Hos­pi­tal bill mak­ing its way through Gen­eral Assem­bly

Ch­ester­town hos­pi­tal would re­main as is un­til 2020

Record Observer - - Front Page - By JACK SHAUM jshaum@kibay­times.com

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.”

PHOTO BY MIKE DAVIS

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.

PHOTO BY DANIEL DIVILIO

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.

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