State to probe whether UConn can end pediatric services

UConn's John Dempsey Hospital in Farmington

CTMirror File Photo / UConn Health

UConn’s Health Center in Farmington

State health care regulators have launched an inquiry into plans by the University of Connecticut Health Center to end primary clinical pediatric services starting Oct. 1.

And the top Republican in the state Senate, Minority Leader Len Fasano of North Haven, is questioning whether UConn improperly skipped the state certificate-of-need process before scheduling the end of primary pediatric services.

But the university said Tuesday that this process is not required to cease services in this instance. The health center also said that Connecticut Children’s Medical Center has agreed to continue the pediatric care services at the same locations in East Hartford and West Hartford where the UConn Medical Group has been providing them.

The state Office of Health Care Access, which is part of the Department of Public Health, administers the certificate-of-need process through which a hospital can petition to change the services it provides.

The office “was not made aware of the anticipated termination of clinical pediatric services,” Dr. Raul Pino, DPH commissioner, wrote last week to Fasano.

Though the UConn Health Center includes John Dempsey Hospital on the Farmington campus, it offers pediatric services primarily at offices at 65 Kane St. in West Hartford and at 800 Connecticut Blvd. in East Hartford. Pino added that, “There is no statute or regulation that specifically exempts the (John Dempsey) Hospital from the CON process.”

“The certificate-of-need process ensures openness and transparency when health care facilities close or services are terminated,” Fasano said Tuesday. “It’s important to include the public in the process so that our state can be certain that access to high quality and affordable care is protected. Certainly we don’t want to see families in our cities lose access to local pediatric care without being properly informed.”

The university released a statement early Tuesday evening saying that the UConn Medical Group, with is the health center’s outpatient practice, provides the pediatric services. The medical group “is not a part of the UConn John Dempsey Hospital and, as such, it is our understanding that a Certificate of Need (which is applicable to hospital services) is not required. We are however happy to answer any questions from OHCA, legislators or other stakeholders.”

Pino also wrote to Fasano that if the Office of Health Care Access determines that UConn should have gone through the certificate-of-need process — and if it fails to do so before terminating services — the hospital may be subject to civil penalties.

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