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"Getting To Know Darlene"

Darlene Stromstad, New President & CEO of MVHS, is our opposition - and just like her - we wish to know and understand our opponents. So here's what we know; this page is our Darlene "blog", there's a link to her "Bio", as well as one to track what's she's saying...

Ms Stromstad last effort to merge two hospitals failed, and she comes to MVHS after only running a small set of health clinics in Boston, Fenway Health. Now in Utica she heads not a health care organization, no, just a tiny community board that's been siezed by a political campaign and special interests. A financially fragile health system, which cannot afford this New Hospital Concept, yet one that Govenor Cuomo funds... without a single study of the need!

Blog | Bio | Darlene's Digest/Just Her Facts


January 4, 2019 - We've drafted a fullpage ad in the UticaOD to welcome our new hospital CEO. We're hoping to share a conversation soon...

Ms Stromstad took over after Scott H. Perra retired. Here's the MVHS Board Of Directors.

August 25, 2019 - Darlene is unable to say the truth, so we have someone who will for her... Darlene's Morally Correct Digest: CSX Train Tracks vs. #mvhsdowntown...

Please Consider - Ms Stromstad, just as other corporate executives do, they often bring a trusted advisor or two. Realizing she's become attached to a massive boondoggle (that will require additional PR and a massive marketing lift), Darlene has brough-on a longtime marketing pal, meet Patty.

July 9, 2019 - Just in from the field... "Darlene's new salary just bought her this modest place." We're delighted Ms Stromstad is settling down here, but as she and 99.9% of the MVHS Board of Directors, sit in their suburban homes we're going to fight their urban renewl hospital concept.

June 19, 2019 - Read Darlene's and Patty's new email marketing efforts Darlene & Patty Use MailChimp To Push Utica's #Mvhsdowntown Hospital Scam, well they actually also talk a bit about MVHS's attempts at healthcare too.

Darlene's MVHS Bio

Darlene Stromstad is President/CEO of Mohawk Valley Health System (Parent Company) of Faxton St. Luke’s Healthcare, St. Elizabeth Medical Center and all related corporations in Utica, New York. Mohawk Valley Health System (MVHS) serves a multi county area of central New York and is comprised of 570 acute care beds, 202 long term care beds and over 50 locations in Oneida, Herkimer, and Madison Counties. An integrated delivery system with approximately $525 million in revenue and 4,200 full time equivalent employees, it has more than 24,000 inpatient admissions and 650,000 outpatient visits annually.

Ms. Stromstad received her Master of Business Administration from Rivier College in Nashua, New Hampshire, and her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Ms. Stromstad has decades of experience in healthcare and has led a variety of healthcare organizations across the country. She most recently was in Boston, Massachusetts, where she served as interim CEO of Fenway Health, one of the nation’s premier and largest federally qualified health centers. Prior to that, Ms. Stromstad was in Connecticut where she served as president/CEO of Waterbury Hospital and the Greater Waterbury Health Network (now known as Waterbury HEALTH). During her six-year tenure at Waterbury Hospital, Ms. Stromstad helped to stabilize the organization’s financial position, rebuild its employee culture and morale, and assure its future through a strategic partnership and acquisition. Prior to that she served as president and CEO of Goodall Hospital in Sanford, Maine, where she also was instrumental in strengthening the hospital’s finances and expanding healthcare services for the community.

Ms. Stromstad is known nationally for her leadership and active engagement in organizations such as the American College of Healthcare Executives where she served as a member of the Board of Governors. She also served on the American Hospital Association’s Metropolitan Advisory Council. She served at the statewide level on the Board of Directors of the Connecticut Hospital Association and the Maine Hospital Association, and at the local and regional levels as a Board member for the Greater Waterbury United Way, Greater Waterbury Chamber of Commerce, Naugatuck Community College, and Sanford Downtown Legacy.

(Mohawk Valley Health System: Faxton St. Luke’s Healthcare • St. Elizabeth Medical Center • St. Luke’s Home Residential Health Care Facility, Inc. • Visiting Nurse Association of Utica and Oneida County, Inc. • Senior Network Health, LLC)

January 1, 2019 - Episode Ten: There's a New CEO in Town...

CEO Stromstad will be working; to meet the community, be very visible and developing trust.

November 08, 2018 -News breaks here, MVHS introduces new president/CEO, and MVHS names new president/CEO. We've begun a conversion on Facebook

Interesting stories and more information follows on new MVHS CEO...

