Hospital to retain inpatient beds until 2022
CHESTERTOWN — An assurance that inpatient beds at the hospital here would be maintained through at least 2022 was part of the message that the president and CEO of Shore Regional Health brought to local residents as he spoke to the Chestertown Mayor and Council and Kent County Commissioners this week.
Ken Kozel appeared before the Chestertown council Monday, July 18. The following night he spoke to the county commissioners.
At the Chestertown council meeting, Kozel said an updated Certificate of Need application for a new hospital in Easton — to be built between the airport and Hog Neck Community Center on U.S. Route 50 — will be submitted to the Maryland Health Care Commission in September.
He anticipates it could take up to a year before a decision is made.
In answering a question Monday from Mayor Chris Cerino, Kozel said the new hospital would be a “modernized” version of what is currently in Easton and that the services it would provide would be based on the needs of that community.
He said the beds at Shore Medical Center at Chestertown and Shore Medical Center at Cambridge, which come under the umbrella of Easton-based Shore Regional Health, would not be af fected.
“I know that we’ll never have brain surgery performed here, but it is important for the people in this community to know that they could have minor surgeries — like appendectomies — or be able to be hospitalized here for two or three days,” Councilman Marty Stetson told Kozel.
Kozel provided much of the same information and assurances to the county commissioners during their meeting July 19. He also gave an estimated timeline for the proposed Easton hospital.
“It’s going to take us, from the time we submit the application, we think between five and six years to open the door,” he said. “It’s going to take that long and that’s if we get approval.”
Kozel said if the Easton hospital is approved, its opening will coincide roughly with the expiration of Shore Regional Health’s commitment to Kent County.
“I think it’s important to note that as we’re building this building, we’re not building it for the capacity of the additional hospitals,” he said.
Commissioner Bill Short said ultimately, the results from the state-funded study will determine “what’s out there on the table.”
“Technically, they could back off some of the support for a brand-new facility in say, Easton, and push that toward a place like Kent County, to help out its hospital,” he said.
Speaking July 18, Kozel struck a conciliatory chord as he thanked the mayor and council for reaching a consensus on remediation of a heating oil spill that dates back to 1987.
He called the agreement signed by Cerino on June 22 “an important next step in building trust.”
A key provision in the deal that also was signed by Kozel and Robert Chrencik, CEO of Shore Regional Health’s parent company University of Maryland Medical System, is that the hospital agreed to install three new monitoring wells so that oil cannot move undetected between the existing wells.
When Cerino asked who he should “have a conversation with” about making sure the three sentinel wells are added, Kozel said he was the guy.
Kozel also told the mayor and council that Shore Regional Health has fulfilled its promise to hire an onsite executive director at the hospital in Chestertown.
Scott Burleson, who previously served as site executive for Shore Medical Center at Chestertown, started in his new post May 30. He was the board’s unanimous choice among eight applicants, Kozel said.
Burleson, who lives in Galena, oversees the day-to-day operations here and reports directly to Kozel.
The hiring of a local administrator underscores Shore Regional Health’s “commitment to collaboration,” Kozel told the town council.
Burleson was in the audience Monday night, but did not speak.
Kozel spoke glowingly of the dedicated Chestertown physicians — identifying them by name as Wayne Benjamin, Deb Davis, Helen Noble, Jerry O’Connor, Michael Peimer and Susan Ross — “who have been pillars in our community … and help us remain focused on what is important.”
Shore Regional Health’s board of directors approved a service delivery plan in June after 18 months of study. Among other things, it identified transportation needs and physician shortages for the five Mid-Shore counties.
Kozel said the aim is to expand the five key service lines — primary care, medical, surgical, oncology and behavioral health — with short-term and long-term initiatives. Greater emphasis will be placed on physician recruitment.
The Chestertown physicians now “have a seat at the table,” said Kozel, “and they have been great at identifying the needs and prioritizing those needs.”
“I’m a little reassured by your presentation,” Councilwoman Liz Gross, a resident of Heron Point, told Kozel.
Gross asked that there be an emphasis on gerontology. “Our retirement-age population is significant,” she said.
Staff Writer Dorian Mitchell contributed to this report.
Ken Kozel, president and CEO of Shore Regional Health, gives an update to the Kent County Commissioners during their meeting Tuesday, July 19. Included in the update was the fact that inpatient beds will remain in the Chestertown hospital until 2022.