Mid-Shore Health Futures: The Chester River Health Foundation with Maryann Ruehrmund

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One thing that Maryann Ruehrmund, the executive director of the Chester River Health Foundation, hadn’t counted on as she developed annual fundraising plans for Chestertown’s UM Shore Medical Center, was the counter-intuitive response to Kent County’s  successful “Save our Hospital” movement.

Rather than see an increase in donations to do just that, the Chestertown River Health Foundation saw a actual decrease in giving starting a few years ago. While there might have been co-factors in the reduction of philanthropy, including, of course, the impact of the Great Recession, the question remained whether the Foundation would be able to continue keeping pace with the ongoing needs of the hospital in Chestertown.

To the great relief to Maryann, and her board of directors, the answer seems to be a resounding “yes.”

With the conclusion of the State of Maryland’s working group on rural hospitals last year, recommending that Shore Medical Center at Chestertown stay permanently open, along with the hospital’s parent, the UM Health System, wholly in support of this finding, there is growing evidence that the Foundation is once again on track in providing meaningful contributions to the hospital’s equipment and capital requirements.

The seeds of the Chester River Health Foundation were sewn in 1992 after a successful, campaign through which the community donated more than $2 million to build a three-story wing and completely modernize the facility. The Foundation was incorporated in 1985 as a 501(c)(3) not for profit organization, to provide a source of charitable donations to make state-of-the-art medical equipment, facility improvements and advanced healthcare education for employees, possible. It maintains its mission today, governed by a local, all-volunteer Board of Directors in support of healthcare excellence at the hospital.

The Spy, as part of our continuing series of profiling philanthropy, spent a few minutes with Maryann to talk about why the community’s charitable support is so vital to the long-term vitality of the hospital.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about the Chester River Health Foundation please go here

Spy Minute: The Mid-Shore March for Gun Control

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While the Spy will have a much detailed account of the extraordinary March For Our Lives demonstration that took place on Saturday in Chestertown, we thought it would be helpful for those who couldn’t attend to capture some of the more remarkable moments as hundreds from the Mid-Shore joined the hundreds of thousands nationwide in support of stricter gun controls.

This video is approximately two minutes in length

Chestertown Movie Theater — Back in the Picture?

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The Horizon Cinema team at the Chestertown Council meeting. Monday, March 19. Shown are Mike Klein (standing), Ira Miller and Bob Weinholdt.

The on-again, off-again saga of Chestertown’s movie theater took a new twist at Monday’s town council meeting. The principals of Horizon Cinema, which originally planned to reopen the theater last November under the name Chesapeake Theaters, came before the council to propose a deal that could get the theater open by Memorial Day weekend.

Kay MacIntosh, the Chestertown economic development coordinator, introduced Mike Klein, Ira Miller, and Bob Weinholdt of Horizon Cinema, which operates four multi-screen theaters in and around Baltimore. She said Silicato Development, which owns the Washington Square mall where the Chester 5 Theater is located, had been willing to work with a theater operator to reopen the business since it closed nearly two years ago. However, initial talks between Horizon and Silicato broke down sometime before a projected November/December 2017 opening. The deal is now back on track, she said, but the parties are about $75,000 apart in their negotiations. Horizon is asking the town to advance that amount to Horizon to help close the deal and allow the theater to reopen. The town would be repaid by the revenue from the 4 percent amusement tax on theater receipts, a source of income it has not received since the closing of Chester 5. She said the reopening of the theater would benefit the local economy, with movie patrons coming from out of town and spending money in local stores and restaurants as well as going to the shows.

Klein took the floor and said he was happy to answer any questions from the council. “I wish we’d opened in November,” he said. “This project can be really successful, and we want to make it a real community theater. There’s been a lot of community interest.” Klein said he’s been speaking to various local groups, including MacIntosh and Jamie Williams, the Kent County economic development coordinator, and to Washington College about Horizon’s plans.

Councilman Marty Stetson asked whether the theater would show first-run movies, and how many screens it would offer. Klein said the group was aiming for first-run films and plans to operate all five of the screens currently in the building. The building will be completely renovated, including the restrooms and the concession stands. Plans are to build platform seating to give viewers in the back part of the auditorium a better view. New drapes and sound systems, as well as larger screens, are to be installed, and the food offerings will be expanded to include pizza and other finger foods such as fries.

