Franchot Hears Concerns About Future of Hospital

Share

Washington College President Kurt Landgraf, Comptroller Peter Franchot, and Dixon Valve CEO Dick Goodall pose for a photo before a meeting in Landgraf’s office to discuss the future of the Chestertown Hospital. Photo by Jane Jewell

Peter Franchot, the Comptroller of Maryland, met with a small group of residents concerned about the future of the Chestertown hospital on Friday, Feb. 1. The meeting, originally scheduled for a downtown restaurant, was moved to the office of Washington College President Kurt Landgraf and was not open to the public or the press. Another meeting scheduled for Jan. 31, which would have been open to the public, was canceled because there was no heat in Town Hall, the site scheduled for the meeting.

However, Dr. Gerald O’Connor, who has been one of the prime forces in the Save the Hospital group, provided a press release summarizing the meeting. He wrote:

The leadership of ‘Save the Hospital’ succeeded, on Friday, to raise awareness of our community’s concerns about our hospital to the highest levels in Annapolis by meeting with Comptroller Peter Franchot. We talked about the services the hospital provides today, as well as our concern that the hospital may not be able to continue providing inpatient care beyond 2022. That’s when the Emergency Room and other outpatient services will continue, but inpatient beds will likely be closed.

Our meeting in the offices of Kurt Landgraf, the President of Washington College, was extremely candid. Three doctors explained their concerns that the hospital no longer has the number of nursing and tech staff it should have to care for the number of patients who normally need inpatient care throughout the year, and they expressed concerns that retired physicians and specialists have not always been replaced.

We spent a good deal of time talking about the enormous impact that the hospital has on the area’s economy. President Landgraf as well as Dixon Valve CEO Richard Goodall and Heron Point Executive Director Garret Falcone led that discussion, as did Kent County Commissioner Bob Jacob, Chestertown Councilman Marty Stetson and Main Street Historic Chestertown Manager Kay MacIntosh.

Comptroller Franchot listened closely and asked good questions, and his Chief of Staff, Len Foxwell—who, incidentally, was born in the hospital in Cambridge—took notes. Mr. Franchot has long been a friend of the Eastern Shore, especially Kent County and Chestertown. Remember? He saved us when the Highway Department said it was going to close the Chester River Bridge for almost a month. We understand that he can’t make specific promises about what he’ll do, but we trust that he is as good as his word. He said he would ‘act as a cheerleader’ and invited us to call on him again and again when there are opportunities when he might be helpful.

Meanwhile, we want our community to remain loyal to the hospital in all ways—use the hospital when you need care, donate to the Hospital Foundation so equipment will always be state-of-the-art, thank Comptroller Franchot for his support, and tell Governor Hogan we need his help.”

UM Shore Medical Center – Chestertown

Franchot took a few minutes before the meeting to talk to reporters who had initially been told they would be welcome at the meeting. He said he came to the meeting to listen to residents. “I’m very sympathetic,” he said, noting that what’s happening with the Chestertown hospital is an example of what’s happening to hospitals nationwide. He gave the example of a hospital in Montgomery County, with 400 beds, only 10 of which he said were currently occupied. “Everybody’s going through a transition” in healthcare, he said. The issue is how to get from very good, but expensive, healthcare to upgraded healthcare for people in a wider region at a more affordable rate. “We need a new group of people trained in healthcare, and we need urgent care access,” he said. He expressed hope that the meeting would be “a stepping stone to something more accessible.”

Landgraf, in a phone conversation Feb. 4, said that Franchot and his staff spent most of the time listening. Everyone had a chance to make comments for a few minutes. He said that Franchot “really listened and understood the issues”. Franchot’s response to the presentation was that the Save the Hospital group would need to discuss the situation with the University of Maryland Hospital system, the parent group for Shore Regional Health. The group should come to the meeting prepared to offer solutions, Franchot said. Also, he said, the Save the Hospital group needs to present its case to state Senator Steve Hershey and to Governor Larry Hogan. However, Franchot said, there isn’t much he can do in his role as Comptroller, although he said the implications of the hospital for economic development were very critical. He stressed that the local group needs to have a plan moving forward and deliver a set of recommendations to the University of Maryland. The most important point to come out of the meeting, Landgraf said, is that emotionalism and criticism of the hospital aren’t getting us anywhere. Landgraf said the group needs to think about how the hospital can become “a center of excellence,” offering high-quality services not offered elsewhere in the system so people will come here rather than going elsewhere for care.

