Partners/NSMC Plan to Shift Union Hospital Focus to Psychiatric, Primary Care: Plan Criticized by Local Officials

Partners HealthCare and the North Shore Medical Center (NSMC), owners and operators of Lynn’s Union Hospital, last week announced plans to shift the focus of Lynn’s only local hospital from surgical care to psychiatric care, by increasing the number of psychiatric beds from 30 to more than 100 over the next three to four years and sending the hospital’s surgical beds to Salem Hospital instead.

However, the announcement drew immediate criticism from local officials and residents and both Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and Council President and mayoral hopeful Timothy Phelan called upon NSMC officials to schedule public meetings to discuss their plans – with Kennedy even suggesting that she will ask the federal government to get involved.

“I think these proposals may cause Union Hospital to fall below the minimum requirements of the (US) Department of Justice (for providing care),” Kennedy said. “We deserve more.”

Kennedy launched a petition initiative to protest the proposed changes to Union’s operations last Wednesday and she said on Friday that she will send that petition to the federal government.

“The people of this city deserve to know what’s going on,” added Phelan, who said that he wants hospital officials to agree to a public meeting on October 15 (today), preferably at the hospital.

Hospital executives have assured city officials that their plans include continued operation of the emergency room at Union Hospital, as well as the continued operation of the primary care services the hospital has been developing over the past few years –and are part of an overall plan to invest more than $200 million system wide.

NSMC President Robert Norton said the plans, which still need to be approved by the state, are not an indication that Partners is seeking to abandon Lynn, but rather a response to the changing way in which health care is delivered.

Partners, he said, needs to consolidate hospital services across its system, rather than trying to offer all services in each facility.

The consolidation of psychiatric beds in Lynn, would allow surgical beds to be increased in both Salem and at Lawrence Memorial Hospital in Medford – thus helping Partners’ improve and increase surgical resources in two parts of its system, without decreasing its commitment to psychiatric treatment.

Lawrence Memorial, as part of Hallmark Health, would join the North Shore Medical Center, in a planned merger between NSMC and Hallmark Health over the next few years.

Mayor Kennedy said the plan seems to be little more than an attempt to maximize profits, at the expense of the people of Lynn, who would need to go to Salem or elsewhere in order to receive surgical services.

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