Hospital staff 'very nervous' about cuts
Updated 3:33 pm, Monday, July 1, 2013
Cuts are likely coming soon to New Milford and Danbury hospitals.
In a letter to staff, Murphy said the state cuts, which will mean a $30 million loss in revenue to the network over the next two years, "will result in cuts in services for our communities that, in turn, will result in cuts in staff."
"We do not know at this time the severity or timing of these actions," Murphy said in the June 4 letter.
"Please be assured we will be thoughtful in our approach, thorough in our consideration and respectful in our implementation."
The network manages both Danbury and New Milford hospitals.
The head of the hospital's two nurses unions said Monday their members are apprehensive.
"People are very nervous," said Joanne Chapin, president of the New Milford nurses union, which has about 125 members. "We're not sure what the plan is."
Mary Consoli, president of the Danbury Hospital nurses union, which has more than 600 members, said hospital staffing is already lean.
"I don't know how they can cut anyone without affecting the quality care we're known for," Consoli said.
During the legislative session, the Gov. Dannel Malloy administration said hospital executives were overstating the likely impact of funding cuts.
State Budget Director Benjamin Barnes said, from 2003 to this year, the state's hospitals had seen a funding increase of about 245 percent.
Hospitals could expect their uncompensated care expenses to shrink as Medicaid coverage expands and the Affordable Care Act's provisions kick in, he said.
According to the state Office of Health Care Access, the Western Connecticut Health Network had net profits of $23.6 million in 2011 and $42.5 million in 2012.
On Monday, network spokeswoman Andrea Rynn said network leaders "don't yet know the full extent of changes we will make, but we are committed to keeping our WCHN family, patients and community informed as decisions are made."
State hospital leaders have warned the funding cuts planned by Malloy's administration, $550 million for 30 hospitals, would have dire consequences for the institutions and the communities they serve.
In response, hospital staffs statewide made a consolidated effort to persuade the governor to rescind the cuts. That didn't happen.
The Malloy budget is set to take effect Monday, July 1.
In his letter, Murphy said the hospitals will continue to provide "the right care in the right place at the right time." He said network leaders have planned ahead for the network's success.
Western Connecticut Health Network plans to affiliate with Norwalk Hospital in the fall; to build the $150 million tower addition at Danbury; and to review programs in the hospitals to find efficiencies.
"We will find a way to preserve our mission despite the state's unfortunate decision," Murphy wrote.
If Western Connecticut Health Network were to impose cuts, Consoli said, they are bound to affect services. Even if the nursing staff remains stable, she said, cuts to other personnel have an effect.
"We need support," she said. "Staffing directly effects patient safety and care."
Chapin said, since the affiliation between Danbury and New Milford hospitals in 2010, staffing at New Milford Hospital has dropped from 700 to 450.
"They promised us new surgeons and new primary care physicians," she said. "They're not sending us new people."