September 16, 2013 - Darlene Stromstad hospital saga covered by American Thinker, in blog post titled, Trouble in Dirty Water.

From The Field

#NoHospitalDowntown was sent an attachment with the following background on Ms Stromstad...

Darlene Stromstad, a veteran of health care leadership, will take over as president and CEO of the Mohawk Valley Health System after Scott Perra retires on January 1.

“My career has been about transformation, bringing cultures together,” Stromstad said at a press conference Thursday morning. That’s going to be a crucial skill as Stromstad oversees the complete merger of Faxton St. Luke’s Healthcare and St. Elizabeth Medical Center into a single, new hospital, planned for downtown Utica.

Stromstad most recently worked as interim CEO of Fenway Health, a large federally-qualified health center in Boston. Her other experience includes serving as president/CEO of Waterbury Hospital and the Greater Waterbury Health Network in Connecticut, and working as president/CEO of Goodall Hospital in Sanford, Maine.

Perra has worked in Utica hospitals since 1985 when Utica had four independent hospitals. He worked at St. Luke’s Memorial Hospital Center and helped to oversee its consolidation with Faxton Hospital and later the affiliation of Faxton-St. Luke’s and St. Elizabeth under the health system.

“I think I leave the organization in a great place and I’m pfoud of everything that’s been accomplished,” he said. Check back later for more details on this story.

Ms. Darlene Stromstad has been the Chief Executive Officer and President of Greater Waterbury Health Network, Inc. since July 2011. Ms. Stromstad served as the President and Chief Executive Officer of FACHE. She serves as the President and Chief Executive Officer of Goodall Hospital in Sanford, Maine, where she has served the community for six years, guiding the hospital through unprecedented financial challenges during the economic downturn of 2008 and 2009. Prior to becoming Chief Executive Officer of Goodall Hospital in 2005, Ms. Stromstad served as Senior Vice President at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, NH, a 320-bed community and tertiary heart hospital. She is chair of the Synernet board, which is a regional hospital-owned services business. She also worked for Massachusetts-based Olympus Healthcare, a post acute care provider, and prior to that she served as vice president at St. Joseph Healthcare in Nashua. She serves as a Director at United Way of York County. She served as Trustee of Henrietta D. Goodall Hospital, Inc. She is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives (FACHE). She serves as a Board Member of the Sanford-Springvale Chamber of Commerce, the Maine Hospital Association and the community’s Growth Council. She is a past board member of the York County United Way and has chaired the American Heart Association’s Red Dress campaign for York County. Ms. Stromstad has her BA from the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, and her MBA from Rivier College in Nashua.

Stromstad hired for CEO post at Waterbury Hospital

By Melanie Evans | March 17, 2011

Waterbury (Conn.) Hospital appointed Darlene Stromstad president and CEO to succeed John Tobin, who retired after 24 years in those posts at the end of last year.

Stromstad, 55, president and CEO of Goodall Hospital in Stanford, Maine, will assume the new role in July. Stephen Laverty, formerly president and CEO of Northeast Health System, Beverly, Mass., was named as Waterbury Hospital's interim chief executive after Tobin's departure.

Stromstad joined Goodall Hospital in 2005 from the Catholic Medical Center, Manchester, Maine, where she was senior vice president.

Greater Waterbury HEALTH Network Announces Change in Leadership

Today, Lester Schindel, was named interim CEO of Waterbury HEALTH. Schindel replaces Darlene Stromstad who served on the role for nearly six years leading the network through the transition from non-profit to private ownership under Prospect Medial Holdings Inc.

Schindel served as Chief Strategy and Development Officer for Prospect East, a division of Prospect Medical Holdings Inc. Schindel is expected to lead GWHN through its next phase of growth.

Les is an accomplished hospital leader with extensive experience in developing physician practices and innovative collaborations and partnerships with allied health providers. As CEO at Chartercare Health Partners, Prospect’s two-hospital system in RI, from 2014-2016, Les successfully oversaw Chartercare’s transition to Prospect. He was instrumental in recruiting new physicians to the affiliated medical group and bringing additional physicians and covered lives to the system’s affiliated independent practice association. He also led the expansion and renovation of Roger Williams Medical Center’s Emergency Department and the remodeling of Our Lady of Fatima Hospital’s main floor and outpatient registration.

