Op-ed: How to keep high-quality hospital care in local communities
With the rapidly changing health care industry, hospitals are facing enormous performance and financial pressures. Hospitals need to have the flexibility to adapt to the changes and preserve local access to quality care. This includes having the option to convert to an investor-owned model that will provide new sources of much-needed investment in facilities and technology, and to join larger hospital systems that will help improve quality and lower costs. It is time to allow Connecticut’s hospitals to take the actions necessary to remain a vital part of the state’s communities.
Tenet Healthcare has partnered with Yale New Haven Health System to offer an innovative solution to ensure Bristol and Waterbury Hospitals, and Eastern Connecticut Health Network (ECHN) remain part of Connecticut’s communities. Legislation is being proposed that could prevent these hospitals from taking the necessary steps to become financially stable.
Some state officials and other organizations have expressed concern about converting hospitals to for-profit institutions. It is important for officials to scrutinize proposals to protect the interests of communities, patients and workers. The current conversion system is a transparent process that achieves this important goal. It also gives hospitals the flexibility to respond to the changing health care industry and continue to provide quality patient care.
Much of the information being requested by the proposed hospital conversion bills is already required by the current certificate of need process that goes through the Attorney General’s office and Office of Healthcare Access. Waterbury Hospital has submitted more than 4,000 pages of information as required by the current process. This information is available to the public on the state’s website.
One of the biggest concerns we hear about is job security. More than 1,400 people were laid off from Connecticut hospitals last year in the current not-for-profit model. Our proposed solution will make these organizations financially stronger, investing in existing and new services, putting them in a better place to retain employees and create jobs. Our philosophy on staffing is simple – it is all about patient care. We staff our facilities in a way that provides the highest quality care for our patients and the communities we serve.
Speaking of quality, we also hear concerns that as a for-profit, we will neglect the quality of patient care. This is simply not true. Quality reports published in 2013 by The Joint Commission and Leapfrog show that the average quality scores across our system are higher than three-quarters of Connecticut’s hospitals. All hospitals are required to follow the same patient care services and licensing rules, including the State Department of Health, the Joint Commission for Accreditation, and Medicare.
Both for-profit and not-for-profit hospitals have the same mission: to provide the highest quality care to all those who need it and to be an economic engine for the communities in which they serve. The charity care provided at Tenet Healthcare hospitals matches or exceeds comparable not-for-profit hospitals. In 2013, we provided more than $800 million in uncompensated care for the uninsured and under-insured.
As a for-profit hospital network, we have access to the funding necessary to make investments in new equipment and services, employees and the community. For example, we invested $1 billion to transform Baptist Health System, an institution that was on the verge of bankruptcy, into San Antonio’s most successful hospital system. Not-for-profit hospitals just do not have access to the capital to make the kind of investments we can.
If Tenet becomes part of some of Connecticut’s communities, we commit to providing quality patient care, preserving the hospitals’ place in the community and treating our employees with the respect and dignity they deserve. We will bring the resources necessary to stabilize and sustain Connecticut’s vital health care delivery systems.
Trip Pilgrim is senior vice president, Development, of the Tenet Healthcare Corp.
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