Councilman Ellsworth Tolliver asked who would decide what films to program. Ira Miller said he would be in charge of the booking. “We’ll have all kinds — family films, sci-fi, art films. We want to bring everybody to the theater,” Miller said. He said the theater would do fundraising projects for local nonprofits, “to give back to the community.” He said they were also considering offering special prices for Washington College students. “You’ll have people coming from Millington to Chestertown for the movies,” he added. Responding to a question by Town Manager Bill Ingersoll, he said the theater would have between 12 and 15 employees.

Mayor Chris Cerino asked Ingersoll to give the background on the amusement tax, from which the Horizon group said the proposed $75,000 advance would be repaid.

Ingersoll said the tax dated to about 1991, and was designed for special events. It originally included arcade video games, but with the decline of that fad, it was recently almost entirely dependent on movie revenues. Since the closing of the movie theater, “It’s currently close to zero,” he said. He said the tax would possibly return up to $20,000 annually if the theater did well. Horizon’s request for the $75,000 advance was unusual, he said, but he didn’t see why the theater wouldn’t generate that amount over a reasonable time period. He said Horizon is ready to invest some $500,000 in renovating the theater. He said the deal should be structured so the advance would be paid back if the theater closes before the entire sum is raised. “We need to support the theater to make sure it’s a success,” he said.

Weinholdt, who supervises construction and renovation for Horizon, said the town was not to blame for the closing of the theater. He said the previous operators had not renovated or upgraded the facilities since the theater opened. “You can’t expect people to sit in a theater like that,” he said. He said the new projection and sound systems would cost some $270,000, which Silicato has agreed to finance. He said the theater would initially have “rocker back” seats, but plans were to replace them with recliner seats, which would take about 16 weeks to arrive once they were put on order. The theater as a whole will be unlike anything Chestertown has ever seen, he said. “We want to open for the summer — that’s our biggest season,” he added.

Cerino said it would be better for the town if Horizon made up the $75,000 difference with Silicato and the town refunded the amusement tax to them. “You’re asking for about 10 percent of our cash on hand,” he said.

Weinholdt said the principals had just spent $750,000 to open a new theater in Fallston. “We don’t have a lot of cash flow,” he said. Theaters have a small profit margin, especially in small markets like Chestertown, he added. Asked if Silicato could advance the amount, he said the developer has already promised $270,000 for the projection and sound systems. “We need the money up front to do the job,” he said, adding, “We’re willing to work with you.”

Cerino said the town has given tax incentives to other businesses, particularly in the new Enterprise Zone. “I can see us doing that” for the theater, he said. While he was “interested in helping,” he said he wanted to “eliminate the risk for the town.” He said he was also worried about setting a precedent other prospective businesses might use to ask the town for a payment to help them locate here.

Rebecca Murphy, standing at right, tells the council about the benefits of reopening the movie theater.

Rebecca Murphy, a real estate development specialist who has worked with Miller’s theaters in Baltimore, and who is a part-time Chestertown resident, said the amusement tax would provide a “finite and guaranteed” source of income to repay the advance. “If you all agree this is something the town wants, the question is, do you want to put a deal together to allow [Horizon) to get from today to an opening?” She said the old theater was paying $12,000 annually in a bad year. “If that’s the floor, you’re out in seven years. It’s money you won’t get any other way.”

Councilman David Foster questioned whether the tax revenue is “guaranteed.” “I can assure you we’re interested,” he said, but “we need to know what happens if you don’t succeed.”

MacIntosh said the town needs the theater to remain attractive to residents and potential residents. She said the town would miss an opportunity if it doesn’t make the deal work. The property could end up as another big box store if it can’t reopen as a theater.

Tolliver moved to authorize Ingersoll to negotiate with Horizon on behalf of the council; the motion passed without opposition. “I think we can get a win-win,” said Ingersoll.

Cerino told the Horizon group, “We appreciate your coming in. I’ve got your back, but I’ve got to do due diligence for the town.”

Miller said, “When we open, it’ll be a great day for Chestertown.”

