Here in Connecticut, we have an Office of Heath Strategy, a State supervised review board that holds a Certificate of Need hearing and carefully reviews both sides of the merits of permanently closing the Windham Hospital’s 88-year-old maternity unit or whether safety and equity prevails and the maternity unit is reopened and enhanced.
As a mother of three children born safely at Windham Hospital and as a member of our community coalition, Windham United to Save Our Healthcare, I did my testimony at the November 10, 2021 hearing. I have noted the July 2022 ruling by the Office of Health Strategy and the supporting statement by Attorney General William Tong that denies the closing by the applicant, Hartford Healthcare.
The healthcare services of our childbearing mothers and their families will remain open and be restored. The risk of countless babies being born by the side of the road, or in the emergency room, will become a risk of the past. I know in my heart that the community, the State of CT Office of Health Strategy, and the Attorney General stand together strongly to keep our maternity services safe and local once more.
Hartford Healthcare has opted to file an appeal to keep the unit permanently closed and will repeat their position that it is not safe and not staffable to keep a maternity unit open for under a 100 babies born at Windham.
I could not agree more with this statement. I am left with the question of what neglect to maternity unit services did Hartford Healthcare, the steward of the unit, foster in the decade from 2010 to 2020? They promised the community the keeping of core services at the Hospital, close to home.
In 2010 they had 428 births, a healthy and safe number, comparable to Backus Hospital. All the financial backing and medical expertise available to Hartford Healthcare did not deem the maternity unit worth running. They had deceived the community and made moves to consolidate and regionalize childbirth away. Windham Hospital had become a “gateway health center” where the emergency room triages maternity services away from Windham.
Further cuts such as 90 nurses fired in one day, and the 2015 closing of the intensive care unit showed their true corporate intentions.
I know the state and the community voices and healthcare access and equity will be restored to rebuilding our maternity unit, our ICU and other core services. We will need a regulatory board to make sure Hartford Healthcare does not sabotage our community once again.
Brenda Buchbinder lives in Willimantic.