Letter to the Editor: Special Thanks to Shore Health Volunteers

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As Chairman of the Board of Directors for University of Maryland Shore Regional Health, I am writing to express our gratitude for the men and women who volunteer in our three hospital auxiliaries — Chester River Hospital Center Auxiliary, Dorchester General Hospital Auxiliary and Auxiliary of Memorial Hospital at Easton. Members of these three volunteer organizations donate their valuable time to support health care services within their local communities, assisting with daily operations at many of our facilities and raising funds for programs, services, equipment and patient care throughout the region.

In the past year, the auxiliaries have earned a combined $500,000 in proceeds through their special event sales, hospital gift shops and their auxiliary-managed thrift shops – the Nearly New Shop in Chestertown, the Robin Hood Shop in Cambridge and The Bazaar at 121 Federal Street in Easton. The auxiliaries rely heavily on their gift and thrift shop sales to be able to provide the funding for each of the hospitals and offsite locations to which they contribute.

In addition to the funds they provide, volunteers assist with services such as wheelchair and patient escorts, blood pressure screenings, front desk and surgical service reception and many other areas. In total, volunteers donated 60,000 hours between the auxiliaries across the region, saving the organization valuable dollars that can then be used to further patient care efforts. Our team members, medical staff and patients value and appreciate the work of all auxiliary volunteers.

We encourage community members who have available time and would like to become more engaged with their community to reach out and learn more about volunteer opportunities with our three auxiliaries. Becoming a volunteer in a healthcare setting enables you to meet people from all walks of life while making a real difference in our communities

University of Maryland Shore Regional Health thanks the auxiliaries for their commitment to accessible, innovative health care, close to home. These are three fantastic organizations!

Thank you.

John Dillon, Chairman
Board of Directors
University of Maryland Shore Regional Health

Letter to Editor: In Reversal, Shore Health Wants to Maintain Inpatient Care in Chestertown Beyond 2022

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The effort to “Save the Hospital” in Chestertown—to ensure that there will be inpatient care here long beyond 2022—is on a fast-moving train that appears increasingly headed for success.

There are debates on the tracks ahead, but with the leadership of our doctors and our General Assembly delegation, and with the support of Washington College, Dixon Valve, Chestertown’s Mayor and Town Council, and the citizens of Kent and northern Queen Anne’s counties, we have apparently won the battle to keep our hospital whole.

In a reversal of their stance in early 2016, the Shore Regional Health System board and University of Maryland Medical System now favor maintaining inpatient services at our hospital in Chestertown indefinitely.  They’ve said so in writing, in a “White Paper” written in response to a request by Deborah Mizeur and Dr. Joseph Ciotola, co-chairs of the Rural Healthcare Delivery Plan Workgroup.

The White Paper hasn’t been made public, but Shore Health President and CEO Ken Kozel described it to me in detail.  The White Paper isn’t only about Chestertown’s hospital.  It lists facilities that Shore Health believes should be maintained in each of the five Mid-Shore counties, and calls for state support to ensure an economically sustainable system.  The Workgroup will consider the White Paper and other recommendations as it writes the Rural Healthcare Delivery Plan that must be finalized by October and presented to the General Assembly.

The White Paper, with a cover letter signed by Mr. Kozel and UMMS President and CEO Bob Chrencik, has been delivered to Ms. Mizeur and Dr. Ciotola, and to Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee (which handles healthcare legislation) and Dennis Schaffer, Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene.  In the coming weeks, Mr. Kozel will discuss the document with District 36 and 37 legislators, including Sen. Steve Hershey, and delegates Jay Jacobs, Steve Arentz, and Jeff Ghrist.  All are engaged and appear headed in the same direction, though there are issues to be resolved.

The White Paper recommends only 15 inpatient beds in Chestertown after 2022, a drop in capacity that concerns our doctors.  Though Mr. Kozel says Shore could maintain up to 25 beds, our doctors say it’s already too common for inpatients to stay in the ER for up to 48 hours when there are no available beds.  Inpatients belong in nursing units, the doctors say; reducing the bed count will exacerbate the situation.

