Hos­pi­tal of­fi­cials stress pos­i­tives

Pub­lic raises con­cerns about plan

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By JANE BELLMYER jbellmyer@ce­cil­whig.com

PER­RYVILLE — Say­ing that the new face of health care in Ce­cil and Har­ford coun­ties “is less com­pe­ti­tion and more col­lab­o­ra­tion,” of­fi­cials with Union Hos­pi­tal and Univer­sity of Mary­land Up­per Ch­e­sa­peake Health Sys­tem stood their ground on plans to scale down the num­ber of pa­tient beds when it moves to a new $180 mil­lion, 97-acre cam­pus next to Bulle Rock.

“These col­lab­o­ra­tions are rais­ing the qual­ity of care and that’s what health care is all about,” said Richard Szumel, pres­i­dent and CEO of Union Hos­pi­tal. “The net gain is bet­ter care at a lower cost.”

Up­per Ch­e­sa­peake pres­i­dent and CEO Lyle Shel­don said Har­ford Me­mo­rial Hos­pi­tal, which has been on Union Av­enue in Havre de Grace since 1943, has out­lived its use­ful­ness, and is penned in on a 9-acre plot in the cen­ter of the city. Those liv­ing in walk­ing dis­tance of the five-story struc­ture voiced a num­ber of con­cerns, how­ever, in­clud­ing the loss of ac­ces­si­bil­ity to those who lack transportation when med­i­cal of­fices even­tu­ally mi­grate to the planned med­i­cal cam­pus on the edge of city’s limit.

Carolyn Zin­ner, a lo­cal ac­tivist sit­ting amongst a group wear­ing match­ing Tshirts urg­ing that Har­ford Me­mo­rial be saved, said the loss of hos­pi­tal beds puts the area be­low av­er­age for what is con­sid­ered stan­dard cov­er­age for the pop­u­la­tion.

“And this is a ru­ral pop­u­la­tion,” she said of the ar­eas most served by the hos­pi­tal.

“There’s go­ing to be a lot of ‘wind­shield time’ to get ser­vices,” she said, re­fer­ring to the dis­tance driven from ar­eas such as Conowingo and Port De­posit.

Other con­cerns cen­tered on what would hap­pen to the ag­ing hos­pi­tal struc­ture once the move was

com­pleted.

Havre de Grace res­i­dent Ja­son Roberts told the of­fi­cials that any trip into down­town Bal­ti­more is ev­i­dence of the detri­ment of aban­doned build­ings.

“Will there be 20 years of blight around this 9 acres of prop­erty?” he asked. “Va­cant build­ings are never a good sit­u­a­tion.”

Per­ryville Mayor Jim Eber­hardt added that the loss of traf­fic will also be felt by the sur­round­ing busi­nesses and com­mu­nity.

“Elk­ton will tell you about the eco­nomic im­pact when the county ad­min­is­tra­tion build­ing left the down­town area,” he said at the pub­lic meet­ing held at Minker Ban­quet Hall at the Com­mu­nity Fire Com­pany of Per­ryville sta­tion house. “It’s the traf­fic from the florist shops and the restau­rants.”

Port De­posit Mayor Wayne Tome and Per­ryville Com­mis­sioner Ray Ryan spoke for the am­bu­lance ser­vices in Ce­cil County, voic­ing con­cern that the sys­tem

now is over­taxed, and mak­ing it smaller would not help.

“I waited for two hours,” Ryan, a mem­ber of the Per­ryville Fire Com­pany, said of a re­cent am­bu­lance run to Har­ford Me­mo­rial. “You can’t al­ways han­dle what’s com­ing in now.”

Shel­don said the new emer­gency de­part­ment would be larger, with 22 emer­gency bays, but only a dozen “short-stay” in­pa­tient beds and 10 be­hav­ioral health ob­ser­va­tion bays. The new age of health

care means fewer hos­pi­tal­iza­tions and more care at home or by telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion, he added. Shel­don also said by com­bin­ing ser­vices and shar­ing be­tween Union and Up­per Ch­e­sa­peake means less con­cern for re­cruit­ment and re­ten­tion of doc­tors in each spe­cialty across nu­mer­ous lo­ca­tions.

Ac­cord­ing to Shel­don, doc­tors

com­ing out of med­i­cal schools these days no longer want a pri­vate prac­tice, but would rather be­come part of a hos­pi­tal-af­fil­i­ated prac­tice with the lat­est equip­ment.

While Ryan noted that pa­tient out­comes could be dif­fer­ent if the am­bu­lance drive is ex­tended to Bel Air or Chris­tiana, Del., Shel­don re­minded the au­di­ence that the Bulle Rock cam­pus would have a he­li­pad with a ded­i­cated place for mede­vac heli­copters to take off and land.

One ques­tion that was never an­swered was when the in­ten­sive care unit at Har­ford Me­mo­rial Hos­pi­tal would be closed. Shel­don used the tran­si­tion from Fall­ston Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal to Up­per Ch­e­sa­peake as ev­i­dence that they have a work­ing plan to make such a move. None of the of­fi­cials would con­firm nor deny a date for that even­tual move.

While Har­ford Me­mo­rial would have its med­i­cal-sur­gi­cal ser­vices stripped down, Shel­don said Union Hos­pi­tal and Up­per Ch­e­sa­peake’s be­hav­ioral health cen­ters would move to Havre de Grace com­plete with a 16-bed crisis unit.

“Why can’t we have a full-ser­vice hos­pi­tal?,” Zin­ner asked. “Why do I have to go 40 miles for help? This com­mu­nity is grow­ing. You have the room.”

Zin­ner sug­gested that the be­hav­ioral health pro­gram go to the Bel Air cam­pus in­stead.

“Don’t take away our beds,” she said.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JANE BELLMYER

Richard Szumel, pres­i­dent and CEO of Union Hos­pi­tal, ex­plains the new era of re­gional health care, which is more about “col­lab­o­ra­tion than com­pe­ti­tion.”

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JANE BELLMYER

Free T-shirts were of­fered to those res­i­dents of Ce­cil and Har­ford County who are be­hind the ef­fort to keep a full-ser­vice hos­pi­tal in Havre de Grace.

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