Brass City Hospital Merger: Not So Fast

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Reproductive-services flap stalls talks

WATERBURY — Merger talks between two Waterbury hospitals and a Texas company have reached an impasse over how to offer reproductive services for women.

All parties have pledged to continue meeting, but their previously quiet negotiations spilled into public view early this month when the state's Permanent Commission on the Status of Women objected to the most recent reproductive services plan.

The overall proposal under discussion calls for Waterbury Hospital to join St. Mary's Hospital in an acquisition and merger with a private Texas "/orig/buy//#order_">order LHP Group. The plan calls for building a new, state-of-the-art replacement hospital with 426 beds in private rooms.

On September 6, presidents from Waterbury Hospital and St. Mary's Hospital sounded exhausted and a bit frustrated.

"We've been at this now for well over 15 months. Put together, it's a long time to be working through some of the issues," said Chad Wable, president and CEO of St. Mary's Hospital.

The main stumbling block has been trying to provide reproductive services while respecting the ethical and religious directives of Catholic Health Services, which prohibit tubal ligations, vasectomies, contraceptive care and medically induced abortions. The joint venture had to be approved by the Vatican because the archdiocese owns St. Mary's Hospital.

The merger sought to address that by putting reproductive services in a separate building called the Women's Pavilion across the street from the hospital. The building would be separately licensed.

But the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women this week opposed the reproductive services plan, saying it is inadequate to serve the needs of the Waterbury area's women.

In a press release, the women's advocacy group said that "any state-of-the-art facility being built — especially with partial support from taxpayers' dollars — should represent the needs of all the residents of the area, should treat all citizens equitably, regardless of gender, religion or socio-economic standing, and should have a far more definitive plan for future financial sustainability. It is unfortunate, therefore, that the dictates of the Ethical and Religious Directives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will derail a much-needed facility."

Darlene Stromstead, President and CEO of Waterbury Hospital, said this is the seventh plan that all sides have come up with and said the process is very complicated.

"As the non-religious organization, we have been trying very hard to come up with solutions," Stromstead said. "We have consulted the Permanent Status of Women, Merger Watch and others, trying to find something that will work and will address long-term sustainability, demonstrate medical quality and provide services in a non- discriminatory manner."


— Grace Merritt


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