Our doctors are also concerned that the White Paper recommends closing Chestertown’s Intensive Care Unit after 2022.  The ICU, they say, is a hospital’s safety net when med-surg (medical and surgical nursing floor) patients take a turn for the worse.

Save the Hospital will continue to fight for quality care, but we are heartened that our hospital’s future is brighter than it was a year ago.  We appreciate the willingness of Shore Health’s leadership to change course in response to the community’s needs.

In the fall, after the Workgroup has finalized its plan, attention will shift to Annapolis and to Sen. Middleton’s Finance Committee.  The senator told me he’s “very enthusiastic” about Shore Health’s White Paper and though designing and passing needed legislation “won’t be easy,” he is committed to producing a robust healthcare system for the Mid-Shore’s five counties.

A farmer from Charles County, “Mac” Middleton said he remembers when his community couldn’t afford a hospital, when his mother had to go to Washington to have a baby.  “My dad told me,” he said, “I should never forget my roots.”

Margie Elsberg

Volunteer Communications Coordinator for “Save the Hospital”

Board member, Chester River Health Foundation

 

Letter to the Editor: Democracy in Action?

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To the editor,

DEMOCRACY IN ACTION? The Senate—well, half the Senate—is preparing its new health care bill. Where the ACA took over a year of research, debate, and bickering, this bill (AHCA) takes just a couple of weeks, in secret, no debate. Even Republicans have been kept in the dark on what’s in this bill. This is NOT democracy in action.

MEDICAID. Did your aging parents “sell down” the family home to be eligible for nursing-home care? Clear out a room at home, because Mom and Pop will be out on the street. The working poor—health care workers, teachers, construction workers, fast-food workers, retail workers, laborers—who work part-time and/or who have no employer-provided health care has expanded since the 2008 crash, as employers changed hiring and benefits policies.  The Medicaid pie is divided as follows: 50% to the elderly, 20% to disabled, 20% to working households (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities).

FAMILY. Maternity care MAY NOT be covered in your state! Delivery can cost $10,000 to $20,000, more for a C-section, more for prenatal care. Birth control—pills, IUDs, diaphragms—whether they treat reproductive conditions like endometriosis, or simply good family planning—Gone. You are on your own (according to the Kaiser Family Foundation).

JOBS. In the next ten years, after a brief rise in employment to start, some 924,000 jobs will be lost, three-quarters of them in the health care industry, accompanied by an economic loss in the range of $148 billion (according to the Commonwealth Fund).

Pre-existing conditions, psychological and psychiatric care, treatment for opioid and alcohol addictions, no yearly and lifetime caps on coverage —gone, gone, gone. And of course, the 23 million folks who finally got coverage and will now lose it.

This is madness. It’s morally unacceptable. It’s economically disastrous. The wealthy will be wealthier and healthier. Will you?

Contact Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, and Congressman Andy Harris, to fight this bill—if for no other reason than for the sunshine of democracy. Get this bill into the daylight.

Marion Grier

Church Hill, MD

Letter to Editor: Yes, We Need More Civility

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We appreciate efforts to encourage civility, particularly during these stressful times. Let us also agree, though, that while civility requires listening respectfully, the ability to engage in constructive dialogue is essential to making progress. In that vein we might even recognize the likelihood that Dr. Harris’s town hall audience was more interested in policy than expressing animosity toward Trump supporters. We all have friends who do not share our views in the voting booth.

We very likely also disagree about health care reform. Dr. Harris emphasized that Medicare isn’t single payer, and that we must look to the VA. His town hall audience groaned. Under ideal circumstances, we would be more likely to listen to one another attentively and agree that Medicare is a single payer base. There was no acknowledgement that Medicare works very much like the health care in so many other industrialized nations, though, delivering better outcomes to all of their citizens at far less cost while incorporating supplemental coverage.

