Connecticut failed to secure the $100 million federal grant it needed to help pay for the $362 million expansion of the University of Connecticut Health Center and John Dempsey Hospital in Farmington.
The project, which was approved by the legislature and signed by Gov. M. Jodi Rell this summer, planned on using the $100 million made available under the national health care reform act to help defray some of the construction costs. In fact Rell and the legislature made the project contingent upon the state getting $100 million from a federal grant or through private donations.
While disappointed Gov.-elect Dan Malloy said it’s not the end of the road just yet.
“A renovated, expanded UConn Health Center is something I think is critical to the economic revival of central Connecticut, and it would clearly benefit the state from a public health standpoint and from an education standpoint,” Malloy said. “It’s the type of investment we need to fight for.”
“This is a disappointment and a set-back, but we cannot allow it to be an insurmountable obstacle to our state’s future success and competitiveness,” Malloy added.
Rell, who leaves office in a few days, agreed.
“While today’s decision is tremendously disappointing, I know that UConn, our Congressional delegation, John Dempsey and the partner hospitals remain committed to finding the funding necessary to realize this important goal,” Rell said.
Connecticut’s Congressional delegation shared Malloy and Rell’s sentiment.
“Although I am disappointed, I applaud the University of Connecticut for putting together such a strong application, and the State Legislature for providing the critical support we needed,” U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, who was instrumental in including the money in the federal legislation, said in a statement. “And while this is no doubt a setback to Connecticut’s efforts to expand and improve John Dempsey Hospital, it is my hope that all parties involved will continue their efforts to further establish a center of health care excellence here in our state.”
It’s still unclear why Connecticut didn’t receive the funds.
Rep. Roberta Willis of Torrington who chairs the Higher Education Committee said she’s determined to find another way to make this work. She said possibly a major capital campaign or corporate donations for the research the university planned to use as part of the renovation.
“The news is so disheartening to staff and everyone who worked so hard on this project,” Willis said.
“We deeply believe in the strength of all the regional initiatives within the UConn Health Network and the critical importance of the John Dempsey Hospital renewal plan. Efforts to implement our renewal project, construct the patient care tower and establish the UConn Health Network will continue as we seek to secure necessary funding,” UConn Interim President Philip Austin and Dr. Cato Laurencin said in a joint statement. “We are pleased to say we have unwavering support from the UConn Foundation, the University’s fund raising arm, as well as many community leaders who are fully committed to the success of these initiatives.”
The grant went instead to Ohio State University where it will be used to fund the construction and renovation of a medical center including an outpatient and research hospital, according to a Health Resources and Services Administration press release.
“This award will enable Ohio State University to strengthen their ability to provide needed inpatient and outpatient clinical care, while at the same time making substantial improvements in their research capabilities,” said HRSA Administrator Mary K. Wakefield.
According to a statement by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), the grant will help that university fund ProjectONE, the largest construction project in its history which will greatly expand its medical center.