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ECHN, Waterbury Hospital CEOs say Yale acquisition will lead to better patient care, more services

Yale New Haven Hospital holds ceremony to celebrate breaking ground on its $838 million, 505,000 square foot Neuroscience Center on the Saint Raphael Campus.
Tyler Russell
Connecticut Public
Shovels rest at the ready earlier this year at a Yale New Haven Hospital groundbreaking ceremony on the Saint Raphael Campus.

The Yale New Haven Health System (YNHHS) entered into an agreement with Prospect Medical Holdings Inc. to acquire three Connecticut hospitals.

YNHHS will acquire Waterbury Hospital, Manchester Memorial Hospital and Rockville General Hospital in Vernon, Connecticut, with combined bed capacity of 708. The deal also involves the purchase of Prospect Provider Group of Connecticut, and Visiting Nurse and Health Services of CT. The financial details of the purchases were not disclosed.

“We believe that this merger will improve care links for ambulatory, acute care, home health and rehabilitation care, through the affiliation of YNHH and the Yale School of Medicine as a kind of integrated approach to health care delivery for our region,” said Deborah Waymouth, CEO of ECHN.

ECHN and Waterbury Health have approximately 4,400 employees and would shift to not-for-profit status post-acquisition.

“Now more than ever, it’s critical for us to find ways to creatively sustain local access to high-quality care,” Christopher O’Connor, CEO and president of YNHHS, said in a news release. YNHHS currently owns five hospitals in Connecticut – Bridgeport, Greenwich, Lawrence + Memorial, Westerly and Yale New Haven hospitals.

“We are incredibly excited about this prospect as it brings a lot of the values and goals that both Yale and Waterbury Health share around quality and improving patient outcome and care delivery,” said Dr. Justin Lundby, president and CEO Waterbury Hospital. “It is going to be very good for the community in terms of opportunities and access to health care.”

While the two organizations have agreed to the terms of the merger, the deal is pending state regulatory approval.

“Yale New Haven Health Care has not yet submitted a Certificate of Need (CON) application to acquire the three Prospect hospitals,” said Tina Hyde, Connecticut Office of Health Strategy. “As the state’s regulator of health care costs, the Office of Health Strategy is paying close attention to the number of hospital acquisitions of independent physician practices and the consolidation of other types of health care practices and providers. Numerous studies have shown that these types of acquisitions raise health care costs for consumers.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said in a statement to reporters that “the continued consolidation of hospitals and health care services in Connecticut is troubling. I urge the Office of Health Strategy to carefully and critically review the impact of this transaction on consumer choice, prices and the level of care provided.”

Since 2015, large hospital systems have acquired smaller groups, leading to concern over the effect of consolidations on prices and access to care. Hartford HealthCare alone acquired 18 groups since 2015, according to publicly available data from the OHS.

Post consolidation, formerly independent hospitals cut essential services, including labor and delivery.

“We represent registered nurses and health professionals at two hospitals – Windham Community Memorial and Johnson Memorial, whose owners cut those services,” said Matt O’Connor, AFT Connecticut, a statewide labor federation of more than 90 local unions. “Rockville General’s labor and delivery services shuttered years ago, but Prospect Med Holdings have cut numerous other services.”

But Lundby is confident that the Yale acquisition will keep essential care open to the community.

“I suspect and expect that we will have more access to care because they can bring some of their expertise to our communities when needed,” he said.

Sujata Srinivasan is Connecticut Public Radio’s senior health reporter. Prior to that, she was a senior producer for Where We Live, a newsroom editor, and from 2010-2014, a business reporter for the station.

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