Under ideal circumstances, listening is a reciprocal activity and facts would prevail. There may be little opportunity for dialogue at a town hall, but our reactions were communicated. Dr. Harris was cheered for supporting efforts to reduce pollution in our Chesapeake Bay, and not only for agreeing with most of us, but for essentially acknowledging that a healthy Bay supports a healthy economy.

Concerning our nation’s debt, we listened respectfully for as long as we could, which admittedly wasn’t long. We might have hoped to hear an acknowledgement that President Obama had reduced our deficit. That was a long shot, although every Democratic president since

WWII has reduced our budget deficits. We would have also appreciated hearing that while our debt is huge now, Dr. Harris’s party left us with more debt as a share of our economy. Hearing that our government is spending less as a percentage of our economy than nearly every other industrialized nation would definitely have cleared a path toward civility.

It is a laudable endeavor. Doing what it takes may be challenging, though. Let’s hope we are up to the task. Listening to others and treating them in the way we would like to be treated is an essential part of that process, but without a rational, fact-based dialogue we may not reach our goals.

Carol Voyles

More information can be found on these sites.

https://data.oecd.org/gga/general-government-spending.htm
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_total_health_expenditure_per_capita
http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/issue-briefs/2015/oct/us-health-care-from-a-global-perspective
http://www.pgpf.org/chart-archive/0011_health-outcomes

Letter to Editor: Waterfront Coalition Thanks Many for New Funding for Marina

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The Chestertown Waterfront Coalition, comprised of representatives from the Kent County Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Chestertown Association, Greater Chestertown Initiative, and the Sultana Education Foundation, is pleased to report that during this year’s Legislative Session Governor Hogan, the State Legislature, the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) allocated a total of $1.1 million in new state funding towards the revitalization of the Chestertown Marina.  This includes $400,000 from DHCD, $200,000 from DNR’s Waterway Improvement Fund, and, most recently, $500,000 from the State’s Capital Budget. These allocations will augment other grants that the Town has obtained from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities and Rural Development Block Grant Programs, Maryland Heritage Areas Authority, and other state and federal sources, creating a fund of $2.8 million that is immediately available for the project.

While additional funds still need to be raised to implement the entire revitalization plan, the Town is currently engaged in the first phase of work in the Marina basin.  These upgrades, collectively known as Phase I, include dredging, bulkhead replacement, installation of a new boat ramp, and construction of a pedestrian walkway.  Phase II, which will begin in November 2017, includes completion of the bulkhead replacement, new fixed and floating docks, raising the grade of the property, reconfigured parking areas, and native landscaping.  Construction on the Chestertown Waterfront Interpretive Center is anticipated to start this spring, and a design for an entrance park along Water Street will commence later this year.  The new Interpretive Center will feature a marina store, public restrooms, showers for transient boaters, retail space, and a second floor for public events featuring sweeping river views and a deck overlooking the waterfront.

These recent developments create tremendous momentum for an important Town initiative that has been six years in the making.  In 2012, Mayor Margo Bailey and the Town Council of Chestertown, acting on the recommendation of the Town’s Port Committee co-chaired by Don Cantor and Matthew Tobriner, purchased the Chestertown Marina in an effort to ensure public access to the Town’s waterfront, preserve the ability for boaters to visit the County seat, and continue Chestertown’s 300-year-old history as a working port on the Chester River.  Since the Marina’s purchase, scores of devoted Chestertown and Kent County residents have worked to create a vision for a municipal marina that benefits residents and visitors, and serves as a regional economic engine.  In the early stages of the project, the Chestertown Revitalization Task Force, chaired by John Moag, set ambitious goals for rehabilitating the entire waterfront from High Street to Radcliffe Creek.  In the spring of 2015, hundreds of residents joined Mayor Chris Cerino and the Town Council for two charettes designed to solicit public input and chart a new design for the Marina complex.  Finally, officials from Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources provided technical advice and grant funding to get the process started. 