The Chester 5 Theaters at Washington Square shopping center in Chestertown

 

Chestertown Plans to Have its Own “March for Our Lives” Saturday

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Chestertown will march in solidarity with communities throughout the country to support prevention of gun violence in schools. To date, this is the only March on Maryland’s Eastern Shore that is listed on the National Website, “March for Our Lives.”

Organizers will meet participants on March 24 at the Kent County Office Building, 400 High Street in Chestertown, at Noon and march to Wilmer Park for a rally which will feature guest speakers, music, food and other activities, including voter registration information.

Speakers will include students and representatives of Kent County Citizens to Prevent Gun Violence, as well as Dr. Kathryn Seifert, one of the country’s leading experts in the fields of multi-victim violence, bullying, trauma and mental health related violence. Counselors will also be on site to assist participants.

For more information please contact Lynn Dolinger, 410-778-0295 or lynn.thirdwish@gmail.com

Fiber Installation Underway in Chestertown

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Kent FIBER Optic Systems (KentFOS) has begun construction of the Fiber Infrastructure in Chestertown as part of Kent County’s Dark Fiber network project.

The construction in Chestertown started February 21 along sections of College Avenue, Calvert Street, Kent Street, High Street, and Mill Street (Green line on the map below).  For the next two to three weeks, teams will be constructing on sections of Brown Street, E. Campus Avenue and Philosophers Terrace (outlined in orange on the map).

In the coming months, KentFOS intends to install along the Maple Avenue section of Route 213, and parts of Queen Street, Cross Street and Cannon Street as indicated by the map’s red line. (An updated map will be coming soon.)

In addition to burying conduit to hold the fiber-optic strands, the network requires the installation of “Hand Holes,” which are boxes strategically placed to maximize the efficiencies of splicing the fiber. The style of Hand Hole boxes being deployed in Chestertown was specifically requested and approved by the Town in an effort to minimize the aesthetic impact of the installation.

The infrastructure, including the Hand Hole boxes, is being constructed within the public right of way, a distance which extends approximately 7 feet from the curb or street edge. If you have questions about work being done in your neighborhood, KentFOS asks that you please call 443-215-0330 or email Sales@KentFOS.com.

Fiber being installed near H.H. Garnet Elementary School on Calvert Street, Feb. 27

 

 

Hospice Center for Chestertown Now Open

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Compass Regional Hospice’s residential Hospice Center located at 100 Brown Street in Chestertown is now open for patient care. Compass Regional Hospice leases a unit on the third floor of the University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Chestertown from University of Maryland Shore Regional Health. Patient care is provided by the staff of Compass Regional Hospice, the sole provider of hospice care in Kent County, and also in Queen Anne’s and Caroline Counties.

“We are grateful for the amount of support we have received already from our community and are excited to bring a new, and much needed level of ‘Care on your terms’ to the residents of Kent County,” says Heather Guerieri, executive director, Compass Regional Hospice. “Opening the Hospice Center allows us to expand the services we have been providing since becoming the sole provider of hospice services in 2014.”

Guerieri adds, “We are grateful to UM Shore Regional Health for helping us to respond to the end-of-life needs of Kent County patients and their loved ones through facilitating the lease with Compass. We also want to thank the many people of our community who have donated their time, materials and expertise to make it possible for us to transform the unit into the Hospice Center.”

Compass Regional Hospice renovated the unit transforming it into a comfortable, home-like Hospice Center that can accommodate four patients in private rooms. All patient rooms are equipped with flat screen TVs and comfortable seating for visitors. The kitchenette and living room are spaces that offer privacy for visitors to gather and enjoy meals, puzzles or other activities.

The Hospice Center is staffed around-the-clock, with two hospice aides always on duty. Other staff available as needed include physicians, a nurse practitioner, hospice nurses, social workers and grief counselors. A chaplain from Compass Regional Hospice will be onsite regularly and personal ministers and other clergy are welcome to visit.

The facility is equipped with technology that connects staff to the Compass Regional Hospice electronic medical record system and allows for constant communication with Compass’ team members at our other three locations.

The Hospice Center is reserved for patients who need a more intensive level of care. Admission will be based on greatest need. Hospital patients who are deemed suitable for admission to residential hospice care must first be discharged from the hospital according to hospital discharge procedures, then admitted to Compass Regional Hospice for hospice care according to normal hospice admission procedures. No one is ever turned away if they are unable to pay.