Those present at the meeting with Comptroller Franchot were from various stakeholders including several doctors,  local government officials, along with representatives from Washington College, Dixon Valve, Save Our Hospital, and other concerned citizens. More meetings are expected to take place in the future, and the Chestertown Spy will be there to report.

 

UM Shore Regional Health Publishes 2018 Community Benefits Report Online

Share

UM Shore Regional Health’s 2018 Community Health Improvement Report has been published online and is available for viewing at https://www.umms.org/shore/news/2018/um-shore-regional-healths-2018-community-health-improvement-2018.

UM Shore Regional Health’s most recent Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA), conducted in 2016, identified top health concerns in the region: chronic disease management (obesity, hypertension, diabetes, tobacco use), behavioral health, access to care, cancer, outreach and education (preventive care, screenings, health literacy).These are the same top health concerns and health barriers indicated by the overall Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene State Health Improvement Process (DHMH SHIP) county data.

UM SRH determined that the greatest transformation in population health in the five-county region would be achieved by focusing on chronic disease management, behavioral health and cancer screenings. An implementation plan was developed for each priority, with key activities to improve care coordination and health education in community settings.

As detailed in the new report, the total value of UM Shore Regional Health’s community health improvement initiatives during 2018 exceeds $40 million. According to Ken Kozel, UM SRH president and CEO, and Kathleen McGrath, regional director, Outreach and Community Health, the document “reflects UM Shore Regional Health’s commitment to building community partnerships that help foster better health outside the walls of our hospitals and outpatient facilities, while enhancing access to care and the overall quality of life in the five counties we serve.”

As part of the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS), University of Maryland Shore Regional Health is the principal provider of comprehensive health care services for more than 170,000 residents of Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s, and Talbot counties on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. UM Shore Regional Health’s team of more than 2,500 employees, medical staff, board members, and volunteers works with various community partners to fulfill the organization’s mission of Creating Healthier Communities Together.

Death with Dignity: DC Residents Learning about New End-of-Life Law

Share

More than a year after a controversial end-of-life law went into effect in the District of Columbia, advocacy groups say they are now seeing a higher public response to its efforts to ensure city residents know the law exists.

How many people have used the law will become clearer in an upcoming February report. As of last April, no patient had yet used the law, according news accounts.

The Death with Dignity Act allows mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months to live to request lethal doses of prescription medication so they can die peacefully and comfortably in their homes or any place where they have been granted permission to do so.

One of the law’s main proponents, Compassion & Choices, has helped the District of Columbia Council advocate for the legislation and educate Washington residents about the new option for patients with terminal illnesses.

The administrative side of the end-of-life process apparently has dissuaded physicians, pharmacists and patients from using the law, but local public service announcements have helped spike interest and attention, Sean Crowley, spokesman for Compassion & Choices, told Capital News Service in an interview.

His group declined to say how many doctors in the District registered to use the law, as it did not have access to such records. But as of last April, only two doctors among the roughly 11,000 doctors in the city had registered to use the law and just one hospital had approved doctors for the practice, according to The Washington Post.

The District of Columbia Department of Health is set to release a detailed report in February on how many patients have utilized lethal drugs and how many physicians have administered them. But to date, no patients have volunteered to go public with their stories.

During September, Compassion & Choices distributed television public service announcements promoting the end-of-life law, featuring prominent Washingtonians Diane Rehm, a former WAMU radio show host, and Dr. Omega Silva, a retired physician.

The announcements, which began Labor Day weekend, aired on various Comcast stations. Compassion & Choices reported that there were 229 visits to the group’s page during September, compared to only 56 for the same month a year ago – a 400 percent increase.