There are numerous people and organizations who deserve credit for the Town’s successful fundraising efforts in the last legislative session – too many to list here.  Among those who deserve particular thanks are Governor Larry Hogan, Senate President Mike Miller, Department of Housing and Community Development Secretary Kenneth Holt, Department of Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton, Secretary of Budget and Management David Brinkley, USDA Rural Utilities and Rural Development Block Grant Programs, the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority, and the Stories of the Chesapeake Heritage Area.  Town staff – particularly Town Manager Bill Ingersoll, Zoning Administrator Kees de Mooy, and Economic Development Coordinator Kay MacIntosh – have worked tirelessly to assist with the town’s advocacy effort and submit grant applications to various funding agencies.  Our local elected officials also played an important role, including Senator Stephen Hershey, Delegate Jay Jacobs, the Kent County Commissioners, and the Town Council of Chestertown.  Private citizens and local business owners also made their voices heard, especially the over 400 people who wrote and submitted personalized letters of support to State leaders in Annapolis.  Central among these were Washington College President Sheila Bair, whose personal efforts were critical. There were also several private donors who funded a lobbyist to work on behalf of the Town of Chestertown to keep the broader effort organized and on track.

Finally, the success of this project depended largely on the tireless efforts of Chestertown Mayor Chris Cerino.  Mayor Cerino spent many long hours in Annapolis advocating on behalf of the Town, and many more hours on the phone making the Town’s case to whoever would listen.  Without Mayor Cerino’s single-mindedness and determination, it is unlikely the Town’s funding requests would have been successful.

 Speaking on behalf of all who treasure Chestertown’s waterfront and see the tremendous value in the Marina’s restoration, we eagerly await the results of this exciting and ongoing effort.

Sincerely,

The Chestertown Waterfront Coalition Steering Committee

Loretta Lodge, Kent County Chamber of Commerce
Kristen Owen, Downtown Chestertown Association
Lani Seikaly, Greater Chestertown Initiative
Drew McMullen, Sultana Education Foundation

Letter to Editor: Local Groups Seek Answers from Congressman Harris March 31

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This is an open letter from a number of constituent groups, all of whom share significant concerns about the many vital issues we face and the wholly inadequate amount of time you have allotted to the Town Hall on March 31. One hour doesn’t provide a fair chance to discuss our concerns and hear your views. We are concerned about these major items, among others:

Repeal of the Affordable Care Act and replacement with a bill that will cost Maryland $2 Billion annually, substantially increase those who are uninsured and increase the cost of health care. These are just a few of the many groups that oppose the current bill:
American Medical Association – “the replacement bill, as written, would reverse the coverage gains achieved under the ACA, causing many Americans to lose the health care coverage they have come to depend upon.”

American Hospital Association & Federation of American Hospitals: “As lawmakers work to re-examine this law, patients and the caregivers who serve them across America are depending on Congress to make continued coverage a priority. We believe that any changes to the ACA must be guided by ensuring that we continue to provide health care coverage for the tens of millions of Americans who have benefitted from the law. We are pleased that so many in Congress also recognize the need to preserve patient coverage.”

AARP “…opposes this legislation, as introduced, that would weaken Medicare, leaving the door open to a voucher program that shifts costs and risks to seniors.”
American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network “ACS CAN has long advocated that any changes to the health care law should provide equal or better coverage for cancer prevention, treatment and follow-up care than what is currently available. These bills have the potential to significantly alter the affordability, availability and quality of health insurance available to cancer patients and survivors. Changing the income-based subsidy to a flat tax credit, combined with reducing the standards for quality insurance could return cancer patients to a world where many are unable to afford meaningful insurance or are left to buy coverage that doesn’t meet their health needs.”

