Open Letter to Annapolis: Let Chestertown Have a “Special Rural Community Hospital”


We represent the Chestertown-centered physician/community effort known as “Save Our Hospital.” As we approach the start of the General Assembly, our goal is to ensure that, with your leadership, the hospital in Chestertown will become a “Special Rural Community Hospital” as recommended by the Legislative Workgroup on Rural Health Care Delivery. That designation will, we are told, ensure that our hospital will continue to serve this community as an inpatient facility.

While our community has focused on retaining inpatient medical and surgical care in Chestertown, we want to make it clear that we support the entire Final Report of the Workgroup, led by co-chairs Joseph Ciotola, M.D., and Deborah Mizeur, administered by the Health Care Commission, and enhanced with research by the University of Maryland School of Public Health and the Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis.

We agree with the report’s conclusion that Maryland will well serve its rural communities and take a giant step toward becoming a national rural health leader with policies that:

foster collaboration and build coalitions in rural areas to serve rural communities; bring care as close to the patient as possible to improve access; and  foster participation in statewide models and programs in rural Maryland.

You are likely aware of the unwavering effort to retain hospital services for Kent and Northern Queen Anne’s Counties, begun in late 2015 when we learned of plans to eliminate in-patient care in Chestertown and reduce the facility to a free-standing medical facility.

We publicized those plans in a full-page ad signed by 31 (virtually all) local physicians in December of 2015, then explained our concerns at “The Firehouse Meeting” attended by more than 500 area residents in January. In follow-up action, often covered by Eastern Shore and Baltimore media, more than 5,000 locals signed a petition asking UM Shore Regional Health to retain inpatient services and return lost services; 1,000 people sent postcards to Governor Hogan; and many attended and testified at General Assembly hearings.

The result was the unanimous passage of SB-707 in both Houses, thanks to Senator Hershey and our Mid-Shore delegation, and thanks to Senator Middleton’s belief that all Maryland residents should have access to high quality health care. The bill, signed by Governor Hogan, saved our hospital at least until 2020 and established the Workgroup. We cannot adequately express our gratitude for all you did to make that happen.

As the 2018 General Assembly approaches, rural hospitals in other states continue to close (more than 80 have closed since 2010), but UM Shore Regional Health System is now committed to maintaining the Chestertown hospital as an inpatient facility if the state will help with necessary financial support.

Please tell us what we and our neighbors can do to help secure a “Special Rural Community Hospital” designation so our community will have the accessible hospital care that we need.

With continued appreciation,

Gerard O’Connor, M.D. and Wayne Benjamin, M.D., Founders of “Save Our Hospital”
Kurt Landgraf, President, Washington College
Richard L. Goodall, Dixon Valve & Coupling Co.
William Pickrum, President, Kent County Commission
Garret Falcone, Director, Heron Point Retirement Community
Glenn Wilson, President, Chesapeake Bank & Trust
CEO Chris Cerino, Mayor,  Chestertown, Maryland



Letters to Editor

  1. Patricia Deitz, L.C.S.W.-C. says:

    I support the continuing efforts to save our hospital, and to keep the issue alive on the State’s healthcare agenda. Was this letter sent to legislators from across the state, or only to those from the Upper Shore? I believe we need and can reasonably look to engagement by a broad, bi-partisan and statewide coalition of lawmakers who recognize the urgent need for quality health care in rural areas. Thank you to all those who continue to follow and highlight the ongoing process of the workgroup and other developments that affect us all and the future of our communities.

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