Two legislative committees will hold hearings Thursday on issues related to the conversion of nonprofit hospitals to for-profit models.
Lawmakers, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, and union officials have been wary of unknowns when it comes to for-profit hospitals and what they mean for the residents of Connecticut. Currently, the state’s only for-profit is Sharon Hospital, which converted in 2002 after it was purchased by Essent Healthcare.
Members of the legislature’s Public Health Committee will hear a presentation from representatives of Sharon Hospital during an informational hearing Thursday morning. Sen. Terry Gerratana, whose committee is drafting legislation to increase state scrutiny of the conversion process, said Connecticut’s current laws on the subject were written when Sharon Hospital was purchased.
“It will be interesting to hear about the process at that time and also to ask them some questions,” Gerratana said.
Representatives of Bristol Hospital and the Eastern Connecticut Health Network also are expected to address the committee. Both non-profits are considering acquisition offers from for-profit companies.
Gerratana said the bill her committee is working on will “beef up” scrutiny of the conversion application. She said the legislation, which will be modeled in part off similar policies in Rhode Island, will be aimed at protecting the people who use the state’s hospitals.
“We feel there should be some more protections, safeguard, requirements, and disclosure, and more transparency. These are all components we’re putting into our legislation,” she said.
Later in the day, the Labor and Public Employees Committee will hear public testimony on a separate bill, which lawmakers hope will protect hospital employees during conversions. Labor Committee Co-Chairwoman Sen. Cathy Osten said the bill addresses the “employee working condition side of the question.”
“We want to make sure that during a conversion . . . their rights are retained,” she said. “To make sure that issues revolving around whether it would be a continuation of the collective bargaining environment, protection of their pensions and wages, are all addressed. We’re looking at it comprehensively.”
The bill will require private companies looking to acquire a hospital to enter an agreement to maintain the current pay and benefit rates of the hospital employees, recognize the unions representing and honor the collective bargaining agreements already entered into. The legislation also requires the company to maintain the hospitals staffing levels for at least three years.
“We’re looking to make sure that what the workers in the company have worked on for so long don’t get destroyed just by converting it to a for-profit environment where making the profits for the hospitals come on the backs of workers,” she said.