At third public forum, L+M and Yale officials say partnership continues to grow

New London — Lawrence + Memorial Hospital’s 2016 affiliation with the Yale New Haven Health network continues to bring more patients to the hospital, more money into community health initiatives and more medical specialists to the region, leaders at the hospital and the network said Tuesday.

Speaking at a public forum mandated by the state Office of Healthcare Access following the affiliation, L+M CEO Patrick Green said Yale and the New London-based hospital have focused on building up the roster of primary care physicians and general surgeons, bringing in a urology team and opening a clinic for people at risk of losing their limbs to vascular disease at L+M’s Pequot Health Center in Groton.

The improvements also include capital investments and maintenance at the hospital — including a $5 million lab for treating heart attack victims and those with vascular blockages, a new electronic medical records system and maintenance and repairs to infrastructure like the hospital’s elevator, power plant and call center.

Those often unseen improvements and maintenance — "nothing you can put on a billboard," Green said — were often deferred because of high costs before L+M joined the Yale New Haven Health network along with Westerly Hospital in 2016.

"It was very difficult to keep that maintenance up," he told the forum's audience, mostly New London officials, hospital employees and board members and local politicians.

Green said discharges — a measure of the number of patients treated at the hospital — are up 11 percent over last year, and the average daily number of patients in the hospital has increased from 218 to 238. The complexity of conditions that L+M doctors are able to treat also is increasing, he said, as are the numbers of people who say they would recommend L+M to someone else.

Laurel Holmes, the director of community partnerships and population health at L+M, boasted hospital funding of community health efforts that totaled nearly $49 million in 2017, including sponsorships, financial assistance for medical care, training for health care students and the distribution or the overdose-reversing drug naloxone to first responders in the region.

The hospital also has donated two grants valued at $50,000 each, one of which will be used by urban farming organization FRESH to develop a plan for expanding agriculture in the city. The other will be used by the city's police department to install surveillance cameras in a New London residential area, as well as for playground equipment at McDonald Park and improvements to a basketball court outside a police substation on Truman Street.

Those investments come while L+M's financial health is improving, which Vincent Petrini, a spokesman for Yale New Haven Health, said was illustrated by Standard & Poor's decision last fall to raise the hospital's debt rating back up to an "A+" after lowering it in 2016 because of "weaker than expected system operating performance."

The forum, the third of several planned over the three years after the affiliation, also featured a presentation by a representative of Deloitte & Touche, the financial advising firm assigned to oversee L+M's compliance with the terms of the agreement and report to state regulators.

m.shanahan@theday.com

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