“In 2015, approximately 1.5 million people with a history of cancer between 18-64 years old relied on Medicaid for their insurance. Nearly one-third of childhood cancer patients are insured through Medicaid at the time of diagnosis. The proposed repeal of Medicaid expansion along with significant federal funding changes could leave the nation’s lowest income cancer patients without access to preventive, c”rative and follow-up health care.”

National Partnership Women and Families: “House Republicans’ Affordable Care Act repeal bill would wreak havoc on our health care system by making health coverage more expensive and inadequate for millions of women and families. The shroud of secrecy surrounding the Republicans’ process and their attempt to sneak through a bill that would have such a devastating impact, without allowing anyone to review it, is shameful.”

“Now that the bill has been revealed, it is clear why Republicans didn’t want people to see it. Their proposal radically overhauls and cuts Medicaid while simultaneously gutting the ACA by repealing financial assistance for low-income families and making it harder for people to afford coverage. It also defunds Planned Parenthood from the Medicaid program, denying 2.5 million people access to essential health care.”

“Moreover, the Republican bill interferes with women’s ability to make health care decisions by making abortion coverage inaccessible. It would harshen and expand already harmful abortion coverage restrictions, denying women the ability to access the care they need.”

Over 50 organizations oppose the proposed healthcare plan that will make Americans will pay more for less. The list includes nurses, doctors, hospitals, teachers, churches, and more. You can see a few here:

https://cooper.house.gov/groups-opposing-republican-health-plan

Why did you co-sponsor H.R. 610 to take funding away from public education through vouchers, repeal the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and limit the authority of the Department of Education (ED) to award block grants to qualified states. Why did you, as a physician, co-sponsor a Bill that repeals nutrition standards for national school lunch and breakfast programs? Why repeal standards that require schools to increase the availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat free milk in school meals, reduce the levels of sodium, saturated fat, and trans fat and meet children’s nutritional needs? Whose side are you on?

https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/610

H.R.861 – a bill to terminate the Environmental Protection Agency. Your constituents are entitled to know where you stand on efforts to eliminate environmental protection of the Chesapeake Bay, its rivers, steams, and farmlands. Whose side are you on?

This is just a partial list of our concerns. If you have a genuine interest in listening to your constituents, we demand you allot at least 3 hours to the Town Hall to hear our concerns and explain your views.

We have sent copies of this letter to news organizations throughout the 1st District and expect your early and positive response.

Thank you.

Talbot Rising
Michael Pullen

Together We Will, Delmarva
Emily Jackson
Deborah Collins Krueger
Michele Copper

Together We Will, Harford County
DeLane Lewis

Easton Huddle
Naomi M. Hyman

Kent and Queen Anne’s County Indivisible
Erin Anderson
Kitty Maynard

Talbot County Democratic Women’s’ Club
Lesley Israel

The Eastern Shore PAC for Social And Economic Justice
Meredith Girard
Michele Drostin
Lauren Harton

Kent County Democratic Central Committee
Pamela White

Md. 1st Dist. Indivisible,
New Harford Dem. Club
Allison Galbraith

Md 1st Dist. Indivisible
Baltimore County
Kirk Fairfield

African American Democrats
of Maryland
James A. Sweeting, III, Esq.

Dorchester Indivisible
Mike Brown

Indivisible Worcester Maryland
Susan Buyer, Toby Perkins

Maryland 1st Congressional District Resistance
Joseph Riedel

Bipartisan Alliance for Democracy, Eastern Shore
Maureen Johnston

Queen Anne’s Co. Dem. Central Committee
Elaine Mcneil

Indivisible, Harford County
Irene Whalen

Wicomico County Progressive Caucus
Michael A. Feldman

UMBC Progressives

Letter to Editor: Say No to Trump Military Budget Increase

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Given its $597.5 billion military budget, the United States already spends more for war and defense than the next 10 nations combined ($579.8 billion).

It’s idiotic for the president and Congress to propose a 10 percent increase for the Pentagon while also threatening to slash funds for schools, health services, education, research, breathable air, drinkable/fishable water, edible food, safe medicines, feeding and nutrition programs, affordable housing, non-injurious toys, music, museums, parks, public broadcasting, and highways and other necessary infrastructure, and all the while ignoring global warming and rising seas.

