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Southington councilor questions balance of hospital committee

Bradley Memorial advisory committee

Dr. Letterio Asciuto, physician

Garry Brumback, town manager

Dr. Anthony Ciardella, chief of medicine at Bradley

Kaye Davis, United Way of Southington executive director

Melissa Ericksen-Salmon, Southington Chamber of Commerce board chairwoman

Shane Lockwood, Plainville-Southington regional health director

John Myers, YMCA executive director

Chris Palmieri, Democrat, town councilor

Mike Riccio, Republican, Town Council chairman

Dr. George Skarvinko, physician

Victoria Triano, Republican, town councilor

Robert Verderame, Calendar House executive director

SOUTHINGTON — Town leaders are divided on whether a committee chosen by Hartford HealthCare to advise on the future of Bradley Memorial is balanced.

At a public forum Monday night, Town Councilor Cheryl Lounsbury said the committee’s membership had been handpicked by Hartford HealthCare. The committee needs more residents without an interest in the hospital or other town organizations, she said.

Hartford HealthCare proposed closing the Bradley inpatient unit and moving the emergency room to Queen Street. The Hospital of Central Connecticut, which includes the Bradley and New Britain campuses, is owned by Hartford HealthCare.

Anthony Ciardella, a local primary care doctor and chief of medicine at Bradley, has opposed changes at the hospital. He is a committee member and is hopeful about the chances of keeping the emergency room and inpatient beds.

“The whole focus of that committee was changed” after public outcry against the closures, Ciardella said. “The focus of the committee changes from ‘What do we do with Bradley once it’s empty?’ to ‘What do we do with Bradley in general?’ ”

While he also would have liked to see more residents on the committee, Ciardella said town opinion is well-represented by those appointed by the hospital. The committee has town officials, doctors, community group leaders and three town councilors.

State approval is required to close units at the Bradley campus. Hartford HealthCare officials said they postponed applying for that approval after residents came out in force to a Town Council meeting last week to oppose changes.

Rosemary Champagne, a resident who’s putting together a petition asking the state to deny Hartford HealthCare’s plan, was appointed to the committee but wasn’t able to make the first meeting. She plans to attend the second, scheduled for Friday.

The committee meetings are not open to the public.

Champagne is the only person on the committee who doesn’t lead or represent a town organization. She initially declined an invitation to the committee, telling Hartford HealthCare officials that she was firm in her opposition to moving the emergency room. She changed her mind after the second invitation, however.

“Maybe my input of trying to keep the hospital may do some good,” Champagne said. “I keep telling them, ‘I don’t know why you want me on this.’ ”

According to Champagne, most of the committee members want the emergency room to stay on the Bradley campus.

Hartford HealthCare spokeswoman Rebecca Stewart said the goal was to have a committee that represented a variety of opinions.

“We appreciated hearing feedback about the makeup and will look into whether membership should be expanded,” she said.

Lounsbury said there needs to be more unaffiliated residents such as Champagne on the committee rather than organization leaders. She said the YMCA, represented by executive director John Myers, shouldn’t be included in the committee since the Y is a recipient of money from the Bradley Henry Barnes & Leila Upson Barnes Memorial Trust.

The trust was established to support the Bradley hospital, but as control of Bradley became less local the trust began benefiting other organizations in town that provide health care or encourage healthy living. Last year, the YMCA and Central Connecticut Senior Health Services, owned by Hartford HealthCare, received nearly $500,000 from the trust. Bradley received $150,000.

Lounsbury said the YMCA stands to gain more trust money in future years if the Bradley campus closes.

“You need people who have no vested interest,” she said.

“They have the outcome already decided in their minds,” she said. “There seems to be no transparency going on here.”

Ciardella said he believed Myers would represent the best interests of the community while on the committee.

“I trust John Myers. I don’t think that’s an issue,” Ciardella said.

Myers could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. (203) 317-2230 Twitter: @JBuchananRJ

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