Prior to joining Prospect, Les was CEO and President of Steward Holy Family in Methuen, Mass., and Merrimack Valley Hospital in Haverhill, Mass., a 402-bed, two-campus hospital north of Boston. Before that, he was CEO of Merrimack Valley Hospital, COO of Metrowest Medical Center in Natick, Mass., and COO of Leonard Morse Hospital, also in Natick. Les is a graduate of Rutgers University and received a master’s degree in health care administration from George Washington University.

Stromstad was instrumental in leading the organization’s nationwide partnership search and successful transition to Prospect. During her tenure, Waterbury Hospital has been recognized for its clinical excellence by a number of national organizations and has earned praise for its patient-centered culture. Given her expertise in hospital turnarounds, Darlene will be providing support to Prospect for organizations that require support. She will also be available to support Les during the transition.

Waterbury Hospital taps Maine exec as CEO

Waterbury Hospital says it has named a former senior health care executive from Maine as its president and CEO.

Darlene Stromstad will join Waterbury Hospital in her new role in early July, the hospital announced Thursday. Stromstad currently serves as president and CEO of Goodall Hospital in Sanford, Maine, where she has spent the past six years.

"We are extremely pleased to welcome Darlene Stromstad to the Waterbury Hospital family," Carl Contadini, chairman of the Waterbury Hospital board of trustees, said in a statement. "This is a critical juncture in determining the region's ability to meet its health care needs, and we are confident that Darlene will uphold the hospital's mission to continue providing the highest quality care to our patients well into the future."

During Stromstad's tenure at Goodall, the hospital implemented an aggressive outpatient strategy, recruited numerous physicians, improved its quality scores and built a reputation as a caring business in the community, Waterbury Hospital officials said.

Stromstad is a board member of the Sanford-Springvale Chamber of Commerce, the Maine Hospital Association and the community's Growth Council. She is also a past board member of the York County United Way and has chaired the American Heart Association's Red Dress campaign for York County.

Before becoming Goodall's CEO in 2005, Stromstad was senior vice president at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, N.H., a 320-bed community and tertiary heart hospital.

By Shawn P. Sullivan / Sanford News Editor

Posted Mar 17, 2011 at 3:15 AM

SANFORD — Goodall Hospital’s president and CEO is leaving her position in Sanford and heading to Connecticut. Darlene Stromstad, who has led the hospital through its growth and challenges for the past six years, has accepted the position of CEO at Waterbury Hospital in Waterbury, Conn. She will leave Goodall Hospital at the end of May and will start her new job in July.

“The time is right,” Stromstad said of her departure. “Goodall is in strong shape and is once again considering exploring membership in MaineHealth, the state’s largest health care system. I am very proud of this organization and the work I’ve done here. And now it’s time for me to use my experience and energy for new challenges.” Stromstad became CEO six years ago when the board of trustees decided to reposition the hospital to address the changing health care needs of the community.

“Darlene has been a great steward of this organization and a tremendous advocate for our patients, our employees and our medical staff. Especially during the recent economic downturn, she exhibited a tireless dedication that brought stability to the hospital,” said Mark Mickeriz, the chairman of the Goodall Hospital board of trustees. “Under her leadership, Goodall Hospital has grown significantly and today is a healthy and vibrant health care organization.”

The hospital grew during Stromstad’s tenure — annual net revenue increased, according to Stromstad, from $55 million the year she arrived to almost $90 million today, and the facility also has increased the number of patients it is able to serve. As well, the organization has expanded to the east and west, with a new Goodall Health Center in Kennebunk and the Goodall Professional Park in Waterboro. The main campus itself, on June and July streets here in town, also has grown with a new Medical Office Building and a larger and more advanced emergency department.

The hospital also earned its accreditation in 2006 from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations and garnered good scores during a review three years later, Stromstad said.

Stromstad said she considers the hospital’s ability to recruit excellent physicians among the organization’s most remarkable traits. She praised her staff and commended the “very smart” board of trustees for its leadership.

“I can leave this organization in very good hands,” she said. “I’m very attached to this organization. It’s going to be very hard to leave. It has been a meaningful experience.”

Stromstad also weathered the hospital’s challenges during the sharp economic downturn of 2008 and 2009. To get through those times, Goodall Hospital — Sanford’s largest employer with 925 employees — eliminated the equivalent of 30 positions in 2009 and later cut salaries and benefits across the board. Stromstad took a 20 percent pay cut as well. Last year, salaries and most benefits were restored.

