Rural Health Care
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