, but we have worked really hard at that piece.

We learned a great deal from this cyberattack, and we want to parlay those learnings into being better organizations in the future. But what has occurred is, within about 60 days, ECHN returned to profitability after the cyberattack, and Waterbury has improved its performance every month in this fiscal year.

Some of the issues related to the cyberattack had to do with aging equipment and computers and software problems. Have those been addressed?

A. We’ve been able to isolate some areas for sure, and we have them pulled out and we’re ready to address them when we can, if we haven’t already addressed them.

But that is not unique to us or to anyone else who’s gotten attacked by an outside bad actor. That constant surveillance of your own internal system, your own internal security system, needs to go on for everybody.

Given the cyberattack and other issues that have come to light involving Prospect Medical Holdings, like reports the company wasn’t fully paying vendors, are you confident that Waterbury Hospital and ECHN can continue to survive and provide a high level of care until the sale to Yale New Haven Health is completed?

A. I am confident that it’s in the best interest of the communities involved that these hospitals survive and thrive going forward. And we’ve done many things to communicate that to the folks involved in the decision at hand to make that understandable going forward.

My confidence lies in the people and the physicians and the communities themselves. And, of course, I’m not an ultimate decision-maker. But my motivation is to deliver the highest quality care that we can for these communities that we’re connected to.

Sign up for Enews


Order a PDF