First It Was the Loss of Intensive Care – 

Then Inpatient Maternity Services – What’s Next?

Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, 

it would change the Earth.  

      -William Faulkner

By Bill Powers      

Local officials in our area intensely voiced their concerns against the injustice, lack of transparency and absence of community involvement for Hartford Health Care’s (HHC) decisions for closing the ICU and inpatient maternity unit at Windham hospital. HHC displayed a lack of compassion for moms and their newborns and their families, and demonstrated a callousness that reflects both arrogance and a directed effort to exploit those least able to defend themselves. HHC’s apparent greed and lack of concern, veiled by claims of efficiency, is at the public’s expense and reeks of hypocrisy with respect to HHC’s own mission and statement of values. 


A few years ago, Ashford’s current First Selectwoman Cathryn Silver-Smith, at a regional meeting of elected officials, told our Governor that the termination of inpatient maternity services at Windham Community Memorial Hospital (WCMH) gave her concerns that “women were now placed in a position of having to deliver their babies on the way to the hospital; God forbid there being complications.” Additionally, she said: “At the same meeting Lisa Thomas, Chairwoman of the Coventry Town Council spoke to the Governor to express concerns about the termination of inpatient maternity services.” Later in August of 2021, the Ashford Democratic Town Committee issued a press release – “REOPEN WINDHAM HOSPITAL MATERNITY UNIT NOW!”

Lisa Thomas, in addition to many others, has been and remains very vocal and active not only about the local “maternity dessert” and the termination of hospital inpatient labor and delivery services at Windham Hospital/HHC but also northeastern Connecticut. She told me: “There was a lengthy Certificate of Need (CON) hearing for which the Coventry Town Council’s Resolution was submitted and at which many testified, there has been a plethora of media coverage, and there have been rallies. The loss of critical care health services in northeastern CT is more than just labor and delivery. I currently serve on Comptroller Scanlon’s healthcare task force – specifically the Rural Health subcommittee co-chaired by Kyle Kramer, and the Women’s Health subcommittee. Additionally, I have spoken with both the Governor and Lt. Governor at length about the loss of critical care in rural Connecticut.”

There can be no doubt that the November 1, 2021, “resolution” adopted by the Coventry Town Council described by Lisa Thomas was both a significant and powerful statement “Concerning Termination of Services at Windham Community Memorial Hospital.” The Resolution stated: “The Coventry Town Council demands that Windham Hospital restore Intensive Care and maternity services of Labor and Delivery to its original levels, and develop integrated services with a community needs assessment informed by meaningful and diverse community input.” I am finding that Its contents not only reflect the concerns, needs, issues and attitudes of Coventry’s local elected officials but also of the vast majority of us residing in northeastern Connecticut. 

Previously, more than a year earlier (October 6, 2020), the Windham Town Council issued Resolution No. 2803 in which the Council produced a persuasive and articulately written document that “demanded Windham Hospital restore all core services, especially maternity services of Labor and Delivery to its original levels, and develop integrated services with a community needs assessment informed by meaningful and diverse community input.”   

In the Town of Mansfield on April 26, 2021, the Town Council “authorized the Mansfield Human Rights Commission to send a letter to Hartford Healthcare’s Jeffry Flaks, HHC president and CEO, addressing the human rights concerns regarding the closure of the Windham Hospital Maternity Ward.” The letter dated April 2, 2021, included the following: “The United States ranks last for maternity mortality among high-resource countries (NICHD); In addition to the already high rate of maternal/child mortality and morbidity in the United States, childbearing women of color suffer disproportionately high rates of pregnancy-related mortality and morbidity. Non-Hispanic white women experience 13 pregnancy-related deaths per 100,000 births compared to 42.8 deaths per 100,000 for Black women (Saluja & Bryant). Racial and ethnic disparities for mothers and newborns have persisted over time (CDC); The decision to close Windham Hospital’s Labor and Delivery services was short-sided and has far-reaching implications for the community; and, we encourage you to convene a committee with the focus of addressing this issue. The committee should include healthcare providers, community leaders, and community members.”  The Mansfield Town Clerk’s Office has no record of a reply from Mr. Flaks nor do current or previous commission members have any recollection of a response. I have also asked a HHC Eastern Region Board member about whether such a group had been convened and was directed to Donna Handley, HHC Eastern Region President for the details. My requests for a conversation with Handley remain unanswered. 


I have made many attempts to have conversations with officials, both employees and board members, at HHC to get their side of the story and have met with little success. Employees and several board members either haven’t responded or told me they have been instructed to direct all questions on the matter to their media relations and content specialists. (One board member, who years ago had been one of my professors, did talk with me and advised me to speak with Donna Handley, (Senior Vice President at HHC & East Region President) for “specific facts” for my story. Believe me when I say, I would love “specific facts” in order to write a fair and balanced story.  I have been directed to three HHC media personalities and they simply referred me to press releases and ignored my questions about who made the decisions, when, how and why. HHC is very good at “circling the wagons”; I guess in order to protect the Hartford Health Care brand. So much for transparency, honesty and truth! 


There can be no doubt that elected and appointed local town officials acted appropriately when it came to trying to protect the health interests of the people they serve. Unfortunately, it is obvious that our elected state officials have been unable to effectively protect our moms and newborns. I’ve spoken with six of them and collectively they have numerous explanations for how and why WCMH/HHC got away with what they have done to our neighbors? Finally, how was one woman in the Office of Health Strategies (OHS) permitted to make the “final decision” on December 1st of last year, three-and-a-half years after the maternity unit was closed. Deidre Gifford is an official who is appointed by and reports directly to the Governor. The interesting explanations from our area state representatives and state senator about what happened at WCMH will have to wait for another episode of this story. It appears that in effect it amounts to our state government’s protection for HHC’s virtual monopoly through their cadre of lawyers buttressed by the powerful Connecticut Hospital Association lobby, thus enabling HHC to do pretty much whatever they like, without particular regard for transparency or fairness for the needs of certain communities they abandon. Community hospitals serve a critical role in providing services. The people they serve deserve government protections from exploitation by larger corporate partners, who can simply skim off the cream and redistribute services in arbitrary ways that may negatively impact the patients they serve. It is in the public interest for our state representatives to protect us from such abuses through public policy initiatives. Our elected state officials from both parties, the Governor, and executive branch agencies need to effectively confront the health care monopolies in our state and make them accountable. You could call this – government working for the people as opposed to working for corporations. Protecting our local basic health care services must be a priority. Assuring transparency, community input, and truth from large health care corporations should be goals, if not, then there is no telling What’s Next?

This episode follows the first episode that appeared in the January/February 2024 issue of Neighbors and was titled “Local Moms and Newborns Abandoned.”

Bill Powers is a former teacher, counselor and health care administrator.

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