Day Kimball Healthcare leadership and staff met with local legislators at Day Kimball Hospital on Thursday, March 31 to discuss the recent restoration of Day Kimball’s 2016 hospital funding and efforts to prevent future cuts in 2017. From l. to r.: Marlene Woods, Barbara Chubbuck, Valerie Schrump, Rep. Daniel Rovero, Day Kimball Healthcare President and CEO Robert Smanik, Sen. Mae Flexer, Rep. Christine Rosati Randall, Dr. Andrew Mackenzie, Dr. Donglin Zhang, John O’Keefe, Odile Romanick, Dr. John Graham and Patrice Bernier.
Day Kimball Healthcare President and CEO Robert Smanik, along with staff and physicians, met with Sen. Mae Flexer (D-Killingly), Rep. Daniel Rovero (D-Killingly) and Rep. Christine Rosati Randall (D-Killingly) at Day Kimball Hospital today to celebrate the restoration of the hospital’s 2016 supplemental and small hospital funding. Restoration of the funding was included in the 2016 state budget deficit mitigation plan passed by the legislature on Tuesday. The group also discussed next steps to prevent similar cuts from being included in the state’s 2017 budget, set to be finalized in early May.
Many of those gathered had also been among the dozens of Day Kimball Healthcare staff who traveled to Hartford for Hospital Day at the Capitol on March 16 to advocate for payment of the supplemental and small hospital funding due to Day Kimball Healthcare. During that trip the staff met with Sen. Flexer and Reps. Rovero and Randall and also had the opportunity to speak personally with Governor Malloy about the significant negative impacts the loss of that funding would have on Day Kimball and the Northeast Connecticut community.
During the group’s discussion in the Hospital’s board room today, Rep. Randall noted the importance of such joint advocacy efforts not only among the legislators of Northeast Connecticut, but between Day Kimball Healthcare staff and the larger community as well.
“I think the reason why we were so effective and able to get these funds restored again is because not only were we acting as a team as legislators, but Day Kimball and the community at large was also part of that team. We were a unified front in Northeast Connecticut and we made a lot of noise about this. So I want to thank all of you, and everyone in our community who helped to make this happen,” Rep. Randall said.
Day Kimball Healthcare President and CEO Robert Smanik expressed gratitude to legislators, staff and the community for efforts in advocating for payment of the funding due to the hospital.
“These funds are essential to our work in meeting the health needs of Northeast Connecticut, and in allowing our organization to maintain solid financial footing so that we can continue that mission with strength into the future. I’m so grateful to our legislators, to our staff at Day Kimball who all work so hard despite these challenges and who continue to make their voices heard along with so many in our community to protect access to healthcare and the economy here. It’s just wonderful to see this accomplished,” Smanik said.
A number of staff members echoed Smanik’s sentiment.
Barbara Chubbuck, who has worked at Day Kimball for more than 30 years, told Sen. Flexer and Reps. Rovero and Randall, “I know it’s because of the efforts of the three of you and our efforts in traveling to the Capitol, that we made an impact and I’m so glad. It’s been a long time coming.”
Patrice Bernier, Director of Laboratory Services for Day Kimball Healthcare, shared a personal story that she said serves to illustrate the importance of having Day Kimball Hospital available for the community.
“My daughter went into labor two months early last year, and having Day Kimball Hospital just minutes away very likely made the difference between life and death for my grandson. I’m proud of the staff we have here and the wonderful care they provide – they saved my grandson and we were able to celebrate his first birthday recently,” Bernier said.
But celebration of the victory in getting Day Kimball’s 2016 funding restored was tempered by the need to continue those advocacy efforts in the coming weeks. As the legislature works to finalize the state’s 2017 budget, which must address an even greater projected deficit than this year, Day Kimball and hospitals around the state face the possibility of similar cuts during the state’s next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Sen. Flexer laid out a plan intended to prevent hospitals from having to face a sweeping loss of funding again in the future.
“When the governor exercises his rescission authority, he has the power to cut up to five percent of each line item in the state’s budget, and right now Medicaid funding is doled out in one large line item. Within the Appropriations Committee, I serve as the sub-committee chair for the human services section of the state budget, where those Medicaid dollars are allocated,” Flexer explained.
“What we’re trying to do is break down the Medicaid money into eight different line items with hospital funding being one of those, so that in the future if a rescission is necessary only five percent of it can be cut, rather than wiping it out completely. This is really what’s necessary to ensure that our hospital doesn’t have to be on this financial rollercoaster ride every year,” Flexer said.
Rep. Rovero expressed his support for that plan as well.
“I think we finally got the touchdown this time, as far as our funding for this year. But what’s going to come up in the future is anybody’s guess. We’ve got to put some measures in place to prevent this from happening again,” he said.
Smanik summed up those sentiments and closed out the meeting to applause when he said, “Thank you again to you all for your efforts and as they say, rest up and keep fighting.”