Hospital bill making its way through General Assembly
Chestertown hospital would remain as is until 2020
ANNAPOLIS — A bill providing for a study of health care in rural areas that would also put off any possible partial closing of the hospital in Chestertown has passed the Maryland State Senate and is currently before a House of Delegates committee.
SB 707, jointly sponsored by Sen. Steve Hershey, R36-Upper Shore, Sen. Thomas Middleton, D-10-Charles, and Sen. James Mathias, D- 38- Somerset, Worcester, and Wicomico, was approved 46- 0 in the Senate during the last week in March, and was sent to the House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee for action.
Less than a week remains in the 2016 session of the General Assembly. The session is scheduled to adjourn at midnight on Monday, April 11.
SB 707’s main objective is to facilitate the conversion of full service hospitals to free-standing medical facilities without in-patient services. However, language was added to it that would leave the status of the full service University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Chestertown unchanged for at least several years.
The measure, in its amended form, stipulates that the hospital cannot be converted to a freestanding medical facility before July 1, 2020.
“We were able to get a commitment from the chairman of [the Senate] finance [Committee], and the chairman of the House Health and Government Operations Committee to first and foremost agree that Chestertown hospital would not close down, and that we were going to do a study — and we’re still working out the details — but it looks like a year and a half study of what health care delivery services should look like in a rural setting. And then, based on that, we would then take a look and see how we look at health care in that five-county region,” Hershey said, referring to Queen Anne’s, Kent, Talbot, Caroline, and Dorchester counties.
He said a number of fac- tors would be taken into account during the study — “obviously health care, we’re going to look at transportation access, we’ll look at economic issues, and see what this model should really look like.”
Hershey called the study, including maintaining the current status of the Chestertown hospital, “a huge step for people in my district,” and gave credit to the committee chairmen and state health secretary Van Mitchell for their roles in the matter.
“They recognize the delivery of health care in rural settings is not the same model that they could use in urban and suburban settings,” the senator said.
Early in this year’s legislature, Hershey and Sen. Jim Rosapepe, D-21-Prince George’s and Anne Arundel, sponsored Senate Bill 12 that would give counties a say in whether a hospital can be closed or partially closed. The closing of a hospital in Laurel and concern over the future of the Chestertown hospital were the main reasons that legislation was introduced. Hershey has said all along that it’s very easy to close or partially close a hospital in Maryland.
That bill, however, has not moved forward in the Senate Finance Committee since a hearing on Feb. 24. Hershey said that in many ways SB 707 largely supersedes the earlier legislation, but that SB 12, even though it has not been acted on, has served an important purpose.
“This was a bill that was used to bring up the conversation and to get this issue on the table that we could start talking about it,” he said. “There are several rumors that Chestertown hospital could close down, so this was the vehicle we wanted, to get the conversation started.”
Participants who received first, second, third or honorable mention awards in the #ILOVEQAC Photo Contest were recognized during the Board of County Commissioners meeting on Tuesday, March 22. Picture are: Heather Orkis, Brian Suite, Susan Hale, Linda Woodall, Jennifer MacGlashan and Karen Pavlik.
The University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Chestertown would remain open through 2020 under legislation being considered in Annapolis. The bill also calls for a study of rural health care.