As city leaders, including Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and Council President Timothy Phelan have campaigned on the idea of maintaining Union Hospital as a center for emergency and surgical care in the city, North Shore Medical Center President Robert Norton has tried to stem the outpouring of anger directed at the hospital, by assuring residents and councilors that the emergency room functions at the hospital will continue.
In addition, he has explained that the established and growing primary care practice at Union, along with Urgent Care services will also be maintained at Union Hospital, even as the hospital’s owners – NSMC and Partners HealthCare – seek to turn Union’s surgical beds into mental health beds, while sending surgeries to Salem Hospital.
Norton appeared before the City Council last week to answer questions and was greeted by more than 100 angry residents who don’t want their hospital taken away. NSMC has also announced plans to host a community meeting at Union Hospital on Wednesday, October 23 at 6:30 p.m. too answer more questions and discuss the health care system’s full plans for the long-term viability of Union Hospital in Lynn.
The plan, which still must be approved by state and federal authorities, would be implemented over a three period, if approved, and would allow NSMC and Partners to develop separate ‘centers for care,’ each with different medical specialties and each designed to meet the needs of Partners patients from across the its system, stretching from Medford to Salem and encompassing many communities in between.
A portion of the plan is based on Partners’ planned merger with Hallmark Health systems, which owns and operates Lawrence Hospital in Medford and the Melrose Wakefield Hospital in Melrose.
Rather than seeking to shrink its business in Union, Norton has said the merged healthcare system would actually be expanding its role in local public health in Lynn, by maintaining its emergency room and primary care functions and adding an urgent care practice as well as the expanded behavioral health center at Union Hospital.
As for public perception in Lynn that they’d be better served by having a functioning surgical center at Union Hospital, Norton disputes and points out that with regard to cardiac care, for instance, Salem Hospital is already the only health center on the North Shore currently performing balloon angioplasty on heart attack patients and has been for the past decade.
“If you have a heart attack, you want to go to Salem,” said Norton, who promised, “there will definitely be a Union Hospital in Lynn in five to 10 years, and it will provide patient access to a new model of health care.”