For more information about Compass Regional Hospice or if you think we can help you or a loved one, call 443-262-4100 or visit www.compassregionalhospice.org. To become a hospice supporter in Kent County, contact Kenda Leager, development officer, 443-262-4106, kleager@compassregionalhospice.org.

Council Looks at Cutting Trash Pickups

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David Sobers of the Chestertown Environmental Committee speaks to the Mayor and Council about a proposal to reduce trash pickups in town to once a week

Waste disposal and the town’s website were the top subjects at a two-hour long Chestertown council meeting, March 5 in Town Hall.

David Sobers and Ford Schumann, representing the Chestertown Environmental Committee, presented a proposal that the town adopt once-a-week trash pickup. Schumann read a letter from former mayor Margo Bailey pointing out that anticipated savings from scaling back the trash service could be used to promote recycling.  Seventy percent of households in Chestertown currently participate in the town’s recycling program which has once-a-week curbside pickup every Friday. And with fewer trash pickups, residents would have an incentive to recycle an even greater proportion of the waste. “There’s no such place as away,” Bailey concluded. “When you throw something away, it has to end up somewhere.”

Sobers then gave a more detailed presentation, giving statistics in support of the proposal. The town generates 1,687 tons of waste annually, compared to 265 tons of recycled materials and 200 tons of yard waste, which is composted. It pays $166 a ton for waste disposal, of which $102 is the fee for collection. The cost per household is $101 annually. For recycling, the annual cost per household is $46.

Moving to once-a-week pickup would result in a savings of $40,000 to $80,000 annually, not counting yard waste, Sobers said. Meanwhile, increasing the participation in recycling from 70% to 90% would cost between $20,000 and $40,000. At the same time, the environmental committee recommended upgrading the recycling containers in use, providing larger, wheeled containers to households at a one-time cost of about $45 per container. Street containers should also be improved, the committee said, increasing usage by making the difference between trash cans and recycling containers more obvious.

Increasing participation would involve sending notices to households. publishing articles in the local press, and involving the public schools and Washington College in spreading the word. Another possibility would be giving awards or certifications to businesses that reached certain milestones for recycling. Residents wishing to join the recycling should contact town hall.

Councilman Marty Stetson expressed support of moving to once-a-week trash pickup. He said he had made the suggestion when he was first elected, but Bailey, who was mayor at the time, was opposed. “I’m glad Mayor Bailey finally saw the light,” Stetson said with a smile.

Mayor Chris Cerino said the current waste disposal contractor may be “getting out of the business,” due to the recent death of one of the owners. Thus it might be the right time to consider moving to once-a-week pickups. He said it would be something for the council to look at more closely during budget deliberations later this Spring.

Francoise Sullivan of Moo Productions gives the Chestertown council a virtual tour of the town’s website (on screen at top) at the March 5 council meeting

The town’s webmaster, Francoise Sullivan of Moo Productions, was on hand to discuss the town’s website. She gave a brief overview of the website, showing some of the submenus and links, partly for the benefit of the two new council members.

Stetson said the website should be designed to attract visitors to town. He said the current design is primarily aimed at residents, with information on subjects primarily of local interest. He suggested making the front page a rotating series of pictures of the town, featuring the approach across the Chester River bridge. “That’s what’s unique about the town,” he said. He also said a voice-over by Cerino would be a good way to give the town an appeal to visitors.

Cerino endorsed the idea of making the site more appealing to visitors. He said the Sultana Education Foundation website, which Sullivan also maintains, could be a model, and volunteered to supply some photos for the front page.

Sullivan said the suggestions were all workable. She said she would get together with Cerino and start making the suggested changes.

Also at the meeting, Prof. Elena Deanda of the Washington College Department of Spanish and Larry Samuels of the Diversity Dialogue Group gave a brief presentation on a community street fair scheduled for April 14. The group has requested a street closure for College Avenue between Campus Avenue and Calvert Street. The event will feature activities for kids, music by local and college bands, information booths by local organizations, and food trucks.

The council approved the appointment of Owen Bailey to fill a vacancy on the Historic District Commission. After the vote, Councilman David Foster said the town should routinely publicize openings on commissions to allow more residents to apply for the positions. He said he would have been interested in being appointed to the Planning Commission over the last few years if he had known of the vacancies. He suggested letting residents who are interested in such positions put their names on a list to be notified when openings occur.