In addition to the District, six states have end-of-life, or physician-assisted dying laws: California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont and Washington, according to the nonprofit Death with Dignity National Center, based in Portland, Oregon.

Efforts to pass a similar law in Maryland have been unsuccessful.

Since the District’s end-of-life bill was introduced in 2015, organizations such as Right to Life and conservatives in Congress have opposed it and tried to defund it.

Rep. Andy Harris, R-Cockeysville, introduced an amendment in 2017 to defund and repeal the law. The amendment failed to pass the House Appropriations Committee.

Harris, a physician, criticized what he called “the so-called Death With Dignity Act,” saying “most people don’t associate suicide with dignity in any way shape or form.”

“It sends a strong message that regardless of the many types of disease you might have and the many types of treatment that may be available, there is one common pathway that in this case the District would say is perfectly acceptable, it is legal,” he said. “It’s actually to go to a physician and ask if they can participate in your suicide. That doesn’t lead to more choice – that leads to one choice.”

The House will be controlled by the Democrats next month, making the prospects for repealing the District bill more remote.

In any case, Crowley said that “lawmakers from outside the District should not dictate to district lawmakers what laws they should pass for their local constituents.”

“Other states would never allow lawmakers from outside their state dictate what their states can do,” he said. “Why should they be allowed to dictate in D.C.?”

Since its founding as the seat of the federal government, the District of Columbia has not had voting representation in Congress, although it has some limited autonomy. Even so, Congress has the power to review and repeal District laws.

“That Congress thinks it should substitute its judgment for the judgment of the residents of the District of Columbia is odious enough,” said Councilmember Mary Cheh, who sponsored the end-of-life bill. “That it would presume to substitute its judgment for the judgment of people who are dying is unconscionable. Such an action is fundamentally undemocratic and it should not stand.”

By Morgan Caplan

Mid-Shore Health: The Goal of Control at the End of Life

Share

There is little doubt that one of the paramount issues for those facing the last phase of their lives is one of control. From such things as pain management to document the end of life wishes with family members, the patient is eager to control as much of the process as possible.

And one of their primary allies in maintaining that control is working with their local hospice as early as possible. That is the central message we received when talking to Talbot Hospice’s medical director, Mary DeShields, and its executive director, Vivian Dodge when talking to the Spy the other day.

With the national average hospice care period lasting only two to three weeks, the options and time for solid planning are minimal. That is why Mary and Vivian are strong advocates for patients and families to enter into hospice care almost immediately after a terminal diagnosis, which allows up to six months for them to prepare appropriately and guarantee the most comfortable end of life strategies possible.

This long-range approach also applies to palliative care which takes of those between acute care and end of life care. This stage for those with a chronic illness this is likely to result in death also requires a multidisciplinary management approach that, like hospice, is directed around the wishes of the patient and dramatically improve their day-to-day quality of life.

That is the primary reason that Talbot Hospice has been taking steps this year to strengthen their palliative care role with a new initiative to work more closely with community physicians and their patients.  By adding the local hospice team, both doctors and those under their care can greatly benefit patients with symptoms, and the emotional side of these serious chronic conditions.

The Spy sat down with Mary and Vivian at Talbot Hospice last week for a brief discussion of these issues.

This video is approximately seven minutes in length. For more information about Talbot Hospice please go here

Mid-Shore Careers: Mental Health Careers Found at Channel Marker

Share

While the demand on the Mid-Shore to fill skilled job openings has never been higher, especially in such fields as cyber-security, healthcare, or a range of traditional trades from welding to culinary management, it was interesting for the Spy to note that there are still career openings for what is known as generalists. These well-educated, “jacks of all trades, masters of none” young people have demonstrated their ability to achieve in their coursework in education, but sometimes not with a clear vocation in mind when it’s completed.

But one option open to many that fall into this category is in the growing field of mental health, and that is indeed the case with Channel Marker, Inc. which serves the Mid-Shore region helping those suffering from a variety of these conditions.

