UConn Health partnership represents larger private-public struggle

Hearings now on UConn health center mismanagement. Published12:00 am EDT, Thursday, June 14, 2018

Of course, the University of Connecticut is a large public institution. This is actually an aspect that draws many students to the university, as with it comes lessened costs and tighter connections with entities around the state. That is why, whenever UConn talks about privatizing some of its operations or services, some tend to bristle a bit.

We saw this happen with the partnership between the UConn Co-op and Barnes & Noble. While UConn is more than happy about the savings and revenue that pairing with them brings, students were hesitant to say the least about relinquishing their say and direct control over the operations of the book store. Feelings are still mixed on this issue years later, but the issue has mostly been subdued. However, a similar situation is now presenting itself with UConn Health.

UConn Health, which has attempted partnerships with private groups before, is now looking for a long-term joining with some outside entity in order to ensure financial stability. This is little surprise given recent budget cuts to the program, but it is sure to generate a lot of response, both positive and negative. While in the same vein as the Co-op move, UConn Health is a much more massive system, consisting of the Graduate School, the Schools of Medicine and Dental Medicine, a central teaching hospital in Farmington, clinics around the state and much more. () It is a major source of revenue and research for the university, as well as patient care for the state.

It cannot be understated how big UConn Health is and how important it is to the university. As such, handing it over in part to a private group is a scary prospect. Will there be sacrifices to the mission of the center in order to draw a large profit? Will this come at a cost to research or care? While it is unclear, there is a history of these sacrifices being made across the country with the privatization of services.

That being said, there are also many success stories. Many in Connecticut feel that a partnership like this would be a welcome one. Many state politicians (particularly the republicans) think that this is a good way to attract businesses while also staving off raising taxes yet again.

What will the end result be in the case of UConn Health? Only time will tell. The center does not even have an interested party yet, only a statement of their own interest. One thing is for sure, though. This issue represents a greater struggle across the country between the public and private sectors, and it will be of key importance what UConn and Connecticut decide in this case.


Peter Fenteany is a weekly columnist  for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at peter.fenteany@uconn.edu.