Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the new $8.35 million, 30,000-square-foot ambulatory care facility at Windham Hospital is just the type of project in which he hopes the state will invest to spur economic development in Connecticut’s northeastern corner
The project, which was announced Tuesday at an event in the private hospital’s lobby, is expected to be approved Friday by the state Bond Commission.
“In the short term, it’s going to provide at least 120 construction jobs,“ Sen. President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, said. “In the long term this will strengthen this critical asset, Windham, and the entire region.”
With 800 employees earning an estimated $90 million a year, Williams said the hospital is an economic driver in the region with $60 to $70 million of those earnings getting returned to the economy of northeastern Connecticut for services, goods, and local businesses.
Malloy said he was willing to make the investment in the project because it’s “shovel ready” and he understands the importance of the hospital to the region’s economy.
Williams praised Malloy as being a different kind of governor who is willing to tackle problems “head on.”
“Not ducking and covering. Not pretending they don’t exist,” Williams. “But addressing them head on and taking action.”
Malloy controls the Bond Commission’s agenda and since he took office in January it’s been an ambitious one.
“What I’ve been looking for in putting together a bond agenda are projects that are ready to go, ready to be built,” Malloy said. “Ready to make institutions stronger and ultimately ready to allow for the expansion of our employment base here in Connecticut.”
“By all accounts this project makes perfect sense,” Malloy said.
He said larger hospitals have spent a lot of money on ambulatory care, which is favored over hospital beds under the new federal health care reform law. He said smaller hospitals need to make investments in things such as the ambulatory care facility where primary care physicians, medical oncologists and physical therapists will practice and “this investment by the state is a recognition of that fact.”
“If you can deliver those services on an ambulatory basis you’re actually cutting the cost of health care,” Malloy said.
He said the project is likely to lower the cost of health care in the region.
It’s one of the largest investments in a private hospital his administration has made to date. Malloy couldn’t account for the investments of his predecessors, but he said it’s a substantial investment, but it’s not as large as the $864 million the state will borrow for the University of Connecticut Health Center expansion. UConn is the state’s only public hospital, so it won’t be hit by the hospital provider tax on profits.
The final calculations have not been made so it’s unclear how Windham Hospital will fare when the state finally decides how much it will tax its private hospitals.
Malloy’s budget eliminated $83 million in state funding that hospitals received for treating the uninsured and underinsured and tried to make up for it by implementing a 5.5 percent provider tax to raise more than $266 million in fiscal year 2012 and $269 million in fiscal year 2013.
The tax would then be matched at around 50 percent by federal funds and redistributed to the hospitals in a way that creates winners and losers. After five iterations of the tax and its impact on hospitals, Malloy’s budget office returned to the drawing board to reconfigure it in the least harmful way possible. Those calculations have yet to be finalized, even though the tax is included in the budget Malloy signed May 4.
“The exact number won’t be known until we proceed down that road,” Malloy said of the tax.