Letter to Editor: Sen. Hershey’s Chestertown Hospital Bill is just what the Doctor Ordered

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Whether you’re convinced that our community will win or lose the fight to Save Our Hospital, we have great news.

Sen. Steve Hershey, the state senator who represents our district, has introduced a bill designed to put the state in the driver’s seat of the Chestertown hospital.  

If the bill becomes law, UM Shore Medical Center at Chestertown will become a Maryland Department of Health rural Pilot Program on October 1 of this year, with as many as 25 inpatient beds and lots of state attention, expertise and resources.    

The bill that could transform our hospital has an un-catchy name, clearly the handiwork of lawyers instead of poets:  The Chestertown Rural Health Care Delivery Innovations Pilot Program. The bill number is SB 1018.

UMMS’ Shore Regional Health System will, the bill makes it clear, likely continue to own and operate the hospital under state direction, so Shore would receive state funding and resources for physician recruitment and expanded services.  

It is, in many ways, exactly what Shore Health President and CEO Ken Kozel has said he would welcome.  

The bill says the purpose of the Department of Health Pilot Project is to find innovative solutions for sustaining inpatient hospital care in Maryland’s rural communities, and it appears against the backdrop of a national crisis.  Since 2010, 98 rural hospitals have closed in the U.S., and in Chestertown, where the community depends on the hospital for economic stability as well as medical care, Shore Regional Health has been cutting services since 2015.

If SB 1018 dies in Annapolis, Shore Health will almost certainly convert the hospital into a “Freestanding Medical Facility” after March of 2022.  It will have an Emergency Room, diagnostics (MRI, CT-Scan, X-Ray, Mammogram equipment, for instance), as well as outpatient surgery, lab, chemotherapy and rehab facilities.  Without inpatient beds, it will no longer be a hospital, and patients who need inpatient care will be transferred to Easton or hospitals that are an hour or more away.

If Sen. Hershey’s bill becomes law, however, the state Pilot Program will operate our hospital for two five-year periods; the Department of Health could open a Center of Excellence at the hospital during the second five-year period, perhaps for the study of rural health or gerontology, or some other medical concern that’s relevant in this area.  

And after 10 years, the bill decrees, the Maryland Department of Health will recommend whether the Pilot Program should become a “permanent program.”  

Permanent!  What a beautiful word.

You’re welcome to come to a Save the Hospital meeting tonight—7:30 on the second floor of Chestertown’s Town Hall–when we set out plans for our campaign to win passage of SB 1018.  If you can’t attend the meeting, watch for more media articles, and follow my posts on Facebook’s Chestertown Life page.

The General Assembly session is moving fast, so plan to get on board.  

Margie Elsburg
Communications Coordinator for “Save the Hospital”

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Letters to Editor

  1. Martha S. Wefelmeyer says

    Thank you so much for all your hard work on this!

  2. Passing SB1018 is an important pilot program for Maryland to lead this country in a plan to save our rural hospitals which retirees and seniors NEED!
    Sincerely,
    Susan C. Flashman
    President
    MD/DC ALLIANCE FOR RETIRED AMERICANS

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