Legislature Debates New Hospital Buildings In Closing Hours of Session

Nearly two years after Sen. Dodd attempted to bring $990 million to Connecticut to rebuild the UConn health center, the legislature began debating the subject again one day before the end of session. It was a proposal which arose earlier this session but previously was thought to be dead.

“This proposal is about creating jobs throughout the state,” said sponsor Roberta Willis D-Salisbury. “Every project we pile on impacts the budget. Our debt service is already around 11%,” countered Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford. “If our revenues don’t stand as expected, we’ll have to cancel bond projects.”

Other proposals affecting hospitals statewide include a new hospital bed tax on all patients. That proposal already passed the legislature. Funds from the tax will be redistributed to other hospitals in Connecticut. Rep. Miner R-Morris asked Willis if the UConn Medical Center would also be taxed. “Since its a state hospital, no it would not.”

UConn’s Farmington campus includes the State University’s Medical and Dental Schools. The proposal would do the following:

Build a New bed tower
Renovate academic and research buildings
Increase bed capacity
Move the neonatal ICU from CT Children’s Medical Center to Farmington
Create a clinical trial Cancer Care Treatment in New Britain
Renovate rooms at Bristol Hospital
Build a new Conference Center at Hartford Hospital
Nursing Center at UConn- Storrs
Construct an Ambulatory Care Center – partially privately financed

Some legislators were upset about the quick run-up to this proposal which has changed over the past year. “There was a very short public hearing on this proposal. And we were only able to ask one question. I want to support it in the worst way, but only after hearing from my local hospitals who know how this may or may not affect them,” said Rep. Sean Williams of Watertown. “The President of Waterbury Hospital just happened to e-mail me one day before we both heard about this proposal about his opening thoughts. He might be right. He might be wrong. But I don’t know.” Williams pressed to delay the vote until legislators could learn more about the project and its impact.

Rep. Rovero D- Thompson exclaimed “We’re not talking about $254 million dollars. When you up the interest, it amounts to a $1.2 Billion project. I’m not saying I’m against the project, but some people in here talk about one billion dollars as if its one hundred dollars.”

Even though some Republicans are pushing against the proposal because of its timing and large bonding amount, other Republicans touted experiences at the health center. Rep. Adinolfi was among these. Other legislators touted the research components of the health center. UConn has nine companies which operate out of its stem cell research (including a controversial embryonic research center).

$305 million was previously approved by the legislature in previous years. Half of that has been spent thus far.

The debate is ongoing late Tuesday night.


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