NEW YORK (Reuters) – The small town of West Hartford, Connecticut, has the world’s largest hospital network and the nation’s largest health insurance plan, but it’s struggling to make ends meet and is facing growing pressure to change.
“We’re not seeing any kind of major increases in patients,” said Chris Moberly, who runs the local hospital system.
“Our hospitals are not getting any new patients, and we’re not getting anybody on the waiting list to see us.”
The hospital system’s problems stem from the pandemic, which swept through the United States in late 2013.
Hospitals shut down or ran out of beds, and they had to close their doors for weeks or months, leaving the residents of West Hobart, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) west of New York City, without a doctor, nurse or other health care provider.
Hospitals have to be closed for at least a month in Connecticut, meaning some residents may not have a place to go in the days after a major illness.
There are few options for a rural community that is just about the size of New Jersey to get a doctor.
Some of the challenges are financial.
Hospices are often run by private businesses and have a lower tax base than larger hospitals.
But the cost of treating the elderly and the disabled is higher, and many people are uninsured.
The town’s health department estimates it needs to raise $100 million over the next decade to keep its health department operating.
That would be a steep increase from the roughly $50 million the town has spent on new facilities.
The financial burden of running the hospital system is one of the main reasons why it has struggled to get new patients in the months following the pandemics.
The health department is also struggling to find enough doctors to staff the hospitals.
In December, it had only 22 registered primary care doctors.
Mobery said that was a major problem.
“They’re struggling to fill the positions that are being created, and I think that’s a reflection of our budget constraints,” he said.
“I don’t think that the public health system has had the resources to put in place all the training programs, and the nurses have had to put up with a lot of staff turnover.”
Moberly said the local doctors are worried about the impact the pandems has had on their practice.
“The community is a really good example of that, that they’ve been able to thrive, and now we have a major crisis,” he told Reuters Health.
“They have the health of their community in jeopardy.”
Hospice for the elderly is also one of West Connecticut’s biggest industries.
The state has the highest rate of non-emergency deaths among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Many West Hartford residents also are in dire need of care after being hospitalized during the pandics, according to Moberley.
“There’s just a very high volume of people that have needed care,” he explained.
“We’ve had to do a lot to provide care to those people.”
The government has invested in new health care facilities, including new ambulances, dialysis machines, long-term care units and more, but the costs of running those facilities are rising.
West Hartford’s financial troubles are one of several factors that could make it harder for the town to make significant changes.
The government, too, is struggling to meet its spending commitments.
The town is the only one of about 50 in the state that hasn’t had a major earthquake, which means the state of Connecticut has the most earthquakes in the country.
But West Hartford is just outside the New England states, so the earthquakes aren’t that much more severe.
The state’s Medicaid program is also running short of money, and it may not be able to continue paying for any of the new facilities the town is trying to build.
In addition, the state’s public school system is struggling.
Its students were in the classroom when the earthquake struck.
The school district is struggling financially, and some schools are closing, meaning the students are forced to stay home.
The Connecticut Health Insurance Association has recommended that the state cut $2 billion in Medicaid funding over the coming years.
But some Republican legislators in the Connecticut state house have proposed legislation that would require the state to save about $100 billion in state funding over 10 years to fund the cost-saving measures.
“It’s a good thing that West Hartford has survived the pandestines and the recession,” Moberlyn said.
“But I think the fact that it’s still here, and that it hasn’t been able, we’re really trying to do the right thing for it.
But it is a tough one.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.