By John Murray

   Dr. James Gatling, right, listens to community activist Steve Schrag yesterday afternoon during an informational hearing at the state legislature concerning the proposed merger between Saint Mary’s Hospital, Waterbury Hospital and LHP of Plano, Texas. Gatling spoke in favor of the merger on behalf of the Greater Waterbury Chamber of Commerce, and New Opportunites, both of which he holds leadership positions in. Schrag described the merger as a takeover by an out-of-state corporation and has repeatedly asked Dan Moen, the CEO of LHP, to sit down with community members, and the workers of the hospitals, to address their concerns. Moen has repeatedly said he will meet with labor and community members after a deal has been finalized, not before.

   Gatling and Schrag were two of 16 speakers who addressed the hearing – each with a different angle – pro economic development, pro health care, women’s rights activists, union leaders, nurses, and state and local officials. The two major stumbling blocks to the merger are tubal ligations (which are performed at Waterbury Hospital, and not at Saint Mary’s, and labor issues (Waterbury Hospital has unions, and Saint Mary’s does not)). Governor Dannel Malloy and Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary have offered substantial incentives for a new hospital to be built in downtown, and if the merger goes through, all major parties have said it will be in downtown Waterbury. The remaining obstacles to the merger – tubal ligation issues, and union concerns – are now up to Waterbury Hospital, LHP and Saint Mary’s Hospital to figure out.

  LHP has an internal goal of resolving the issues by the end of June.