Yale-New Haven Hospital has now received the go-ahead to raise money for its controversial new cancer center, but the approval comes with some strings attached.
The Connecticut Health and Educational Facilities Authority approved bonding authority for the $430 million center on Tuesday in spite of protests from groups such as the Hospital Debt Justice Project, according to a statement released by the hospital.
The decision, which allows the hospital to issue tax-exempt bonds totaling $260 million, is contingent on the city’s approval of Yale-New Haven’s plans by July 31 of this year, Yale-New Haven spokesman Vincent Petrini said in a press release. The Certificate of Need from the State Office of Health Care Access that gives the hospital permission to construct the center will expire a month later, on Aug. 30. Only one part of the plan, a change to the text of the zoning ordinances approved last Wednesday by the City Plan Commission, has been sent to the Board of Aldermen for approval. The commission has been discussing the plans since last July.
Final approval by the city is currently the only obstacle standing in the way of the proposed cancer center, since the project has secured approval and funding from the state, Yale-New Haven President and CEO Marna P. Borgstrom said.
“CHEFA approval is an important milestone for the project,” Borgstrom said in the hospital’s press release. “We are prepared to move forward once we can secure approval at the local level.”
Though CHEFA has set a deadline for approval of the project, Yale-New Haven will be able to re-apply for the bonding authority if city approval has not been granted by July 31, New Haven Board of Aldermen President Carl Goldfield said.
“It would be nice to get it approved by then, but I don’t feel any pressure because of that,” he said.
There remains opposition to the city’s approval of the cancer center’s construction. Phoebe Rounds ’07, a member of Community Organized for Responsible Development, is calling for the hospital to negotiate a Community Benefits Agreement with CORD. She said approval for bonding by the state does not mean that the battle has ended.
“I think that the city is really the fighting place,” Rounds said. “CORD is going out and organizing in all the neighborhoods of New Haven.”
Goldfield also said the hospital needs to further negotiate with community groups about the center’s effect on surrounding neighborhoods.
“I think they could be talking more about what they’re going to do about community benefit stuff,” Goldfield said. “I think there’s still a sense that they haven’t gotten serious about negotiating a CBA.”
The hospital statement said city approval for the center’s construction has been “needlessly affected” by the Service Employees International Union’s efforts to organize the hospital’s workers. Part of CHEFA’s memo, cited in the release, said, “The city aldermen and Mayor have been conditioning zoning approval for the North Pavilion Cancer Center on potential additional union bargaining elections.”
While Yale-New Haven’s statement cites recent polling data that it said demonstrated 97 percent support from the community and has been actively involved in meetings with community groups, Rounds said the hospital has refused to answer CORD’s recent letters calling for a meeting to negotiate a Community Benefits Agreement.
“The ball is very much in the hospital’s court,” she said. “All of us want it to be approved, and there’s no reason why that couldn’t happen and no reason why it shouldn’t happen.”
Goldfield said the Board of Aldermen has yet to set a date for a discussion of the zoning text changes, but plans to do so soon.