MaineCare reimbursements that the state owed the hospital accounted for much of the financial strain. In February, the Maine Legislature passed Governor Paul LePage’s supplemental budget, which includes $70 million in such reimbursements to hospitals throughout the state. Goodall Hospital is expected to start receiving payments on approximately $5.8 million in owed MaineCare funds at the end of this month. Stromstad called the expected payments “the best news we’ve had in a long time.”

Waterbury Hospital is a private, nonprofit acute care teaching hospital licensed for 367 beds and affiliated with the Yale School of Medicine, the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. The hospital is currently in the process of undertaking new initiatives to build patient volume, including the creation of more private rooms, major operating room renovations, and the addition of a new catheterization lab later this spring.

Stromstad said she is not only comfortable with, but also invigorated by, the prospect of learning the unique dynamics of a new marketplace.

“Every community and every health care organization is different. My experience of living and working in various environments will be valuable in this new position,” she said.

While it’s time for something new for Stromstad, the North Dakota native said one thing will not change.

“But who I am remains the same. Nonprofit hospitals are all about the community, and so am I,” she said.

Trouble in Dirty Water
By Marc E. Fitch

It's 5:30 PM on a Monday at Waterbury Hospital and I am one of the technicians who have been asked to attend a special meeting with the CEO of the hospital, Darlene Stromstad. We meet in the Bizzozero Conference Center. There are enough chairs for about fifty attendees, there are cold-cut wraps and pizza and soda to substitute for our dinner. There are only four of us in attendance. Darlene is dressed in a sharp black pantsuit. Per recommendation by the hospital's attorney she reads prepared remarks and then takes questions. There is awkward, uncomfortable silence. This is the fifth meeting that we have attended this month.

In two days there will be a vote on whether the 120 + hospital technicians -- myself included -- will join the CHCA nurses union that currently represents the hospital nurses and patient care assistants (PCAs). Darlene and hospital administration is pushing hard -- very hard -- for the technicians to vote "No" on July 24th.

Stromstad has been CEO for two years now. She was hired specifically to foster a merger between Waterbury Hospital and a private health company. Her first attempt to have the hospital acquired by Premier Healthcare was met with strong resistance by the unions at Waterbury Hospital along with several social groups. Waterbury Hospital is one of two Hospitals located in the city of Waterbury, Connecticut. The other is Saint Mary's, which is owned by the Catholic Church. Premier Healthcare's plan (or so we were told) was to acquire both hospitals and combine them into one larger, more up-to-date facility.

You see, Waterbury is too big and requires too much care to eliminate one of the hospitals, but there is not enough business to sustain both simultaneously, so they are both in trouble and both looking for investors. The Saint Mary's acquisition was met with resistance due to the stipulations that the Catholic Church -- which was to keep a stake in the hospital -- put on the purchase, namely regarding the use of the hospital for abortions and birth control coverage for employees. After pushback from the government and the unions, Premier bailed on the project and both hospitals were again looking for investment capital.

Waterbury Hospital has a particularly bad situation. Times have been bad and indicators all say they are about to get worse. Waterbury is a tough sell: approximately 65 percent of its patients are supported by Medicaid and the remaining patient base comprises a combination of Medicare, private insurance, or just plain old no insurance at all. In cases such as this, Waterbury Hospital treats the patient and then tries to supplement the cost with grants or through the government. However, Governor Dannel Malloy recently cut Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements, which Stromstad says is costing the Hospital about $450,000 a week. Sound ridiculous? Not really. To stay on the floor I work costs about $5000 per day. I work on the psychiatric floor and I can count on one finger the number of patients we have with private insurance and the rest are Medicaid, Medicare, or nothing. We are constantly at capacity of 29 patients. You do the math. In May in an email to her employees Stromstad wrote, "Waterbury Hospital has already experienced a cut of $1.3 million in state funds for the budget year we are in. As of July 1, the State budget includes an additional 4.13 million in cuts from our Medicaid reimbursement on the same level of volumes, which will add to our losses. On top of that, the federal sequestration has resulted in an approximate $900,000 decrease in reimbursement this year."

Waterbury Hospital had already experienced a few rounds of layoffs the previous year. In June, Stromstad sent out another email informing employees that the equivalent of 83 full-time positions will have to be eliminated in order to stay within budget. "About half of the positions being eliminated are presently not filled. The reductions are being achieved through a variety of means, including the consolidations of positions, decreases in assigned hours, attrition and layoffs. They extend to all levels of the hospital -- clinical and nonclinical, union and nonunion, management and support staff, both full and part-time."