With little of worth left to defend, why spend more on the military?

Gren Whitman
Rock Hall

 

Letter to Editor: 1st District Voters Must Read Andy Harris Sponsored Bill H.R. 637

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There is a new bill in the House of Representatives called H.R. 637, sponsored by our 1st District Representative, Dr. Andy Harris. This broad, sweeping bill seeks to reclassify several chemicals so that they would no longer be regulated nor considered, “air pollutants,”

Dr. Harris’s bill says these are no longer air pollutants: methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulfur hexafluoride, carbon dioxide. I researched these chemicals, and I can’t find any reason why we would want these chemicals in our air, unregulated. These chemicals are gasses that contribute to air pollution. If they go into our air, they will impact our crops, livestock, seafood, soil and waters that are the bounty of our Chesapeake Bay region, not to mention our lungs! Remember smog, acid rain, greenhouse gasses?  The polluted Potomac River? Let’s work together in a bipartisan way to protect our Bay Region. You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Our God given air, soils, and water, need our good stewardship. This bill can be found online here. It is a very short, easy read, yet disastrous for our Bay Region. Our representatives work hard and deserve our respect. Often they may not know how we feel about certain bills.

Let’s make sure Mr. Harris knows that this bill is not in the best interest of a healthy 1st District Baltimore, Eastern Shore, and Chesapeake Bay Region. Dr.. Harris’ local office can be reached here . I encourage you to make your concerned, red and blue voices heard.

Chris Koch

Letter to Editor: Congressman Harris Should Not Repeal Affordable Care Act

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I’m deeply concerned that Congressman Andy Harris will vote to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act against the best interests of Marylanders, particularly the vulnerable communities he represents on the Eastern Shore. As a family physician serving the Eastern Shore’s neediest communities, I can tell you first hand that access to health insurance improves health. Investing in health has vast societal benefits, from helping our children to be better learners to increasing the productivity of working families.

Since the law was passed in 2010, the Affordable Care Act has helped 278,000 Marylanders gain access to healthcare. Maryland’s most vulnerable people such as children, people with disabilities, seniors and people living in poverty can more easily obtain and keep health insurance coverage. Marylanders can obtain vital preventive care that saves lives and lowers healthcare costs. Women are no longer discriminated against under the Affordable Care Act. Marylanders can now obtain information about the exact cost and coverage of each plan available. Yet, Congressman Harris voted against the Affordable Care Act in 2010 and voted to repeal it twice, most recently on January 13, 2017.

Last week a gentleman in my office explained that his diabetes has been uncontrolled for years and that he has not sought testing for his chest pain because he did not have health insurance until recently. A pregnant woman postponed important testing I had recommended for her high-risk pregnancy while waiting to be added to her husband’s plan. Stories such as these are common within the communities I serve. People need easier access to health insurance, not more barriers. We need to improve our existing health insurance programs under the Affordable Care Act, not start from scratch with a new program that will take years to implement and disrupt the services we are already trying to provide.

Clearly our healthcare system is far from perfect. However we need to continue expanding coverage, not cancel it. We need to improve and expand services under existing insurance coverage, not limit it further. My position on this issue is not unique. On January 2, 2017, organizations representing hundreds of thousands of doctors throughout the country (The American Academy of Family Physicians, The American Academy of Pediatricians, The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and The American College of Physicians) released a letter to Congress, supporting wide-spread insurance coverage in our country and voicing caution against dismantling the system we are working to build and improve.

Congressman Harris should work in the spirit of bipartisanship with Senator Van Hollen and the rest of the Maryland Congressional delegation to improve the Affordable Care Act, rather than dismantle it to the detriment of our communities. I urge readers to call Congressman Harris’ office today and ask him not to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Christina Drostin, MD, MPH