I thought this was a great article by Michelle Warren of The Chronicle in Windham, CT It details why a grassroots community coalition is pushing back against a large healthcare corporation, which has decided that Labor & Delivery services to a rural hospital with a large Hispanic population must end.
Group protests Windham Hospital plan
Chronicle Staff Writer
WILLIMANTIC — Decades ago, one of Brenda Buchbinder’s three children had to be resuscitated shortly after being born at Windham Community Memorial Hospital.
During a protest Thursday, she said if she had to ride in an ambulance to another hospital, which WCMH plans to have expectant mothers do, she isn’t sure her daughter would have lived.
“They worked on her for 45 minutes to bring her back,” said the Willimantic resident, whose daughter is now 36.
Buchbinder was among a small group of members of the Windham United to Save our HealthCare coalition protesting outside the Willimantic hospital.
The group is concerned about Hartford HealthCare’s proposal to shut down Windham Hospital’s birthing unit.
Hartford HealthCare officials have cited low birth rates and staff shortages as reasons for their proposal to close the maternity unit.
Protesters said they gathered 100 signatures on their petition at the Willimantic Food Co-op Wednesday.
The petition was also available for people to sign during the Willimantic Boom Box Parade on July 4 and during the protest Thursday.
Cheryl Kapelner-Champ of Pomfret, a retired nurse who worked at Windham Hospital in the 1970s, said she was concerned health care providers may be prioritizing profit “over the suffering of people.”
“It’s very hard when you’re fighting big, massive, strong companies with powerful attorneys,” she said, referring to Hartford HealthCare.
Kapelner-Champ said corporations “don’t think like human beings.”
Hartford HealthCare, which operates WCMH, provided numbers to justify its proposal.
According to the Hartford HealthCare’s website, Windham Hospital has the lowest number of births among Connecticut hospitals and, as a result, has difficulty recruiting providers and staff to continue the service.
According to Hartford HealthCare, there were only 143 births during fiscal year 2016, 105 during fiscal year 2017, 108 during fiscal year 2018, 106 during fiscal year 2019 and 93 during fiscal year 2020.
“In its application to the state, Windham Hospital has presented a comprehensive and safe plan that provides the highest level of care for the mothers and babies we serve,” Hartford HealthCare officials said in a statement.
“Prenatal and postpartum care continues at Windham Hospital and the hospital’s Women Health Services program offers comprehensive care and is welcoming new patients.”
The Women’s Health Ser-vices program provides services for the physical and emotional well being for women.
Hartford HealthCare filed a certificate of need application with the State Office of Health Strategy (OHS) on Sept. 3, 2020.
Before a decision is made on the application, a public hearing will be held to gather input from the community.
On Thursday, OHS Dir-ector of Communications Laurence Grotheer said a public hearing had not been scheduled yet.
He said the lead attorney for the certificate of need unit resigned and the goal is to find a replacement for that person soon.
“We’re in a little bit of a holding pattern now,” Grotheer said.
He said OHS has the option of issuing conditions when it renders decisions on certificate of need applications.
The birthing unit plans are a “big blight” for Hartford HealthCare, according to Kapelner-Champ, but she said Hartford HealthCare has also done some good work in the community.
“People make mistakes,” she said. “They could turn it around.”
Willimantic resident Anna Marie Lechance, another protester, said this issue concerns both feminists and anti-racists.
“The lack of transparency really bothers me,” she said.
According to the Hartford HealthCare website, Wind-ham Hospital will provide transportation to The William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich for those who do not have it.
The website also indicates expectant women should call 911 when they are ready to deliver and they will be transported to Backus.
Transportation will also be provided from the Windham Hospital emergency department.
According to the Hartford HealthCare website, Backus is about 17 miles from Windham Hospital.
Those who would prefer to deliver their baby at a hospital other than Backus will make arrangements with Dr. Eugene Rozenshteyn, the website indicates.
Buchbinder said she is concerned about the dangerous roadways people would have to go on to get to other hospitals, such as Backus and Manchester hospital.
Follow Michelle Warren on Twitter - @mwarrentc