Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary answered questions about the proposed hospital merger during the hearing June 11th in Hartford. The three partners in the merger were represented from left to right by Dan Moen of LHP, Darlene Stromsted of Waterbury Hospital, and Chad Wable from Saint Mary’s Hospital. Photograph by John Murray

   (Editor’s note -the following is the complete text of Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary’s testimony at an Informational Hearing about the proposed merger of Saint Mary’s Hospital, Waterbury Hospital, and LHP of Plano, Texas. The testimony was given on June 11th at the State Capital before the Permit Commission On The Status Of Women, the Public Health Committee, and Connecticut Comptroller Kevin Lembo)

   Good Afternoon.  My name is Neil O’Leary and I am Mayor of the City of Waterbury.  I am here in support of the Joint Venture between St. Mary’s Hospital, Waterbury Hospital and LHP Hospital Group.  I would like to thank the members of the Panel for allowing me the opportunity to speak here, this afternoon.  Before I begin my remarks, I would like to acknowledge the enormous support from the Governor’s Office in helping the City, the hospitals and LHP move the hospital consolidation forward.  In my opinion, the Governor’s leadership on this matter will reap enormous benefits to the Greater Waterbury Region.

   Let me be very clear, the hospital project is the most important economic opportunity the City of Waterbury has seen in my lifetime.  I cannot overstate the importance of this project on the future of the City of Waterbury.

   LHP is investing over $500 million into the Region.  How many companies have made this kind of financial commitment, recently, in the State of Connecticut, let alone in the Greater Waterbury Region?

   A new state-of-the-art hospital with new equipment and the influx of more than 100 additional doctors will preserve Waterbury’s position as the leader of healthcare in the Region.  It’s no secret that the utilization of the two hospitals by patients in both the primary and secondary markets has decreased at an alarming rate.  This can be attributed in part to the negative perception of two old and seemingly outdated hospital facilities.  It may also be attributed to the negative consequences of having two hospitals compete in one service area.  A new hospital, run by a joint venture comprised of community health leaders and an experienced national hospital organization, will stem this negative trend and, indeed, expand the utilization rate in the market area.

   A new consolidated hospital in Downtown Waterbury will be a catalyst for further economic development and is a crucial component of the City’s overall plan for the revitalization of the Central Business District.  The new hospital project will create additional businesses such as medical offices in Downtown Waterbury.  It is estimated that between 150,000 s.f. and 200,000 s.f. of new medical offices will be needed near the hospital.

   Based on a Financial Impact Analysis prepared by Impact DataSource, the hospital project will generate enormous economic benefits to the Region:

• During the construction phase of the hospital, 848 direct construction jobs and 764 indirect jobs will be created.

• The hospital joint venture will be among the top twenty employers in the State of Connecticut.

• The hospital project will generate, both directly and indirectly, more than $700 million in revenue to the State of Connecticut and the City of Waterbury over 15 years.

• Statewide economic impact of the Joint Venture between LHP and the local hospitals is estimated at $16 billion over 15 years.

   Two months ago, I travelled to Pocatello, Idaho with other City officials to witness firsthand the impact of the new LHP hospital in that community.  We spoke to a wide variety of individuals including hospital officials, physicians and nurses, community health doctors, community organizers, municipal and county officials and even former opponents of the proposed hospital project.  Amazingly, everyone we spoke to believed that LHP had delivered on its promises, it created a state-of-the-art hospital with the latest equipment and it improved efficiencies and the level of service substantially.  In short, the folks in Pocatello believed that the new consolidated hospital improved the quality of healthcare to all patients regardless of ability to pay.  I came away extremely impressed with the operation and am very optimistic about the benefits a consolidated hospital will have on the City of Waterbury.

   In conclusion, there is no doubt that there will be challenges as we work through the details of this project, but I cannot overstate the importance of the hospital project on the continued viability of Waterbury and the quality of healthcare in the Region. Thank you again for giving me the opportunity to speak before you today.