Hospital services important, officials told
SUDLERSVILLE — On Sunday afternoon, April 24, the eighth and final “listening session” sponsored by University of Maryland Shore Regional Health System was held in the large mutli-purpose room at Sudlersville fire house. Of the 15 people attending, most were in their late 40s or older.
Christine Clarke, director of Organization Development of University of Maryland Medical System, served as facilitator. She introduced Shore Regional Health President and CEO Ken Kozel.
“We’re here to listen to you, members of the community, to gather information about what you feel is most important about how we can better serve you. We want to hear your ideas for health care needs in this area,” Kozel said. A sign behind him stated the meeting’s purpose: Creating healthier communities together.
Audience members were quick to respond. Some indicated they had attended at least one of the other seven previous meetings in the area.
Concerns and desires discussed included:
1. Keep a full-service hospital in Chestertown. Currently, there has been an announced, but not finalized, plan to keep the hospital in Chestertown open as an “acute care facility” until 2022. After that, it may or may not remain at that status.
2. Transportation to medical facilities in the area is inadequate, particularly for seniors with limited resources and those who are poor.
3. An effort should be made to clearly educate the public, especially in Chestertown, as to what services are currently being offered at the Chestertown hospital.
4. The hospital there is no longer staffed to offer fulltime pediatric or obstetric and gynecological ser vices and hasn’t been for several years. It does treat people in the emergency room for those needs, but longtime care must be sought elsewhere. It was recommended that these services be brought back to the hospital. However, the services were dropped because there was not enough demand in the immediate area of Chestertown to warrant the services to be maintained, hospital officials said. For example, child births were only averaging about 70 per year, and at least 200 births are needed to financially support and justify having such a ser vice.
5. There has been difficulty finding enough primary care physicians in the immediate area for all people. It was recommended that a policy be put in place to recruit new, young physicians to come to serve the community, but that won’t happen without pediatric and OB/GYN services being offered, particularly at the hospital.
6. It was recommended that reasonable goals be set for medical services with time-lines, and reports issued regularly to inform the public about progress on those goals.
“People don’t want uncertainty in regards to health care services,” one attendee stated.
Along with the purpose being posted at the front of the room, listings such as “Ideas,” “Barriers” and “Needs” were also posted. The Needs poster received the most listings during the meeting.
A Sudlersville woman, whose name was not given, said the town of Sudlersville has annexed surrounding properties where up to 600 new homes could be built over the next decade.
She said, “With growth like that, it would not be wise to not have a full-care hospital in the immediate area.”
Another person said, “The schools around here are full of children,” and she didn’t understand why the hospital didn’t have pediatrics offered.
Queen Anne’s County Commissioner Jack Wilson, who lives in District 1 (which is north county), attended. He spoke briefly about a bypass that will be built out of Dover, Del., that is expected to bring more traffic down Route 301 out of Delaware. With it comes the potential for more accidents along that highway, and hospital services will certainly be needed in the future, he said.
The facilitator said it was the first they had heard of a bypass.
Dr. Gerald O’Connor, attending physician at Chester River Hospital, also was among those who spoke. O’Connor mentioned he was one of the people who had started the “Save Our Hospital” movement. He told the group it left him with a very poor impression that none of the board members from Shore Regional Healh were present to hear their concerns.
“These are the same people who are going to decide
what services you’re going to have, and decisions about your lives, and not one board member is here to hear what you have to say,” he said.
O’Connor suggested he was of the impression that “if something’s not broken, why fix it? Some things might need to be tweaked, but not removed.”
Officials said they will now take the information gathered from all eight listening sessions and consider plans for the future.
President and CEO of Shore Regional Health Ken Kozel addressed those in attendance for community meeting, Sunday afternoon, April 24, at the Sudlersville Volunteer Fire Company. In the background, facilitator Christine Clarke. Kozel said, “We’re doing a service delivery study, as well as the state of Maryland. We need to hear back from the community about what your needs are.”