The city of Waterbury itself was formerly an ammunition manufacturing hub, was visited by President John F. Kennedy, and was a production powerhouse. Now it has the second highest unemployment rate in Connecticut, a functional literacy rate of 54%, and a hollowed-out core of abandoned factories, houses, and sky-high property taxes. The city is in financial trouble, the citizens are largely hopeless, and drugs and mental illness run rampant throughout. The locals have nicknamed Waterbury the "Dirty Water." Things are not well in the Dirty Water.

Enter Vanguard Health Systems, a company based in Tennessee that is interested in acquiring hospitals in the state of Connecticut. Vanguard is a private, for-profit health company, and that can spell trouble in a deeply liberal and Democrat-entrenched state like Connecticut. Waterbury is currently a non-profit hospital. In fact, it is so non-profit that it has endured massive losses since 2006. That's about as non-profit as it gets. Governor Malloy, on the other hand, has played his assigned role of President Obama's hand puppet, even implementing a new healthcare system for the federal employees that mimicked Obamacare and subsequently blew up in his face, costing far more than his administration's estimates. Connecticut is rated one of the worst states for business in the country, yet Vanguard remains interested... until now.

In order to facilitate the acquisition, legislation had to be drafted to create a "governance structure for for-profit hospitals modeled after a law passed in 2009 allowing hospitals and health systems to take part in nonprofit 'medical foundations' as a way to employ doctors. Without it, supporters of the 2009 law said, hospitals would have trouble acquiring physician practices because of federal laws, including an anti-kickback statute. The structure is key to a major change under way in Connecticut's health care landscape as doctors in solo or small practices give up independent practice to join large provider networks run by hospital systems."

As we sit with Darlene on the fourth floor of Waterbury Hospital, she tells us in a voice exasperated with anger how the governor's office worked with Waterbury Hospital to draft the legislation and pushed it through the last legislative session in June. This was legislation worked by Malloy's own office, however on Monday July 8th union representatives visited Governor Malloy. On Tuesday the legislation easily passed both state house and senate and on Wednesday, Malloy vetoed the bill. Darlene, with anger in her voice, tells how she was on the phone with a Vanguard representative when the rep said that he just received a text saying Malloy had vetoed the bill. Darlene thought it was impossible, but it was true. The unions had pushed hard.

Waterbury Hospital is currently home to two unions, the CHCA and the 1199. However, the CHCA is not just a benign collection of RNs and PCAs. Rather it is part of AFL-CIO headed by Richard Trumpka, a union with massive political influence, which came to bear on Governor Malloy and Waterbury Hospital.

Sensing that the hospital was in a bad situation, CHCA moved suddenly to try to unionize the hospital technicians. Only numbering about 120 total, they are the only nonunion employees in the hospital. Darlene and the administration worry that one more straw will break the camel's back and cause Vanguard to abandon the acquisition in the face of so much social and political pressure. Connecticut is a deeply liberal state. There is only one hospital in the state that is for profit but even Yale is rumored to be looking for investors as ObamaCare looms in the very near future. Vanguard has its eyes on other hospitals as well but, as one columnist wrote, "How would for-profit corporation squeeze savings out of operations better than hospitals could do now?" "What about accountability to a hospital's community through a board of local residents? Is that important or can it be given up in favor of a national corporate board of directors?" "Or, since hospitals in many communities are more or less monopolies, if a hospital is owned by a for profit corporation, would money be drained from local health care only to be funneled as profit to a distant corporate headquarters, diminishing care without any recourse for local patients other than to move away?" To be sure, his questions hardly make any sense, except for one, which I posed to Darlene that evening: "How does Vanguard expect to make money in Waterbury when your customer base is largely Medicaid and Medicare which only pay a percentage of costs?" It was something I had been curious about for a while.

