Last week, I joined a number of my fellow colleagues to meet with Gov. Ned Lamont to discuss our concerns regarding Manchester Memorial Hospital, issues with its owner Prospect Medical, and its potential and discussed sale to Yale New Haven Health.
We are working with the Governor’s office to ensure the local population is represented in light of the extreme concerns that could arise if Manchester Memorial does not continue the operations its community is accustomed to.
We know that Manchester Memorial, among other Prospect Medical Holdings hospitals, recently experienced significant problems when the company was the victim of a cyberattack that restricted and harmed its operations for weeks. Not only did this lead to the closing of its emergency room on a number of occasions, but the continued struggles and interruptions impacted procedures and hampered its efforts to treat patients and receive funding.
The cyberattack does not explain the whole issue, though — a number of reports in recent years indicate that Prospect has profited on the backs of the hospitals it owns while leaving those hospitals in financial straits, including that, in 2018, CBS reported that Prospect took a loan of more than $1 billion and used nearly half those funds to pay executives and shareholders, putting its own hospitals in poor financial condition by selling their land and leasing them. As a business owner, in addition to being a state senator, I know the proper ways to operate large financial decisions. These actions are, to put it simply, not good ones.
My most severe concerns over these issues, on top of reporting that indicates Prospect hospitals have suffered financial issues due to actions of the company itself, center around the services provided by those hospitals. Manchester is a community of more than 60,000 people, and our community relies on it on both public health and economic bases. Residents in South Windsor, Vernon, Glastonbury, Andover, Bolton, Coventry and more communities in Hartford County are potentially needing care there as well. Any interruptions, or worse, could directly put the community at direct harm. If the state moves forward to continue taxpayer money to the acquisition by Yale New Haven, it must come with a guarantee that the hospitals will not cut any services.
Manchester Memorial Hospital, as one example, saw nearly 32,000 visits to its emergency department in the 2022 fiscal year, according to Eastern Connecticut Health Network data. That’s on top of nearly 8,000 inpatient discharges, nearly 180,000 total outpatient visits, more than 1,500 children born and roughly 5,000 surgical procedures conducted in the hospital. Without Manchester Memorial operating at full capacity, especially if it were to close, our town, region and state could suffer significantly.
The closing of this hospital — along with Rockville General and Waterbury Hospitals — would cause a potential disaster in two separate ways. First, it would disenfranchise the 200,000 residents who are within the hospital’s care area, making access to care more difficult in the event of emergency and causing them to need to travel further to receive that care. That travel points to the other inherent issue with such a closure, in that other hospitals around the state would directly suffer due to an influx of new patients. Farther travel for care would make emergency medical situations’ outcomes worse, while additionally putting more pressure on fewer emergency rooms. This would be extremely alarming, putting pressure on hospitals that have already suffered significantly due to the pandemic. It could lead to worse health outcomes and worse care overall, something we all want to avoid.
That’s not to discount a secondary impact that such issues would have on the local economy. More than 1,000 people work at Manchester Memorial Hospital, with nearly 200 working at Rockville General Hospital and more working at Waterbury Hospital. The consequences of a closure would be devastating on the local community, as many of these employees live and work locally, depressing local economies. It would further potentially lead to a brain drain, as many of these trained professionals may seek and pursue employment outside of our communities, removing educated, qualified and skilled professionals from Manchester, residents it may be hard to get back.
Given that these problems date back well before the cyberattack, and can largely be tied to Prospect’s poor leadership decisions, potential compromised patient care due to mismanagement could even cause the state to look into investigating the company if its poor financial actions compromised or could lead to compromised quality patient care.
That’s why my colleagues and I are so dedicated to working to find a solution for this crisis and ensure local medical care can continue without significant impact to the community. Manchester Memorial is a linchpin for our town and region, as are Rockville General Hospital and Waterbury Hospital. We must do what we can to support them, as the impact could otherwise be devastating.
State Sen. MD Rahman represents Senate District 4: Andover, Bolton, Glastonbury and Manchester.