St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center is cutting funding to a Hartford program that targets infant mortality. As WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports, the hospital says the recently passed state budget is to blame. The Maternal Infant Outreach Program is almost 30 years old and is jointly funded by two hospitals and the city of Hartford.
It serves about 450 pregnant women a year. But, in a letter to Hartford health officials, St. Francis says it's cutting its share of the funding -- which is about a quarter of the program's total cost. Why? Because, the letter says, the hospital faces more than $44 million in Medicaid cuts from the state. And it says it regrets that it has to cut funding for many worthy programs. But the state says St. Francis is using it as a scapegoat. "It's always very easy to blame somebody else for the decisions that you make."
Ben Barnes is Governor Dannel Malloy's budget director. He says the hospitals are getting less Medicaid money from the state, but that they'll get more money in other ways -- like the Affordable Care Act. So, from his perspective, hospitals aren't harmed by the state budget. "Decisions that St. Francis or any other hospital makes about how to use the resources that it has to best accomplish their organizational mission -- those decisions were made by them. And questions about why did they decide to cut funding for maternal and infant health instead of cutting salaries for their top executives or cutting the quality of the salad bar in the lunchroom -- those are questions that should be directed at the board of that hospital."
Raul Pino is the city's health director. He says that the program monitors the health of pregnant woman and maintains with their families -- and that it works to reduce infant mortality. "The program has an infant mortality that has been consistently lower than the city of Hartford's." Now, he said, he'll likely have to cut two or three positions, scale back the program, and focus solely on those at highest risk.