A donnybrook that developed between hospital trustees and residents of Winsted, Conn., shows how difficult it can be to change the mission of a struggling community hospital.
Board members and community leaders are in total disagreement over how to revive the foundering facility. Unfortunately for hospital executives, the fight attracted consumer advocate Ralph Nader, who was born in the industrial town of 8,200 (June 10, p. 9).
Winsted Memorial Hospital is licensed for 72 beds, but its average daily census has plummeted to 11 patients. The 18-member board wants to close inpatient services, build an ambulatory-care center, convert the existing facility to serve post-acute-care patients and work to establish Winsted as a referral source for tertiary providers. This is a textbook response to changing times.
The community disagrees, however, saying the problems could be resolved by improving collection of receivables, converting empty beds to skilled-nursing care, getting physicians more involved in management and winning more managed-care contracts. Those are some valid points.
Hospital leaders missed the boat in this case by failing to keep the community informed about looming problems. Now they're paying the price in delay and community mistrust of their motives. Board members and executives who oversee solo facilities, especially in small communities, must involve local leaders before-not after-important decisions are made that affect the healthcare of community members.