Cerino also gave a report on a bond bill to raise $500,000 for renovations on the Chestertown Marina. He said Kees de Mooy, the town zoning administrator, will testify before the state Senate in support of the bill. Cerino also gave an update on work at the marina, noting that if the bond bill is ratified, it will allow the town to make significant progress toward completing the project.

Councilwoman Linda Kuiper, during her ward report, requested a review of the town’s policy regarding participation of non-profit organizations in the farmers market. She said churches should be allowed to set up booths at the market on the same basis as other nonprofits.

Cerino said the suggestion was “a slippery slope” because of the principle of separation of church and state. He said a church conducting a bake sale to raise money for a project was probably OK, but distribution of religious materials was problematic. He said the question should be put on the regular agenda if the council wanted to discuss it.

Stetson said he opposed allowing churches to distribute religious materials in the park. He said if you allowed one to do so, you would need to allow all of them, and there is limited space in the park. “What if the Ku Klux Klan wanted to set up a booth?” he asked.

Town Manager Bill Ingersoll said the policy for issuing farmers market permits was worked out several years ago. He said the non-profit section of the park is pretty heavily used, judging by the wear on the grass in that area.

At the Utilities Commission meeting, Utilities Manager Bob Sipes updated the council on a project to generate a map of the town’s water supply system. He said the project would probably cost between $50,000 and $120,000 if it was done properly. Grants might be available to pay for most, if not all of it. He said the project had been moved to the back burner last year when other priorities came up. He said he would reprioritize the mapping project.

The meeting which began promptly at 7:30 p.m. adjourned at 9: 30.

Clifford Coppersmith to Become 6th President of Chesapeake College

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The Chesapeake College Board of Trustees has selected Dr. Clifford P. Coppersmith to be the school’s sixth president. Dr. Coppersmith was chosen by a unanimous vote of the Trustees from a pool of 72 applicants in a nationwide search that was narrowed down to four finalists who visited the campus in late February.

Coppersmith, 55, is currently Dean of City College, an embedded community college within Montana State University Billings with 1,400 full and part-time students. He’s been the school’s chief executive officer in charge of academics, student affairs, finance and facilities since July 2015.

Dr. Clifford P. Coppersmith

Prior to City College, Coppersmith held several administrative and academic positions including over 19 years at two institutions: Pennsylvania College of Technology, a special mission affiliate of The Pennsylvania State University; and Utah State University – Eastern, formerly the College of Eastern Utah.

“Dr. Coppersmith’s background and experience were a great match for the qualifications and expectations established at the outset of our national search for a new president,” Chesapeake College Board of Trustees Chair Blenda Armistead said. “We were looking for someone with a proven track record in developing programs to address workforce needs in the community, and he brings that experience to the Mid-Shore. Dr. Coppersmith also understands and has extensive experience with the transfer mission of community colleges. As an individual who began his higher education in a community college in upstate New York, he is committed to ensuring that Chesapeake College will serve as a gateway to further education for all of our residents.”

Armistead noted Coppersmith’s ability to collaborate with public school leaders, local government, and business and industry partners to develop both credit and non-credit programs focused specifically on workforce needs. These have included programs in emergency management, nursing and allied health, computer science, metal and construction trades, diesel technology and automotive repair.

“Cliff has worked effectively with state and local government, and this was one of our priorities in our search for a new president,” she said.

“He understands the economic and social challenges in rural areas similar to the Shore. Moreover, the trustees are confident in his ability to strengthen the sense of community among all constituencies within the College, which was another expectation established for our new president.”

Community engagement will be among Coppersmith’s first priorities.

“Right off the bat, I want to establish those relationships and connections that are so critical to the success of the College,” he said. “I anticipate working closely with the members of the Board of Trustees, civic and public education leaders and the local business network to strengthen Chesapeake and its vital role in serving the five-county region as a center for higher education, cultural activities and economic development.”

Coppersmith met with the Board and participated in on-campus forums with students, faculty, staff and Mid-Shore community leaders last month.

“I had a great exchange with all those groups when I interviewed,” he said. “I was extremely impressed with the quality of the campus and its facilities and the engagement of the faculty and staff, and I considered my meeting with the students the highlight of the visit.”
Coppersmith and his wife Kathleen have strong personal connections to the region.

