“Special Rural Community Hospital” Legislation Could Save Hospital

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Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton, chair of the Senate Finance Committee is the tall man standing front and center, next to Del. Jay Jacobs of Rock Hall, and surrounded by members of the Workgroup on Rural Health Delivery. Workgroup Co-chair Deborah Mizeur is behind Jacobs’ left shoulder, with Co-Chair Joseph Ciotola (nearly obscured behind Sen. Middleton) and Sen. Steve Hershey to her left. Shore Regional Health System President and CEO Ken Kozel is at far left, in the third row from the front. Heron Point Executive Director Garret Falcone is at far right, in the back row.

I have excellent news about the future of our hospital in Chestertown beyond 2022.

With the help of our doctors, delegates, Senator Thomas “Mac” Middleton, Workgroup co-chairs Deborah Mizeur and Joe Ciotola, and thousands in our community, the “Save the Hospital” campaign has cleared another hurdle:

On September 28, the state’s “Workgroup on Rural Health Delivery” unanimously agreed that the Chestertown hospital should offer in-patient medical and surgical services.  That means indefinitely, beyond 2022.  That is what our community has fought for since January 2016.

The hospital recommendation also approved unanimously by the Health Care Commission, now goes to the General Assembly as part of a comprehensive Mid-Shore health care plan.

If the in-patient endorsement wins legislative approval and Governor Hogan’s support, the facility on Brown Street will become a “Special Rural Community Hospital,” uniquely eligible for state funding.  The state subsidy is controversial, but it’s critically important.  More than 80 rural American hospitals have closed since 2010.

The Workgroup’s unanimous approval was gratifying.  Even members who had been skeptical or opposed to in-patient care here eventually agreed with messages we’d heard at the January 10, 2016, “Firehouse Meeting.”

  • Healthcare, including in-patient beds, should be as close to home as possible.
  • Shuttling frail patients to Easton from Chestertown and the far-reaches of Kent and Queen Anne’s is bad—sometimes dangerous—medicine.
  • Leaving people who can’t drive with no way to get to Easton appointments and visits to loved ones in the hospital means sick people get sicker.

We’ve come a long way since early 2016 when Shore Health’s board was planning to retain our Emergency Department, diagnostics (MRIs, X-rays, etc.), same-day surgery, rehab, chemo and other ambulatory services, but to eliminate in-patient beds and any surgery requiring an overnight stay.

Ken Kozel, CEO and President of Shore Health, was one of the Workgroup members who endorsed the final report, and on October 28, he reiterated his commitment to the Chester River Health Foundation board.

Shore Health, he said, stands by its in-patient care promise through spring of 2022, and afterward if Maryland provides support as requested through the rural study.

“We feel if you can sustain the funding, then it’s an appropriate facility to have in this community in perpetuity,” Kozel said, adding his agreement with the Workgroup’s conclusion.

“It’s needed,” he said.

Here’s the Workgroup’s full report.  The rural hospital paragraph is at the bottom of page 16.

Margie Elsberg

“Save the Hospital”

Volunteer Communications Coordinator

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Letters to Editor

  1. christine reeves says:

    MY SENSE OF RELIEF AND JOY CANNOT BE OVER STATED. KUDOS TO YOU ALL. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK. WE NEED YOU!!!

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