Testimony on Dockett #20-32394-CON Termination of Impatient Obstetrics Services at Windham Hospital

Testimony on Dockett #20-32394-CON

Connecticut Office of Health Strategy

Termination of Impatient Obstetrics Services at Windham Hospital

November 10, 2021

Submitted By: Stephen Wanczyk-Karp, LMSW

On behalf of the National Association of Social Workers, CT Chapter (NASW/CT) representing over 2,300 members statewide, we submit this testimony in opposition to the proposal by Hartford Healthcare to eliminate in-patient obstetrics care at Windham Hospital. NASW/CT does normally weigh in on proposals before the Office of Health Strategy (OHS) however we find this particular proposal to be of such a significant negative impact on the Windham community, lower income households, and women of child bearing age in the Windham area as to warrant our public opposition.

Northeastern Connecticut is an area of the state that has limited services compared to most regions of the State. It is also an area that has communities, such as Willimantic, where there are sizable populations of lower income households. Windham Hospital stands out in Northeastern Connecticut as a key healthcare resource that serves the community’s full healthcare needs. And unlike communities such as Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport, Meriden, Middletown, New Britain, Norwalk or Stamford that offer residents choices in hospitals within reasonably short distances, Windham Hospital is the one community hospital for the geographic area. A service as critical as obstetrics must not be removed from the Windham community.

Transportation is another issue that affects the Windham area. There is insufficient public transportation and limited options for individuals who do not have their own vehicle. Again, with particular concern for lower income persons, a taxi cab or other paid transportation to a hospital outside of the immediate area can be unaffordable. A long ambulance trip for a woman going into labor is even more expensive and psychologically can be incredibly stressful. To force such travel when a hospital exists in the community is unthinkable to us.

We are concerned with continuity of care. It is best for a patient to have the same obstetrician or OB/GYN practice, who is familiar with the patient to be available, whenever possible, for child birth. This is not going to be the case if the woman must travel outside of her community to a hospital where she has not had local care or perhaps ever been seen before. Again, this adds another layer of stress on the mother to be. Plus, what does it mean for recruitment and retention of OB/GYNs? Will these providers want to practice in an area where that lacks in-patient obstetrical care?

We are concerned that the impact of this proposal affects women’s healthcare. It raises questions of discriminatory action against women. This is not to say that men are not affected too, the whole family of a pregnant woman will be impacted by the elimination of in-patient obstetric care, but the brunt of this proposal falls hardest on women. Furthermore, we take note that Hartford Healthcare has at Windham Hospital the Tallwood Urology & Kidney Institute that treats male and female urological problems. The in-patient urological services that treat men are not being proposed for elimination.

Health care in Connecticut is rapidly moving to be controlled by a few large health care systems. In the case of hospitals, affiliation with a large health care system comes with promises of enhanced care through the resources of the larger system, not diminished services. In truth however, the consolidation of health care increasingly means corporate decisions from afar that does not understand or sufficiently care for the specific needs of different localities. Hartford Healthcare’s proposal to eliminate in-patient obstetrics at Windham Hospital is a perfect example of the problems with health care consolidation. Communities need safeguards that protect against loss of comprehensive health care services and OHS has the opportunity here to establish those safeguards by denying Hartford Healthcare’s request for elimination of in-patient obstetric care at Windham Hospital.

NASW/CT urges OHS to protect the full range of health care for the greater Windham community by declining Hartford Healthcare’s request on docket number 20-32394-CON.


  1. Brenda Buchbinder says


    Dear NASW officers and members,
    Good afternoon. It is with painful disappointment and righteous indignation that I write to you about the unjust decision by CT’s OHS and HHC/Windham Hospital after a year of closed door negotiations, allowed the permanent closing of our 87 year old maternity unit in Willimantic. They are asking the hospital to research and possibly set up a birthing center, and it is like having an arsonist come up with a fire safety plan. Our community coalition of Windham United to Save our Healthcare continues to take public health actions and keeps a FB page and will meet this Mon, 12/11/23 5pm by zoom. If NASW wants to continue to voice support, please leave a message on our FB page. Thank you for the letter of support (above) that was entered as part of our November 10, 2021 Certificate of Need testimonies. Stay safe and well. Much gratitude.

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