Malloy signs bill inspired by Rockville birthing center closure

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has signed a bill requiring hospitals to get state approval before eliminating inpatient or outpatient services, reversing a change made last year.

The bill was inspired by the closure of the birthing center at Rockville General Hospital last year, which occurred without a public approval process. Previously, hospitals seeking to terminate programs were required to get approval–known as a certificate of need–from the state Office of Health Care Access. But as part of an effort to streamline the certificate of need process, lawmakers last year removed the requirement.

The provision got little attention until Rockville General’s parent company, Eastern Connecticut Health Network, moved to close the hospital’s birthing center and eliminate inpatient obstetrical services after an obstetrician announced plans to leave the hospital. An official with the parent company said that the hospital would have sought state permission if it had been required.

Several hospitals opposed the effort to restore the requirement. The bill does include an exception: Outpatient surgery programs can be terminated without a certificate of need if the elimination is the result of insufficient patient volume or the termination of any subspecialty service.

It passed the House 93 to 53 and passed the Senate 23 to 12.