Younger people may not know it, but life used to happen at a slower pace and on a smaller scale. There was a time when every neighborhood or town had its own little grocery store (often, in these parts, with a “Sunbeam Bread” sign on the screen door) and you’d buy your cold cuts from Mom & Pop.
Then we all got cars and suddenly we were happy to drive to a huge supermarket across town that had much more to offer — and lower prices, too — so Mom & Pop went out of business. This is called progress.
Then local drug, clothing and hardware stores also gave way to giant chains, and the same thing is now happening with health care: Doctors now flock to group practices, where fixed costs can be shared. Hospitals offer high-cost, high-tech treatments at satellite locations in the suburbs. Smaller hospitals become outpatient centers, often focusing on some health-care specialty, or they cut down on staff and hours of operation. Or all of the above.
That’s just the way things are — efficiency and cost-cutting reign supreme — so it comes as no surprise that changes are coming to Southington’s community hospital, which now is just a branch location of a medical giant. That is, the Bradley Memorial Campus of the Hospital of Central Connecticut, which is part of Hartford HealthCare, is planning to close its inpatient unit in about a year, assuming state approval.
But Bradley is not closing. Just as the name has changed in recent years, the services provided there will change, too. However, hospital officials say the emergency department, which sees around 18,000 patients a year, will stay open around the clock.
Bradley is down to about 15 occupied inpatient beds on an average day, the operating room was moved to New Britain last year and patients already get sent to other hospitals depending on the services they need. Meanwhile, the corporate parent “is working to create alternative uses for the Southington campus that will be responsive to our community healthcare needs,” according to HHC Senior Vice President Lucille Janatka.
Hospitals are in a bind: Inpatient stays have been declining for years, while an aging population keeps needing more medical services; medical technology continues to get more expensive; and the health insurance structure in this country keep shifting. They have to find ways to make ends meet.
That will mean profound changes to the function of Bradley, whose proud history goes back to 1938, and both local services and local jobs will probably suffer. “The greater goal,” says Town Manager Garry Brumback, “is to make sure that Bradley itself stays open” as a provider of health-care services in Southington.
This change is sad, but necessary. But Southington will still have a hospital.