Clearly the client base directly in Waterbury will not change, barring some massive change in the economy and culture of the city. However, the investment of capital in the hospital will allow for expansion in outpatient care to wealthier areas in surrounding towns. Waterbury is located about halfway between Danbury and Hartford, each of which boast patient bases which are largely private insurance and therefore pay enough for the hospitals to remain relatively healthy (though they are cutting staff as well). However, as Waterbury began to falter, it allowed Danbury and Hartford hospitals to take over outpatient services the surrounding areas of Southbury, Cheshire, and Wolcott, to name a few. Outpatient services work with local doctors such as OBGYNs who then work with the hospital and refer their patients to hospital for inpatient services such as childbirth. When Waterbury began to run into trouble, the hospital gave up fighting for these outpatient services in the surrounding wealthier towns and lost a large amount of business -- Darlene claims up to 50 percent -- to competing hospitals that already had strong income bases. Hence, the hope is that Vanguard would not only invest in updating equipment and services but also help Waterbury Hospital branch out into other towns through doctor affiliations and outpatient services. This will then increase private insurance payments that will raise revenue for the hospital and improve care for the community.

The unions don't see it this way, however, and not only did they influence Governor Malloy to veto the legislation that his own office helped draft, but now the union is trying to acquire the last bastion of free employees in the hospital -- the technicians. Hospital administration has made the point even if unionization of the technicians goes through it would still be at least a year before a contract would reasonably be passed. Administration is asking for the technicians to delay on joining the union for another year to allow the Vanguard acquisition to go through without any further bumps in the road. "We're only asking for a year. After the acquisition if the techs still want to join the union that issue can be revisited," she says. Sounds like a reasonable request to me, as I sit only a few feet from the woman whose face was plastered across the front page of the Waterbury Republican as one of the highest paid hospital CEOs in Connecticut, her annual salary and benefits coming in at over $500,000. My wife and I can barely pay the bills. The union will take an additional fifty dollars a month out of my pay. Darlene acknowledges this and points out that the union leaders take salaries of well over one million per year annually. "I don't make a million dollars a year," she says, "and the difference is that you don't pay my salary, but you will pay theirs."

The scurrilous nature of the union is also part of the issue at hand. Vanguard has offered to buy out the union pensions for $17 million, which would result in the loss of pensions for some of the RN's and PCA's. Why? Because the money they have already put into their pension funds has been distributed to other retirees and, in essence, is gone. "Why doesn't the union just give you back the money you paid in a lump sum when they get the buyout?" I ask a pro-union coworker. "Well, because they don't have it," she says.

For my part I have been vociferously anti-union from the beginning, when I was suddenly surprised to learn that there was a push for the techs to unionize. I failed to see the purpose of the unions. Despite the union, RNs and PCAs still get laid off. Despite the union, middle management can still do as they please even when RNs file grievances against them. When layoffs do occur, the union allows senior staff to "bump" newer employees out of their positions to other positions or, in many cases, straight to the unemployment line. It allows someone who may actually be terrible at their job to replace someone new who is potentially quite skilled at their job. It is all based on seniority not merit. I would like to think that the merit of what I do on my unit would keep me employed when cuts come around, but I've only been employed three years, so I'm a low man on the totem pole. So I would be paying $50 a week for nothing except that every few years someone would enter to negotiate salary on my behalf.

There is also the prospect of strike. While the contracts generally include a "no-strike" agreement (which is odd because it gives away the only power that a union would potentially have), when the contract is up, the union can call a strike. Myself, and many others I know, could not afford to miss a couple day's pay, let alone weeks. The last strike at Waterbury Hospital was in 1986. The union paid its members thirty dollars a week to picket twenty hours a week. Many nurses lost their positions when the union eventually negotiated a "closed shop" agreement rather than amnesty for the employees who stayed out on strike. Therefore many lost their positions to "scabs." In the event of a strike I would have to cross the line to feed my family, I have no choice. During the strike of 1986, some of the RNs tell me, people who crossed came out of work to find their cars had been vandalized, and sometimes even their homes. Those that crossed would sometimes park in another lot in town and the hospital would bus them in vans with covered windows to hide their identities.

I don't need that kind of stress. I just want to go to work and come home and try to make my way. I have made this clear but I have a sneaking suspicion that I'm in the minority and that a number of my fellow techs see the union as an easy way to get higher pay and stick it to management. However, as we sit together in the conference center, Darlene tells us that the future of Waterbury Hospital is in jeopardy barring some sort of large influx of capital from someone or somewhere. Strong businesses don't repeatedly seek out buyers. Strong businesses don't have their highly-paid CEO sit with four techs in a large conference center at 5:30 PM on a Monday giving out turkey wraps and pizza. Strong companies turn a profit. Why that is more frightening to the unions and to Governor Malloy than a company that is in the red I will never understand.

The union vote was held July 24, however it is currently in dispute and the results are not known. The NLRB will be ruling on the vote soon.

