I am a physician who practices in Chestertown. I am a member of the Shore Regional Health Medical Staff and of the Medical Executive Committee of the Medical Staff. The Medical Executive Committee (MEC) voted to approve the move of the inpatient behavioral health unit from the University of Maryland Shore Medical Center-Dorchester (UMSMC-D) to the University of Maryland Shore Medical Center-Chestertown (UMSMC-C). Dr. Bruce Helmly is the President of the MEC and Medical Staff and, in his position, reported the recommendation of approval for the move to the Shore Regional Health Board. The Board approved the move.
The move involves only the inpatient unit. The outpatient services will remain in Dorchester County. The patients will only need to be transported once to Chestertown and once back to their homes. The administration is committed to providing transportation for family members to visit. The patients will resume their outpatient care locally.
The admission to inpatient psychiatric units is on a first-come, first-served basis. The patient goes to any facility that has an open bed, be it UMSMC-D, Baltimore, Annapolis, or a hospital in Delaware. Many of the patients in the Chestertown ER have had to go to Delaware hospitals.
The plans are to continue outpatient psychiatric services in Dorchester County and to add them in Chestertown and Denton. This will enhance psychiatric care in this rural region.
The move of the inpatient behavioral health beds will accomplish two major goals of the regional system. First, it will support the need for a modern, state-of-the-art health care facility for inpatient behavioral health beds in our region. Second, it will contribute to a sustainable future for inpatient care at UMSMC-Chestertown.
We need your help in showing support for this move. The Maryland Health Care Commission will make the final decision to approve the Certificate of Need (CON) for this move. We need letters or emails sent to Mr. Ben Steffen at the address below. The letter can be as simple as “I support the CON exemption request by the UM Shore Regional Board for the move of the inpatient behavioral health beds from UMSMC-D to UMSMC-C.” Letters can be sent to Mr. Ben Steffen by mail (Executive Director, Maryland Health Care Commission, 4160 Patterson Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21215) or by email (email@example.com).
I support this move.
Susan K. Ross, M.D.
Photo credit Kreed, Flickr
Letters to Editor
Jane E. Hukill says
Thank you, Dr. Ross for the clear explanation of this relocation of in-patient beds to the Chester River Hospital. I was alarmed when I saw the report that Easton based medical staff had opposed the move. My immediate thought was that when the effort was made and worked on for several years to regionalize the medical services for our area, that it meant that, regionalization – not centralization. Many of our nurses, administrative staff and others health care support staff often need to drive to Easton, as well as those who serve Dorchester and Caroline Counties in order to serve regionalization services. So I hope that those who are permanently in Easton will understand this in a more sharing attitude. All people with psychiatric health issues deserve the same in-patient services as those with other health needs.
Warren S. Beaven says
My name is Warren S. Beaven, I am a retired United Methodist clergyman who has lived in Chestertown for 10 years. From April 1980 to June 1991 I served first one and then two congregations on the North Fork of Long Island (the extreme East End, 90 miles from Manhattan, but not the “glitzy” Hamptons on the South Fork). During the 1980s I was asked to serve on the Community Relations Committee of Eastern Long Island Hospital. (ELIH). It was a acute care facility almost the same size and configuration as the hospital in Chestertown — except that we had saltwater on three sides of our building. (Conrad Hilton tried to buy our location for a hotel.) And we had a very high fluctuation in patient needs because in the winter we had about 10,000 people in the “catchment area” and in mid-summer we had over 30,000.
During the 1980s the number of patient beds being used was sharply declining because surgeries were less intrusive, and the number of days required after surgery was going down and down. So the average daily census was dropping every year. We (the Community Relations Committee) and the community around us HAD to raise $1.1 million every year just to keep the doors open. Otherwise the next nearest hospital was 30+ miles away. Trauma centers were 50 miles away — plus sometimes a 20 minute ride on a ferry similar to the one at Oxford, MD. We realized that we had beds and other facilities that were not being used most of the year. What we did not have nearby were Addiction Treatment Centers and sort-term (28 days or less) psychiatric care. I had a parishioner who needed intervention every month, and her only alternative was 50-60 miles away in a 12-story column with cages on the windows. She would not go. We — as a community — decided first to open a small 16 bed, 28-day Alcohol Rehab Unit (detox and more). Next we added a general in-patient and out-patient “psych unit”. We started using a total of 25 to 35 unused beds per night for both programs. And a local ophthalmologist started using one of our operating rooms twice a week because “I am always working with the same team every time I step to the gurney. I know them and they know me.”
ELIH is open today – 30 years later — because we met a set of needs in the community. And people from “up Island” (that means “closer to the Manhattan”) started hearing about the quality of our care, and started driving east rather than west. Our communities were NEVER OVERRUN by strangers with odd behaviors. We found a need and we met it, and we are still caring for people today. It was one of the two most important decisions I was a part of during my 40 year career. Chestertown and Kent County need similar programs and services. We need a primary care center closer than Easton or Annapolis or Dover. And we can sustain it if we respond to the needs of this community — our community.