“Kathy and I are excited to return to a part of the world we love in which we’ve had many great experiences,” he said. “We were married in Kensington outside D.C.; spent the first night of our honeymoon in Chestertown; and for 11 years, the Chincoteague and Assateague Island seashores were our family’s favorite vacation spot. The Eastern Shore has been a special place for us for that reason and others.”

Born in the West Indies, Coppersmith said saltwater is in his blood. He looks forward to sailing, kayaking and canoeing on local waters and visiting the beach.

The Coppersmiths have three adult children – including two living in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh – three grandchildren and close family members in Frederick and Northern Virginia.

A former commissioned officer in the U.S. Army Reserve and Army National Guard and an intelligence officer with the Central Intelligence Agency, Coppersmith believes strongly in executing the mission of the College which is critical to his vision for Chesapeake.

“It comes from my military background,” he explained. “Almost everything I do on a daily basis is premised on serving the mission of the school and its students. I’ve been successful in figuring out what the strengths of an institution are, what its mission is, and then connecting that to the community I serve.”

His service background also includes 45 years in scouting with the Boy Scouts of America.

Coppersmith holds four academic degrees: A doctorate in history and anthropology from Oklahoma State University; a master’s in history from St. Bonaventure University in New York State; a bachelor’s in political science and Latin American studies from Brigham Young University in Utah; and an associate in social science from Jamestown Community College in New York State.

Rotary Award to “Save Our Hospital”

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Dr. Jerry O’Connor receives the first annual Dr. Paul Titsworth Service Award from Rotary president Andy Meehan     Photo by Jane Jewell

The Chestertown Rotary Club, at its luncheon meeting Feb. 27, at the Fish Whistle, gave the first annual Dr. Paul Titsworth Service Award to “Save Our Hospital,” a group of citizens and medical professionals who have been working to ensure that Chestertown continues to have a full-service hospital with beds for in-patient care.

The afternoon started with an excellent buffet luncheon provided by the Fish Whistle with pulled pork, roast beef, chicken breasts, and Jeff Carroll’s famous mac-n-cheese. along with salads and a choice of pastries for dessert.  The meeting proper began with the pledge of allegiance and a recitation of Rotary’s Four-Way Test, guidelines that members use before taking action:  1) Is it the Truth? 2) Is it Fair to all concerned? 3) Will it build Good Will and Better Friendships? 4) Will it be Beneficial to all concerned?

Following the lunch, Rotary president Andy Meehan got the ball rolling with general introductions while Brian Moore, the general manager of WCTR radio, gave the history of Dr. Paul Titsworth. Meehan then presented the award. Present on behalf of the “Save Our Hospital” group were Drs. Gerald O’Connor and Wayne Benjamin, who were among the first to alert the community that the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS), which acquired the Chestertown hospital in 2007, was planning to close the facility and move its services to Easton. O’Connor said it was an honor to receive the award. He mentioned Marge Elsberg, Kay Macintosh, Zane and Nancy Carter, Glen Wilson and Dr. Benjamin as other key figures in the fight to save the hospital. He gave a brief summary of how local physicians became aware of UMMS’s plans and began to work to oppose a hospital closing. A community meeting at the Chestertown firehouse in January 2016 drew an overflow crowd, estimated at more than 500. Despite the favorable response by the Maryland General Assembly, “Our job is not over,” O’Connor said. He also thanked state senator Steve Hershey and delegate Jay Jacobs for their support in the Maryland General Assembly.

Benjamin agreed that the fight must continue, noting that UMMS appears to have adopted a strategy of “bleeding to death” the local hospital by instituting small cuts most residents won’t notice until it’s too late. He urged attendees to read the affiliation agreement between the local hospital and UMMS and see the promises made at the time of the acquisition. “We need to follow through” to ensure that the promises are kept, he said.

