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October 15, 2021

Prospect seeks consolidation: Move would make Rockville hospital a campus of Manchester Memorial

Nancy Thompson | Journal Inquirer

Prospect ECHN, which owns Manchester Memorial Hospital and Rockville General Hospital, answered questions from state regulators and heard feedback from the public during a hearing Wednesday on its proposal to consolidate both hospitals under a single license.

The change, ECHN officials said, would eliminate redundant administrative processes, enhance the patient experience, and save money. The consolidation would eliminate Rockville General Hospital’s license, effectively making it the Rockville campus of Manchester Memorial Hospital, ECHN CEO Deborah Weymouth said.

Daniel DelGallo, ECHN’s chief strategy officer, said patients who are treated at both hospitals now have separate accounts at each, making it more difficult for health care providers to access medical records and complicating the billing process.

“Any time you can eliminate those processes, it reduces the potential for patient harm or safety issues,” he said.

ECHN Chief Financial Officer Paul Golino said the company predicts that single licensure would reduce administrative costs by about $106,000 annually. When asked by Office of Health Strategy hearing officer Joanne Yandow if those cost savings would trickle down to patients, he said they would.

“I do believe that patients would see the benefit of everything we’re doing here about single licensure,” he said, adding that patients who are transferred from one campus to the other would save on co-pays because their treatment would be under the umbrella of a single hospital.

OHS officials also peppered ECHN officials with questions regarding possible reductions in services at Rockville General Hospital.

Weymouth said the consolidation plan does not reduce services. She said that any future decisions regarding which services are offered at RGH would involve an assessment of community need.

During the public comment period, several speakers, some of whom work within the ECHN system, encouraged OHS to approve single licensure, which they said would make both hospitals more efficient and allow them to provide better medical care.

However, other employees, who are members of the health care workers’ union AFT Connecticut, opposed consolidation, saying it is part of a larger move to ultimately reduce the services offered at RGH.

State Sen. M. Saud Anwar, D-South Windsor, a pulmonary doctor who works in the ECHN system, was among those who supported the change. Anwar said single licensure would allow a “seamless transition” for patients who are transferred between the two facilities, and he said the decrease in administrative burdens would reduce medical errors.

Manchester Mayor Jay Moran and Melissa Osborne, a manager at Manchester Ambulance Service, also spoke in favor of consolidation, making similar points to those made by Anwar.

RGH staff mechanic Glen Maloney, leader of AFT Connecticut Local 5121, said OHS should not approve the plan because RGH is trending toward a broad reduction in services; he noted that several units — including post-anesthesia, gastrointestinal, intensive care, and one-day surgery — have been closed for over a year.

Patients, he said, receive emergency treatment before being “whisked away” to other hospitals, creating a “constant revolving door” at RGH.

Christen Ellis, president of AFT Local 5143 and a nurse at RGH, said ECHN has used the pandemic as an excuse to reduce staff and permanently close units, and she said OHS should “fully investigate (Prospect ECHN’s) intentions” for consolidation.

Weymouth said earlier in the hearing ECHN is working to reopen RGH units that were closed last year following an executive order from Gov. Ned Lamont requring hospitals to reserve space specifically for COVID patients, but she said those determinations would be made based on an assessment of the community’s needs.

OHS officials asked ECHN for several documents detailing its consolidation plan and current operations, and officials have until Oct. 27 to submit them. The record from the public hearing remains open, and members of the public may submit written comment to OHS until Oct. 20.

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