The Editors Opinion in the April 11 issue of the Star Democrat rightfully concludes that public trust in the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) and UMMS Shore Regional Health (UMMS SRH) has been damaged, and that a full and independent investigation of both of these boards and hospital administrations is essential. Taxpayers deserve to know the extent of self-dealing on the boards, as well as the level of administrative complicity in the self-dealing.
A brief perusal of SRH Board members reveals occupations including health care consultants, healthcare providers, insurance brokers and underwriters, lawyer, lobbyist, wealth manager, and banker. In addition to Mr. Dillon, there is another local member with a contractual relationship with the hospital. It would be nice to know if the contract between Wayne L. Gardner, Sr., previous owner of BestCare ambulance services, is legal and ethical, and that no other financial ties exist among Board members.
There is a larger and more critical issue that faces our community – have our local hospital Board and hospital administration been our advocates? The promise of a new hospital that was dangled in front of our Board in 2006 has yet to materialize. Despite the fact that our local hospital is part of UMMS, which has been increasingly profitable over the last few years, it has faced almost annual budget cuts, constriction of services, and a frustrating work environment. Meanwhile, we see UMMS, with a profit of nearly $5 billion in FY 2018, that can afford to pay its CEO in excess of $4.2 million, and gave out $2.7 million in bonuses to seven top executives in 2017.
Many of the myriad medical facilities under the UMMS umbrella have had construction/renovation plans either completed or in the planning stages. To name just a few:
- An addition to UMMC in Baltimore for over $85 million completed in 2013.
- Plans for a $543 million 205 bed hospital for UM Capital Region (acquired in 2017).
- Plans for a $100 million renovation of UM St. Joseph’s Medical Center (acquired 2012).
- Plans for a new UM Upper Chesapeake (acquired in 2013) for $54 million.
- And then there’s us (acquired 2006) – $350 million for a new hospital.
My bet is that we will continue to be the neglected stepchildren across the bridge.
Our community needs a local hospital Board and administration with courage, commitment, and perseverance, that can function independently and stand up for quality care on the Eastern Shore. Their priority must be the patients, and not the profitability of UMMS.
I urge readers to talk to the doctors, nurses, and other staff, at UMMS SRH facilities and hear their frustrations, as well as their ideas for how it could be better. I urge you to contact officials at UMMS, as well as your elected officials, and tell them you want a robust, state-of-the-art health care delivery system, one that is responsive to the needs of the patients and engages its workforce in its mission.
I also urge local elected officials, including the Easton Town Council, the Talbot County Council, as well as our state legislators, to put pressure on UMMS for a full and independent investigation, and to demand more local control of our hospital board and administration.
Dr. Eva Smorzaniuk is a radiologist in Easton, Maryland and is affiliated with multiple hospitals in the area, including University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Chestertown and University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Dorchester.