Health Center NICU transfer gets green light

Plans to transfer operation of the neonatal intensive care unit from UConn’s John Dempsey Hospital to Connecticut Children’s Medical Center received final approval this week, clearing the way forward for a key piece of the $864 million plan to expand and renovate the UConn Health Center.

After the transfer, which is expected to take place next month, the 40-bed NICU on Dempsey’s Farmington campus will fall under the license and operation of the Hartford children’s hospital. The unit would stay in Farmington and the employees would remain state employees, but Connecticut Children’s would pay the cost of employing them, as well as the cost of ancillary services like lab work and case management.

The transfer plan was included in a failed proposal last year to expand and renovate the health center, and in a plan announced by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy this year, which became law.

The NICU transfer among the less controversial parts of the proposal this year, but it’s critical to the overall plan for Dempsey Hospital. By transferring the operation of the unit to Connecticut Children’s, Dempsey will be able to devote 40 new beds to inpatient services that typically make money. In addition, the hospital will get an extra 10 beds, bringing its total bed count from 224 to 234.

John Biancamano, the health center’s chief financial officer, said the agreement is worth about $22.5 million, compared to about $20 million that the university would have otherwise received in reimbursement from Medicaid and insurance carriers.

The NICU transfer plan received approval from the state Office of Health Care Access last year. The children’s hospital board approved the agreement, and this week, the UConn health center and university boards approved the plan.