Hospi­tal to re­tain in­pa­tient beds un­til 2022

Record Observer - - News - By TR­ISH MCGEE pm­cgee@thekent­coun­tynews.com

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.

PHOTO BY DO­RIAN MITCHELL

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.

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