Investments in staff, equipment and facilities have resulted in a revitalized local hospital, Bridgeport Hospital officials said about the the 2019 merger with Milford Hospital.

About 30 people from the community and hospital staff attended a forum at Milford Hospital Monday, during which those improvements were highlighted. The forum was required by the state Office of Health Strategy as a condition of the acquisition.

Gina Calder, administrator of the Milford campus and vice president of Bridgeport Hospital, said one focus was stabilizing Milford Hospital. She said the organization was in financial distress and was experiencing a loss of staff who were seeking opportunities elsewhere.

Calder said that once the merger took place the focus was on investing in campus improvements, technology, and staff. She said “a full parking lot” within a few weeks of the merger reflected additional staff and patients.

“The word had really already started to get out into the community that this was going to be a revitalized excellence for patient care,” said Calder.

Technology, renovation, added staff

One step in that care improvement is the introduction of Epic electronic medical records, which she said began on Sept. 27, 2019. About 40 percent of all healthcare organizations and 190 million patients use the Epic system.

Calder said this allows for continuity of care, such as for a resident who spends part of the year in Florida. She said this also helps make connections between the Milford campus and Bridgeport Hospital.

The next phase is standardizing policies, procedures, and equipment. This includes communication involving patient records, management of how medication is dispensed, and how supplies are ordered.

Calder said the organization has made investments in the Urgent Care Center at 831 Post Road to grow that location, which officials recognize, “as an important front door access to our organization.”

Also, the renovation of the former maternity wing at 3 East into an age-friendly surgical unit has a planned opening this summer. Calder said the maternity unit had closed several years ago because there was not enough patient volume and there was an insufficient number of physicians still practicing and offering ob-gyn services in the community.

She said more than 65 percent of patients receiving care at the Milford campus are older than 65. Calder said the design would have an age-friendly design with large doors, great lighting, and a warm feeling.

Bridgeport Hospital spent more than $83 million acquiring Milford Hospital. Anne Diamond, president and chief executive officer of Bridgeport Hospital, said since the merger, an additional $15 million was spent during fiscal year 2019 on infrastructure, equipment, and technology.

In fiscal year 2020, an additional of $30 million is being invested. In total, more than 100 new pieces of technology and medical equipment have been purchased, said Diamond. There have also been renovations to public areas and clinical spaces, and money spent on the heating and cooling systems.

Almost 100 new staff members are being added to the Milford campus. Diamond said technology is allowing Milford health care providers to work with experts at Bridgeport and Yale New Haven hospitals, rather than moving patients to those hospitals.

Diamond said she did not think there was any other hospital in the country that was dedicated to geriatric care in the way that this care is planned for the Milford campus. She said while other facilities may have a geriatric unit, the local plan is training the entire staff in working with the geriatric population.

Another focus is enhancing the patient experience, which Diamond said is more than just being nice. This includes communication, family needs and personal needs.

“The patient’s experience also has a direct relationship to how well that patient heals,” said Diamond.

Hillary Harlan, senior managing director for GlassRatner, an independent monitor of the merger, said her role is to monitor compliance of the organization with the agreed settlement, as required by the state OHS. This includes meeting regularly with leaders from Yale New Haven Health Care System, the parent organization, Bridgeport Hospital, and the Milford campus.

Harlan stressed her independence, saying she reports to the state OHS, and will be monitoring the hospital for three years with visits two times a year. She said she files reports with the OHS that are available on the state website, including one that was posted on Jan. 6.

The website is https://dphconwebportal.ct.gov/Report