Dr. Karen Couch, superintendent of Kent County Schools.       Photo by Jane Jewell

Karen Couch, Kent County superintendent of education, introduced Mizeur, the keynote speaker. Mizeur is a clinical herbalist, trained as a nutritionist, who operates her own herb farm in Kent County.  She had a long list of experience in healthcare policy before becoming co-chair of the Rural Healthcare Workgroup. Couch said Mizeur is continuing to work to assure that the workgroup’s recommendations are incorporated into legislation. Mizeur served as co-chair of the Rural Healthcare Workgroup established by the Maryland General Assembly in response to residents’ concerns over reports that the Chestertown hospital may close or have its services drastically reduced. The workgroup delivered its report last fall and is waiting for the General Assembly to act on its recommendations.

Mizeur’s talk gave an update on the workgroup’s report, how it is being received in the General Assembly, and future prospects for the continued presence of the hospital in Chestertown. She praised the doctors who raised the alarm about the possibility that the hospital would close. “Doctors want to take care of people, not deal with politics or business,” she said. The low population density of rural areas like the Eastern Shore creates a challenge for getting medical personnel to move to rural areas. It can be an issue of “selling the town,” selling Chestertown to prospective employees.  She said the workgroup focused on the principle that their job was to look for the best way to deliver care to rural areas — not the costs or the business aspects of the problem. Their report tried to identify ways to attract physicians to the Shore. It can be an issue of “selling the town,” selling Chestertown to interested medical personnel. A major issue is how to mitigate the problems of distance, which affect not only getting patients to immediate care but the ability of their families to visit and support them. If the nearest medical facility is an hour away when someone has a stroke or heart attack, it may not matter how good the care is at that facility if the person can’t get there in time. Transportation is a key to any solution, Mizeur said. A study conducted in parallel with the workgroups by the University of Maryland School of Public Health arrived at essentially the same conclusions, especially the need to keep inpatient care in Kent County and similar areas of the state. Currently, UMMS is legally required to keep the hospital open with in-patient beds until 2022.  But, Mizeure pointed out, that doesn’t mean that the hospital facilities and services can’t be left to “wither on the vine” during that time.  She stressed that we must unite and keep UMMS accountable or we will wake up in three years and discover that we have no hospital.  However, the final answer is in the hands of the General Assembly, she said.

Heather Mizeur, co-chair of Maryland’s Work Group on Rural Health Care Delivery, at Rotary luncheon. Leslie Sea and Brian Moore of WCTR radio in the background.    Photo by Jane Jewell

The biggest challenge to finding a solution is the private ownership of the Shore Regional Health facilities, of which the Chestertown hospital is part. Neither the community nor the state has sufficient leverage to control UMMS decisions, which are still driven by a desire to pull services out of Chestertown and move them to Easton, Mizeur said. She said workgroup members and the “Save Our Hospital” group is continuing to advocate for the Maryland Department of Health to monitor services at the local hospital and ensure they are not being eroded. “We’re doing our best to hold UMMS accountable,” she said. “We think we have a strong case,” Mizeur said.  State senators Steve Hershey and Mike Middleton remain committed to helping save the hospital, but the process continues. “It’s a moving target,” she said.

The Rotarian’s service award is named for Dr. Paul Titsworth, who was president of Washington College from 1923 to 1933 and the founding president of the Chestertown Rotary Club in 1926, The “Save Our Hospital” group is the first recipient of what is to be an annual award.  Sound equipment was provided by Leslie Sea and Brian Moore of WCTR radio, Chestertown.  Rotary International is a widely-respected service organization whose purpose is “to bring together business and professional leaders to provide humanitarian services, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations, and to advance goodwill and peace around the world.”  There are over 35,000 local clubs worldwide.  Anyone interested in joining or finding out more about the organization can contact current Rotary president Andy Meehan at AMeehan12@gmail.com. Visit the International Rotary website here or the Chestertown Rotary FaceBook page here.

Paul Heckels, past president of Chestertown Rotary, and David White hold a picture of Dr. Paul Titsworth, past president of Washington College and founder and first president of the Chestertown Rotary Club.    Photo by Jane Jewell

Dr. Jerry O’Connor, Deborah Mizeur, Andy Meehan    Photo by Jane Jewell

 

 

 

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Attendees at Rotary luncheon at Fish Whistle.      Photo by Jane Jewell

Rotary insignia over the years – Chestertown chapter      Photo by Jane Jewell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rotary’s Four-Way Test  Photo by Jane Jewell

Rotary president Andy Meehan, Kent County Library director Jackie Adams, Rev. Frank St. Amour of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.     Photo by Jane Jewell