Hospitals say 2 are fine

Waterbury, Saint Mary’s officials say city needs both facilities

May 10, 2015 - Local - Tagged: Chad Wable, Connecticut, Dannel Malloy, Darlene Stromstad, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Greater Waterbury, Lower Valley, Saint Mary's Hospital, Waterbury Hospital Towns: Naugatuck CT , Southbury CT , Waterbury CT , Wolcott CT


Kathy Johnson of Waterbury, left, registers with Laurie Cahill, a patient access representative, at Saint Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury on Friday. Saint Mary’s Hospital operates two urgent care walk-in centers, in Naugatuck and Wolcott. Steven Valenti/RA

Joan Vaughan, left, of Southbury registers with Gina Urbano, a patient access representative, at Saint Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury on Friday. Saint Mary’s Hospital operates two urgent care walk-in centers, in Naugatuck and Wolcott. Steven Valenti/RA

Gina Urbano, left, a patient access representative, registers Joan Vaughan of Southbury at Saint Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury on Friday. Saint Mary’s Hospital operates two urgent care walk-in centers, in Naugatuck and Wolcott. Steven Valenti/RA WATERBURY — A 2007 state report said it was necessary, and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy says he prefers it, but the city’s two hospitals say they don’t need to combine to survive.

That’s the shared belief of executives at both Waterbury and Saint Mary’s hospitals, who maintain the region’s demographics, and the evolving mission of health care, support their position.

“We’ve tried three times,” said Darlene Stromstad, president and chief executive officer of Waterbury Hospital, referring to three failed attempts at bringing both hospitals together in the past 10 years. “It didn’t work.”

Chad Wable, Saint Mary’s president and CEO, says combining the two organizations just doesn’t make sense.

“We … fundamentally, have believed at Saint Mary’s that it’s unaffordable to construct one hospital in Waterbury,” he said.

THE 2007 STUDY, PRODUCED BY THE STATE Department of Public Health’s Office of Health Care Access, nonetheless concluded that the city’s two hospitals needed to merge. The report stated that Saint Mary’s was “insolvent,” and that the financial viability of the region’s health care system is “more sustainable” with one hospital and one combined delivery system.

The study reported that, in fiscal 2006, Waterbury Hospital was operating at -2.4 percent margin, and posted a deficit of $5.3 million, while Saint Mary’s had a 0.44 percent margin with a surplus of $744,000. Hospitals. The Connecticut Hospital Association says hospitals need at least a 4 operating percent margin “to remain viable.”

The report, however, also said Saint Mary’s at that time had only enough cash on hand to fund one day of its short-term commitments, and was taking longer than normal to pay creditors. Waterbury Hospital had more cash on hand at the time and was paying creditors earlier than in prior years, but both hospitals were “exhibiting classic symptoms of financial distress,” the report said.

In a recent interview, Wable said Saint Mary’s leadership never agreed with the finding that the hospital was insolvent. Regardless, much has changed since the report was published, starting with the financial fortunes of the two hospitals. Greater Waterbury Health Network, the parent of Waterbury Hospital, has reported deficits in eight of the past nine years, and in January cut the equivalent of 80 full-time jobs and reduced some services to try to rein in a nearly $2 million deficit in the current fiscal year.

Saint Mary’s, on the other hand, reported a $1.8 million surplus at the end of its second quarter for fiscal 2015, and said its unfunded pension liability had decreased to about $70 million from $72 million at the end of fiscal 2014. The hospital also recently refinanced $15 million in long-term debt, and said it expects to save $2.6 million over the next five years as a result.

THE DEMOGRAPHICS FOR THE TWO HOSPITALS’ primary service area, which according to the state consists of 11 towns, has also changed since the 2007 report. Some of the data suggest the region can support two hospitals, some do not. The region’s population has grown 9.1 percent from 262,773 in 2000 to a projected 286,801 by 2016, according to a May 2013 study by Vanguard Health Systems Inc. submitted as part of its application to acquire Waterbury Hospital. Vanguard was later acquired by Tenet Healthcare Corp. in October 2013.

Residents sought to serve on building panel

Also, outpatient visits at Waterbury Hospital increased 46 percent to 174,000 in 2014, from 119,278 in 2004, according to hospital records. They increased by 7.5 percent at Saint Mary’s to 152,017 in 2014 from 141,478 in 2004. Emergency department visits increased at both hospitals as well. Waterbury Hospital visits rose 5.4 percent to 55,000 in fiscal 2014 from 52,188 in fiscal 2006, while Saint Mary’s rose 6.5 percent to 69,717 from 65,456.

