Ru­ral Health Care

Kent County News - - OPINION -

To the ed­i­tor: This past spring, in re­sponse to the con­cerns of our com­mu­nity, Gov. Larry Ho­gan signed a law ordering that in­pa­tient ser­vices at the Ch­ester­town hos­pi­tal must re­main open un­til 2020, and the Univer­sity of Mary­land Med­i­cal Sys­tems promised two ad­di­tional years of in­pa­tient ser­vices. Since then, scores of cit­i­zens have asked Save the Hos­pi­tal doc­tors and sup­port­ers what that means be­yond the next few years. The an­swer is that we’ll have a good idea in about a year.

Our hos­pi­tal’s long-term fu­ture as an in­pa­tient fa­cil­ity is now in the hands of a Mary­land Health­care Com­mis­sion’s Ru­ral Health­care De­liv­ery Sys­tem Work­group. The work­group’s rec­om­men­da­tions about our hos­pi­tal and health­care fa­cil­i­ties and ser­vices through­out the Mid­Shore will be writ­ten in Septem­ber and then con­sid­ered by the Gen­eral As­sem­bly in Jan­uary 2018. Once a bill is passed and signed by the gover­nor, a state-sup­ported health­care plan for the Mid­Shore, im­ple­mented by Shore Re­gional Health, will be­come a re­al­ity.

By law, the work­group must con­sider the Mid-Shore’s unique is­sues, in­clud­ing the eco­nomic im­pact of hav­ing — or not hav­ing — health­care fa­cil­i­ties in a com­mu­nity, the paucity of pub­lic trans­porta­tion, needs of vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions, and the dif­fi­cul­ties of at­tract­ing med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als to ru­ral ar­eas.

The 32-mem­ber work­group, which in­cludes Se­nate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee Chair­man Sen. Thomas “Mac” Mid­dle­ton, House Health and Gov­ern­ment Op­er­a­tions Com­mit­tee Chair Del. Peter Ham­men, Sec­re­tary of Health and Men­tal Hy­giene Van Mitchell, Sen. Steve Her­shey, Del. Jay Ja­cobs and Shore Re­gional Health Pres­i­dent and CEO Ken Kozel, is co-chaired by Kent County res­i­dent and pub­lic health ex­pert Deb­o­rah Mizeur and Queen Anne’s County Health Of­fi­cer Dr. Joseph Ciotola, who also sits on the Shore Re­gional Health board.

We’re all ner­vous about the Ch­ester­town hos­pi­tal’s fu­ture, but Save the Hos­pi­tal be­lieves the ef­fort to cre­ate the Mid-Shore plan is being car­ried out in good faith. After all, there’s strong and com­pelling ev­i­dence that the Kent and North­ern Queen Anne’s com­mu­nity needs an in­pa­tient hos­pi­tal.

The next work­group meet­ing will be from 1 to 5 p.m. Tues­day, Nov. 1, at the Hy­att Re­gency in Cam­bridge, and you’re wel­come to at­tend. If you’d rather watch on your com­puter, there are in­struc­tions on the Mary­land Health Care Com­mis­sion web­site’s Ru­ral Health­care Work­group page. Margie Els­berg Ch­ester­town

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