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Medical workers and lawmakers rally in Hartford amid uncertain future for 3 CT community hospitals

Regina Pilatti, an RN at Manchester Hospital, was among healthcare workers from Manchester, Rockville, and Waterbury hospitals rallying at the state capitol to encourage a deal that would see those three hospitals change ownership from for-profit Prospect Medical to ownership by Yale Medical.
Tyler Russell
/
Connecticut Public
Regina Pilatti, a registered nurse at Manchester Hospital, was among health care workers from Manchester, Rockville, and Waterbury hospitals rallying at the state Capitol to encourage a deal that would see those three hospitals change ownership from Prospect Medical to Yale Medical.

Doctors and nurses from Manchester Memorial Hospital, Rockville General Hospital, and Waterbury Hospital rallied at the state Capitol in Hartford Monday, to protest against worsening finances and its effect on patient care.

Prospect Medical Holdings bought three Connecticut hospitals in 2016. Since then, critics of the move say the group, funded by private equity, cut patient services and drew down hospital finances.

Dr. Dushyant Gandhi, a cardiologist and president of medical staff at Eastern Connecticut Health Network (ECHN), which operates Manchester Memorial and Rockville General, said he never imagined he’d be discussing the possible closure of the hospital he’s worked at for close to 30 years.

“Colleagues of mine ... they are not getting paid for the services, including myself,” Gandhi said.

In addition to its Connecticut holdings, Los Angeles-based Prospect Medical Holdings also owns more than a dozen other hospitals in Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and California.

The holding company was funded by the private equity group Leonard Green & Partners, also of Los Angeles, which held the majority stake from 2010 to 2021.

During that time, “the Leonard Green-led ownership group has drawn $658 million dollars in fees and dividends from the company even as the hospitals suffered operating challenges, substantially underfunded pensions, and regulatory scrutiny,” according to the Private Equity Stakeholder Project, a nonprofit group that pushes for more transparency in the influence of private equity on the lives of millions of American workers.

Prospect Medical Holdings did not immediately respond to a request for comment about its stake in the three Connecticut hospitals.

In a statement, ECHN says “this rally is neither coordinated nor sanctioned by Prospect Medical or ECHN leadership. However, we understand that some members of our medical staff and other employees feel compelled to participate in a civic demonstration due to its relevance to our future.”

Rockville General and Waterbury Hospital are what’s called safety-net hospitals. Most of the patients are covered by state Medicaid, or no insurance at all. Manchester Memorial also serves low-income populations.

State Rep. Kevin Brown, D-Rockville, said a “socio economically-distressed community” like Rockville needs the hospital for its health care services. “I can’t imagine where we would be, if any of these hospitals close,” Brown said.

Standing beside hospital staff, State Sen. Dr. Saud Anwar, D-South Windsor, co-chair of the Public Health Committee, said some travel nurses are likely to stop working at these facilities if they’re not paid.

“Whatever services they provide would have to be decreased,” Anwar said. “I know for a short time, there were surgeries that were being postponed at one of the facilities, because anesthesia service availability was impacted.”

An agreement by Yale New Haven Health to acquire the three Prospect-owned hospitals stalled after a series of business decisions and events, including high rent payments from a real estate deal, cyberattacks, and nonpayment to vendors, worsened their finances.

Prospect has a reputation for driving hospitals into a “slow death spiral,” Anwar said.

Jason Doucette, a Democratic state representative representing Manchester, said he wants to see the Yale deal close.

The sooner we can get this transaction done, the sooner that we can get Prospect Medical out of the state of Connecticut,” Doucette said. “The alternative is frankly unthinkable; certainly in my community it could have a devastating impact.”

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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