The Spy sat down with two of Channel Marker’s staff who have found themselves in a profession they have not only grown to love but offers significant opportunities for career advancement. Heather Chance, a residential coordinator with the organization, and Kelly Holden, its HR and training director, to talk about their rewarding careers helping those with these afflictions navigate back into being productive citizens in the community, their professional growth, and the opportunities that await other to follow in their footsteps.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about Channel Marker and review the list of job openings go here

.

Suicidal Behavior In Children And Adolescents: Focus on Awareness and Prevention by Dr. Laurence Pezor

Share

As we complete a week dedicated to the awareness of suicide, it is important to review this manifestation of mental illness and what the community and we, family, friends and mental health professionals, can do to address this crisis.

Statistically, it is staggering that suicide is the 3rd Leading cause of death in 15 to 24 year-olds and the 6th leading cause of death in 5 to 14 year-olds according to data from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP, Facts for Families, 2013). Center for Disease Control data from 2005 indicated that among 15 – 24 year-olds, suicide accounts for 12.9% of all deaths annually.

This is particularly a concern for high school students who, in a study by Eaton et al in 2006, indicated at 16.9% of all high school students seriously considered suicide in the previous twelve months before the study. Additionally, there are significant cultural differences. The same study documented that Hispanic female high school students reported a higher percentage of suicide attempts than their non-Hispanic peers.

These statistics, however overwhelming, are only overshadowed by the unrelenting pain suicide inflicts on surviving family and friends. Some professionals contend that suicide cannot be prevented but mitigated by focusing on providing alternative choices to desperate situations. That providing those in emotional distress with more appropriate choices to manage their feelings and instead of self harm, utilize different coping skills when overwhelmed.

To that end, open discussion about suicidal behavior and feelings as well as providing alternatives to self harm, are the goal of therapy and community support.
Providing tools to children and their families including crisis lines, access to mental health services and other professional support is key.

Recognition of potential risk factors that indicate emotional distress and could lead to suicidal thoughts or behavior is everyone’s responsibility.
Potential risk factors, described by AACAP (2004), include:

Prior suicide attempts
Substance Abuse
Change in sleeping/eating habits
Withdrawal from family and friends
Unusual neglect of personal appearance
Violent, rebellious behavior
Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
More severe psychiatric symptoms (psychosis)
Complain of feeling “bad” or “rotten” inside
Put his or her “affairs in order”
Verbalize suicidal thoughts or feelings

Underlying mental illness, lack of family and social support as well as limited coping skills also play a pivotal role in suicidal behavior.

How can we, as family, friends and community, help?
Some basic interventions include:
Take threats seriously; notify police or mental health professionals
Be suspicious when there are serious psychiatric symptoms or substance abuse issues
Keep lines of communication open
Seek professional support

Eastern Shore Psychological Services (ESPS) has therapists in all the Talbot County schools working hand in hand with the school guidance counselors ready to help.
ESPS offers mental health, substance abuse and wellness services for all ages. For those seeking mental health services, ESPS offers “same day access” appointments Monday – Thursday at 8 AM at their office at 29520 Canvasback Drive.  For more information, please contact the Clinic at 410-822-5007.

Laurence Pezor, MD is the Chief Medical Officer at Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist with Eastern Shore Psychological Services.

 

You Do Matter: For All Seasons and Suicide Prevention on the Mid-Shore

Share

It is most often the case that the subject of suicide comes up in conversation after a celebrity or public figure ends their life that way.  That was indeed the case when Anthony Bourdain killed himself in France during the summer.

And it is to the credit of the media that stories like Bourdain are now going beyond the sensational details and more frequently talk frankly about mental illness and the impact it has throughout the country. It is an occasion to have a national conversation about suicide.

In a local way, that is what For All Seasons wants to have with their “No Matter What…You Matter” suicide prevention campaign kicking off October 5th in Easton.  The staff and volunteer leaders of the Mid-Shore’s behavioral health provider, including director Beth Anne Langrell and Allie Prell, the chair of this year’s You Matter campaign, want the region to have those same conversations but with friends and family, and particularly with those that may be a risk of self-harm.

