Hospital scorecard

The past few months have been witness to a string of decisions from the Connecticut Office of Health Strategy (OHS) regarding applications from rural hospitals that want to end labor and delivery services.

OHS was created in 2018 to develop and implement a comprehensive healthcare vision for the state, and requires certain types of providers to obtain state approval prior to making major changes in the healthcare landscape.The current OHS scorecard shows two proposed denials and one approval. But it’s not over yet.

Sharon Hospital has been at the forefront in our corner. Last August, the state issued a proposed final decision denying the hospital’s request. Citing losses of more than $20 million in a single year, the hospital, part of Nuvance Health, estimated that closing the maternity unit would save $3 million in large part by enabling the hospital to employ some 18 fewer staff members, and cut down on physician fees incurred by after-hours surgery and anesthesia services. In its proposed final decision, denying the request, OHS noted that despite losses in fiscal year 2021, its parent Nuvance Health had an excess of revenue over expenses. Many factors are under scrutiny, including an aging demographic that wants access to primary and preventative care, behavioral health care and maternal and child health care. Births occur on only 45% of days in the year at Sharon Hospital.

Approval with terms

Last month, the state granted approval to another rural hospital across the state that sought permission to end labor and delivery. Windham Hospital near Willimantic had been denied permission the year before. The Hartford Healthcare hospital’s green light this time came with terms. It must conduct an independent study of the need for a birthing center, and if one is justified Windham Hospital must find a provider or operate such a facility itself. In addition, the hospital will be required to provide transportation for expectant mothers in addition to providing prenatal and postpartum care.

And just last week, OHS denied Trinity Health of New England’s application to close the labor and delivery unit at Johnson Memorial Hospital in Stafford Springs. OHS noted that the hospital failed to demonstrate that closing the labor and delivery service would improve accessibility and cost effectiveness of healthcare delivery in the region. Johnson Memorial has a channel of appeal.

In Sharon Hospital’s case, its oral appeal took place in November before OHS’s Executive Director Deirdre Gifford. Lawyers for Sharon Hospital cited four major flaws in OHS’s proposed final decision, and they concluded that the “policy choice that best serves patients is to transform Sharon Hospital into a resource that delivers the right care in the right place at the right time.” (See story on Page A4.)

OHS’s Gifford will have the final say, which is anxiously awaited in hospital’s primary service area in the Northwest Corner and in eastern Dutchess County where the Save Sharon Hospital group has been campaigning against the change for years.

Gifford is no stranger to the healthcare world. Prior to her OHS role, she led the state Department of Social Services from June, 2019 until January 2023. In May 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic intensified, Gov. Lamont appointed her Acting Commissioner of the Department of Public Health. Before serving in Connecticut, Gifford was Deputy Director for the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services from 2016 to 2019.

Latest News

Top seed Thomaston eliminates HVRHS from Berkshires tourney

Mia Dodge looked for offensive opportunities against Thomaston’s dominant defense in the Berkshire League semifinal game.

Riley Klein

WASHINGTON — Thomaston High School girls basketball defeated Housatonic Valley Regional High School (HVRHS) 53-25 in the Berkshire League tournament semifinals Tuesday, Feb. 20.

The defending champion Golden Bears advanced to the championship for a rematch of last year’s title game against Northwestern, which defeated Gilbert 61-44 in the semifinal match prior to the HVRHS/Thomaston game.

Keep ReadingShow less
Town planning to assume responsibility for local cemeteries

KENT — After months of consideration of disbanding the Kent Cemetery Association, the Board of Selectmen reviewed a nearly final draft of a new cemetery ordinance at a special workshop meeting Tuesday, Feb. 6.

If the new ordinance is approved at a town meeting, the town would take on responsibility for Kent’s six cemeteries, disbanding the association.

Keep ReadingShow less
Falls Village adopts new POCD

FALLS VILLAGE — The Board of Selectmen approved the new Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) at a special meeting Tuesday, Feb. 13, which was held in person and online.

The selectmen and the Board of Finance both held special meetings Feb. 13 because the regular meeting date of Monday, Feb. 12, was the Lincoln’s Birthday holiday.

Keep ReadingShow less
Banned Book Awards champions children’s right to read
Judy Blume connected digitally at the ceremony and was honored with a lifetime achievement award.
Alexander Wilburn

There can be no question that democratic freedoms are currently being attacked and restricted in the United States, and somehow, children and the information they have access to have been the ongoing targets of attack.

As AP News reported in 2023: “More than 1,200 challenges were compiled in 2022, nearly double the then-record total from 2021 and by far the most since the American Library Association began keeping data 20 years ago.” Conservative groups across the country have become well-organized machines harassing individual public and school librarians with threats of legal and violent action. The message from these groups, often supported by government leaders, is that children should not have access to books — books meant for young readers — that engage with topics of race, gender or sexual identity.

Keep ReadingShow less