Meanwhile, the number of uninsured patients in the primary service area has fallen considerably. It was estimated at 9.8 percent in 2006, but in the 2009-13 time period there was a median of 4.8 percent uninsured, according to Census data. Unemployment rates also increased in all 11 communities, with Waterbury seeing the highest rates of 8.6 percent in 2000 and 12.5 percent in 2013, according to state data. Poverty rates also increased in eight of the 11 municipalities, with Waterbury seeing the highest percentages at 8.6 percent in 2000 and 12.5 percent in 2013.

The percentage of patients covered under Medicare and Medicaid increased to 57 percent at Waterbury Hospital in 2013 from 52 percent in 2006, while the percentage at Saint Mary’s rose to 57 percent from 54 percent.

SO THE QUESTION OF WHETHER THE REGION can support two hospitals comes down to how the data is interpreted. Both Wable and Stromstad see opportunities to improve their hospitals’ financial situations, without the need to team up.

Wable said Greater Waterbury could feasibly support three or four hospitals if each was connected to a large-scale, clinically integrated network with pharmacies, physicians, nursing homes and other healthcare providers. He points out that, based on claims data from insurers, about $3 billion is spent on healthcare in one form or another each year in the region, but the two hospitals combined receive only about 8 percent of that.

A large, clinically integrated network could grab a larger share by providing more care at outpatient facilities, he said. Wable also agrees with Stromstad that, to improve both hospitals’ financial conditions, they must attract back patients who take their business elsewhere. Combined, the two hospitals’ annual inpatient volume is 23,673, out of the region’s population of 275,000. The statewide inpatient utilization rate, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, is 109 patients per 1,000 people, Stromstad said.

That means the two hospitals should see 30,059 patients from Greater Waterbury, she said. “It equates to about 6,300 people from our service area that are going someplace else,” she said. “So we’re not capturing everything we could.”

Wable said there about 35,000 inpatient admissions a year in Saint Mary’s marketplace, which he expands to 19 towns, but notes that both hospitals handle only about 23,000 a year. That means about “12,000 inpatient admissions” combined go to other hospitals, he said.

“That is at least one whole additional hospital,” he said.

THERE IS ANOTHER REASON THE TWO EXECUTIVES believe combining hospitals is impractical: a lack of space. The region needs two hospitals to handle the number of inpatients and emergency department visits, Stromstad said. “Neither of us have enough space to do that,” she said.

She estimates the two hospitals combined handle 113,000 emergency department visits per year. “That’s 309 patients in one day. That’s not going to happen in one location.”

Wable said the hospitals actually handle about 140,000 emergency room visits a year, but about 40 percent of those patients should be treated in an outpatient or primary care setting. Neither hospital could handle the region’s total inpatient volume now if the other closed, but it might be possible 10 years from now if half of the business is treated at outpatient facilities, he said.

“Which is why we need to re-purpose space and think of ourselves differently in the future,” he said. He added, “It’s unaffordable and not feasible and not practical to build one hospital in this city …, given the fundamental changes that are ahead of us,” he said.

Stromstad said the dialogue about healthcare in Greater Waterbury needs to change from how to bring the two hospitals together to what is possible for healthcare in the community.

The market is large enough for two hospitals, and Greater Waterbury Health Network is “back to reclaiming our rightful place in this community as a strong competitor,” she said.

Contact Michael C. Juliano at mjuliano@rep-am.com and David Krechevsky at dkrechevsky@rep-am.com.

Summary - As a senior executive for multi-million dollar, multi-facility healthcare organizations, I set the vision and drive the decisions focused on fiscal wellbeing, quality of service, and delivery of critical improvements in response to the-ever-changing industry landscape. Throughout my career, I have successfully navigated challenging situations that required major turnaround and, in some cases, led to high profile mergers, acquisitions and subsequent integration.

Balancing the needs of profitability with outside stakeholders is a true art. My skill set includes negotiations, developing alliances, communicating with stakeholders, building consensus and delivering on expectations and goals. By remaining focused under all circumstances, I have built a strong reputation with industry insiders, community leaders and medical teams for integrity and fairness.

Additionally, I believe the key to the success of an organization is people. I place great value on hiring talent that share the values of the organization and I empower teams so that they may contribute to their highest potential.

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