The Spy spent some time with Beth Anne and Allie at the Bullitt House last week to get their perspective on this awareness drive and their hopes for a community reaching out to loved ones for honest conversations about mental health.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about For All Seasons and its No Matter What…You Matter” suicide prevention campaign please go here

 

Maryland Democrats: Trump Health Care curbs could Affect 260,000 in State

Share

As many as 260,000 Maryland residents could see higher premiums or lose their health care coverage altogether because of pre-existing medical conditions, age or gender under a new Trump administration legal strategy, state Democrats warned on Tuesday.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, along with other Democratic members of the Maryland congressional delegation and state Attorney General Brian Frosh attacked the Trump administration for refusing to protect Americans guaranteed the right to health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

The protections, the Democrats argued, are of the utmost importance and won’t be invalidated without a legal fight.

“We’re better than that,” Cummings said. “We’re a better country than that.”

In June, Attorney General Jeff Sessions wrote in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., that the Justice Department would not defend key provisions of the health care law, a regular target of attacks by President Donald Trump and repeal efforts by congressional Republicans.

Cummings released a report by the Democratic staff of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that detailed potential impacts of such a policy on Marylanders. Frosh is among more than a dozen attorneys general challenging Sessions’s decision in federal court.

“Even more troubling, they did not offer any alternative,” Cummings said at a press conference.

He was flanked by Frosh, Maryland Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, and Reps. Dutch Ruppersberger of Timonium and John Sarbanes of Towson. All are Democrats.

Trump has largely moved to defund the ACA since taking office, scaling back federal funding from $62.5 million in 2016 to just $10 million this year.

But Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has challenged attacks on Trump’s handling of the health care law.

“The president trying to sabotage the (Affordable Care Act) is proving better at managing it than the president who wrote the law,” Azar said during a Sept. 27 speech in Nashville, The Washington Examiner reported.

Under the new Trump policy, 167,000 Marylanders with pre-existing conditions could lose coverage or face hikes in premiums, the Democrats’ study estimated. Of those, 79,000 have such severe pre-existing conditions that insurance carriers could deny them any coverage.

Up to 160,000 Maryland women could be charged more than men for the same health care coverage, the report said. Such discrimination was barred by the health care law.

In addition, up to 108,000 older Maryland residents could be charged more, according to the report.

Maryland workers in higher-risk occupations also could lose protections: 19,000 construction workers, 9,700 shipping clerks and 4,800 emergency medical technicians.

“Defending the Affordable Care Act will affect the lives of Marylanders and people all over this country,” Cardin said. “It’s critically important that the American people understand what’s at stake when the president does not defend the Affordable Care Act.”

A Kaiser Family Foundation poll released in September showed that 50 percent of adults held a favorable view of the ACA. Forty percent held an unfavorable view. Another Kaiser poll found that 75 percent of people polled said it was “very important” that the ACA’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions ensuring guaranteed coverage remains law.

“When the Trump Administration decided not to defend the law … they’ve given a green light to all those who want to undo that protection through the courts,” Van Hollen said.

Trump, who said during his campaign that he wanted to put somebody on the Supreme Court who would help overturn the ACA, has done just that in nominating Brett Kavanaugh. In 2011, Kavanaugh was the dissenter in a 2-1 federal appeals court ruling on the constitutionality of the ACA’s individual mandate provision.

Cummings said the administration’s hostility to the health care law has caused unease even among government attorneys.

“Their actions are so indefensible,” Cummings said, “that three of four career attorneys representing the government withdrew from the case rather than sign their names on the brief. One attorney even resigned.”

Joel McElvain and two other lawyers withdrew from the case this summer; he later resigned. All three worked on a lawsuit brought by Texas and other Republican-led states that challenges the constitutionality of the ACA and is likely to find its way to the Supreme Court.

by Jared Goldstein

Pam Ortiz Band Concerts Benefit No Matter What. . . You Matter Suicide Prevention Campaign

Share

Pictured is The Pam Ortiz Band, who will provide two benefit concerts this year as For All Seasons Suicide Prevention Campaign comes to Chestertown for the first time.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) every 13 minutes someone dies by suicide and for every suicide, 25 suicide attempts are made. This fall, to help create awareness about this community mental health issue, For All Seasons is sponsoring its Annual NO MATTER WHAT . . . YOU MATTER Suicide Prevention Campaign, with two concerts in Chestertown this month.

