Another sign Yale affiliation is working well for Lawrence + Memorial and community

By most any measure it has been a good first year for Patrick L. Green, the first president and CEO of Lawrence + Memorial Hospital since its affiliation with the Yale New Haven Health network. And while a degree of trepidation was understandable when it became apparent the market could no longer support our independent community hospital, the evidence increasingly suggests that the affiliation has proved a virtuous one both medically and financially for L+M.

The latest proof came in the form of the surprise news that the three unions representing health professionals at L+M Hospital had ratified three-year contracts. It was surprising because the current contracts for health care workers, registered nurses and technicians, signed in 2016, do not expire until June 2019.

These were the first labor negotiations since the Yale affiliation.

Getting a deal signed and ratified early, in this case very early, avoids the pressure that can grow when an expiration date nears. Instead, the new agreement assures labor peace at least through June 2022.

We recall that when Green met with The Day Editorial Board a few months after arriving, he said he made it a point to get out on the floors and meet staff, setting schedules to make sure his fellow executives did likewise.

Green said in addition to being an educational exercise for himself, such an approach built relationships that could help when it was time for management and labor to speak frankly about pay and benefits. Well, it certainly didn’t hurt.

It is far preferable to what the region witnessed in 2013 when nurses, technicians and support staff went on strike for lack of a contract. They were subsequently locked out when they sought to return, an ugly labor dispute that produced some lasting scars.

In addition to 2 percent annual pay raises, the three-year deal carries the potential for that pay raise to go to 3 percent if profit-margin and patient satisfaction goals are met. We welcome that creative approach to union-management relations.

But it is not labor peace alone that is reason to be encouraged — the hospital has also seen its fiscal outlook stabilize and its health treatment offerings improve.

In March, the Yale network, which includes Yale New Haven, Bridgeport, Greenwich and Westerly hospitals, in addition to L+M, announced it had reached a contract agreement with Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield outlining treatment costs for those with Anthem coverage through 2020. The deal avoided the disruption caused in 2017 when the inability of the Hartford Health Care network to reach a deal with Anthem left patients using that network unsure what procedures would be covered by their insurance.

Recently, L+M announced the opening of a cardiac lab with $5 million in new medical technology that will improve treatment options for heart attack victims and those needing stents to clear vascular blockages. Patients who in the past were sent to Yale New Haven will now be treated at L+M.

Earlier this year L+M unveiled a new program, operating out of its Pequot Health Center in Groton, that utilizes a team of specialists to offer comprehensive treatment for patients with hard-to-heal wounds tied to diabetes and other vascular diseases. The result should be fewer amputations.

Maintaining the fiscal stability of the smaller Westerly Hospital, acquired as part of the L+M deal, should prove a continuing challenge. But it is hard to find any dark clouds in the silver lining of L+M’s affiliation with the Yale Network.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Pat Richardson, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, retired Day editor Lisa McGinley, Managing Editor Tim Cotter and Staff Writer Julia Bergman. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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