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February 19, 2013

Update

Colleagues,

I want to take a little time to update you on recent events.

1. Charles Dickens was right
“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” So began his great novel, A Tale of Two Cities. Much the same can be said of our Health Center.

We, like many academic medical centers, face real financial challenges. In November, we learned that our first quarter financial results were substantially below budget estimates. Some of this is structural–part is we have high fixed costs relative to the number of hospital beds and outpatient clinical volumes; part is the competitive landscape; and part is our need to invest in some growth to right-size our clinical enterprise.

We worked hard in November and December to identify cost savings and areas for revenue growth in our clinical operations. I have had great help and support from everyone I approached. Most joked that they wondered if this was the job I anticipated when I joined the Health Center. I guess it comes with the territory. We identified nearly $8 million in cost savings and revenue opportunities. I thought we had succeeded, and I felt pretty good about what we achieved.

Then in mid-December the General Assembly approved a deficit mitigation plan that impacts our budget for the fiscal year that ends this July, cutting what is essentially $6 million from our block grant. Recently, we learned that this rescission will carry into FY14. These cuts affect our educational and research missions, as well as our clinical mission. We are doing everything possible to meet these additional financial exigencies, but I cannot say at this point we have solved this challenge. I welcome thoughts from any of you on cost saving or new revenue-generating activities. Please send them to me at EVPHA@uchc.edu. Our Board of Directors expects us to continue to look for economies and efficiencies.

The “best of times” is great! Although asking us to tighten our belt like the rest of the state agencies, the Governor’s proposed budget for FY14 and FY15 funds the recruitment of faculty for Bioscience Connecticut. (Funding for faculty recruitment is not part of the original construction bonding.) It is a spectacular statement of support for the future of the UConn Health Center (and hence the University), for the importance of bioscience to the future of our state and for sustainable high quality jobs. I know that you know the courage it takes in these incredibly difficult financial times for the Governor to maintain his commitment to the Health Center. We should all thank him!

2. Parking stinks
Then, of course, there is parking. Good folks here have circled the Health Center for hours in hopes of finding a place to park so they can get to work. Patients suffered as well. This month, I have suspended our helicopter service so we can use the helipad space temporarily for parking; authorized the rental of additional parking spaces at The Exchange and 10 Talcott Notch; secured 90 new spaces at 195 Farmington; and authorized the expansion of 100 new spaces in the shuttle lot 3 area. We have also taken steps to improve the flow and efficiency of valet parking for our patients. You can help by parking in your designated location. I cannot assure you that even with these efforts we will resolve all of the parking problems, although I hope it will take the edge off.

I want to be honest with you. I do not think that until the new 1,200 parking spaces are completed for the new Ambulatory Care Center garage that we will we be back to a reasonable parking situation. That parking garage will be completed at the end of 2013.

3. We are doing better
Our patient satisfaction ratings have improved substantially and steadily on the CMS HCAHPS website. Our percentile rank is up significantly in almost every domain of the survey in the last two quarters. Quality metrics are also improving. Patient visits are up from this time last year. We have recruited excellent new faculty and staff. I mention these things because you did them – by providing patients a little something extra, by staying late to make sure that our patients are seen and by ensuring the phones are answered. We must do all these things to make this the best place in Connecticut for medical care. We have a ways to go.

4. Phase I of the strategic refresh is completed
Finally, I want to give you a preview of the outcome of the first phase of our strategic refresh. Below is a map of how many hundreds of you see our future state – where we want to be in 2020. The next phase, to be completed in March, will define the goals, objectives and tactics that will get us there.

UConn Health 2020 Future Picture

Photo of UConn Health 2020 Future Picture

View larger image >

Thank you.

Frank M. Torti
Executive Vice President for Health Affairs
Dean, UConn School of Medicine