To benefit the Campaign, The Pam Ortiz Band are holding concerts on both Saturday, September 29 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, September 30 at 3 p.m. at Robert Ortiz Studios at 207C S. Cross Street in Chestertown. Tickets cost $25 per person and can be reserved at ortizconcert.eventbrite.com or bought at the door. Chester River Wine and Cheese Co. will be selling wine and mini-cheese boards beginning at 6 p.m. on Saturday night. All proceeds will benefit For All Seasons suicide prevention efforts.

According to For All Seasons’ board member Pam Ortiz, “Harry Chapin used to say he played one night for himself and one night for the other guy. In that spirit, we will be doing the two shows to benefit our friends and neighbors served by For All Seasons, a behavioral health and rape crisis center serving the five Mid-Shore counties. These events will kick off the organization’s suicide prevention initiative, No Matter What…You Matter, in Chestertown.”

The Pam Ortiz Band includes Pam on vocals, Pam’s husband, Bob Ortiz, on percussion and guitar; Ford Schumann on guitar; Nevin Dawson on viola and violin; and Philip Dutton on piano and keyboards. The band has been performing in this configuration since 2012. In 2017 the group hosted a seven-concert series, Songs for Our Future, to packed houses. Each show raised funds for an organization that supported an important right or vulnerable group of people.

Monika Mraz, Director of Development at For All Seasons, comments, “We are thrilled to have the support of The Pam Ortiz Band as we promote awareness about suicide prevention in Kent County. This is a real issue in our communities on the Shore and we hope to enhance the community’s understanding of the issue, while providing some valuable tips in how to prevent suicide with our friends and family members.”

Suicide does not discriminate, affecting people of all genders, ages, and ethnicities. Many different factors may contribute to someone making a suicide attempt. For All Seasons hopes that by discussing the signs and symptoms associated with suicide that it can raise awareness about the issue in our community. Because family and friends are often the first to recognize the warning signs of suicide, they can be critical to helping an individual find treatment with a provider who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), for every suicide, 25 suicide attempts are made. For All Seasons wants people to know that If they think a friend or family member is considering suicide, they should reach out and start a conversation. Talking openly about suicidal thoughts and feelings can save a life. The following are three steps to help people begin the conversation:

1) Ask directly – “Are you having suicidal thoughts?” – Let them know you care.
2) Stay and Listen – Let them share their thoughts and feelings.
3) Get help – Connect them with a friend, family member or a therapist at For All Seasons.

Beth Anne Langrell, Executive Director of For All Seasons, comments, “For All Seasons hopes through this campaign to create an ongoing dialogue with agencies about this growing issue in our communities. We want people to know that no matter what, they do matter.”

For All Seasons provides Trauma Certified Individual, Family, and Group Therapy; Child, Adolescent, and Adult Psychiatry; and Crisis and Advocacy Services for Child, Adolescent, and Adult Victims of Sexual Assault, Rape and Trauma. If you or someone you know needs help, call 410-822-1018 for a same-day crisis appointment.

Throughout the year, For All Seasons brings awareness to the community about such issues as suicide, sexual assault, trauma, and mental health needs.
Follow For All Seasons on Facebook to find out how to get involved. For further information, call Monika Mraz at 410-822-1018, email mmraz@forallseasonsinc.org or visit forallseasonsinc.org/youmatter.

 The concerts will be held on Saturday, September 29 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, September 30 at 3 p.m. at Robert Ortiz Studios at 207C S. Cross Street in Chestertown. Tickets cost $25 per person and Chester River Wine and Cheese Co. will be selling wine and mini-cheese boards beginning at 6 p.m. on Saturday night. All proceeds will benefit For All Seasons suicide prevention efforts.

×
We're glad you're enjoying The Chestertown Spy.

Sign up for the the free email blast to see what's new in the Spy. It's delivered right to your inbox at 3PM sharp.

Sign up here.