By Joseph Domelowicz Jr.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health last week made clear to Partners/ North Shore Medical Center that it is not going to rubber stamp a proposal from NSMC to close Union Hospital. Instead, the state is calling on Partners/NSMC to develop a plan that will detail, “how access to the services provided at its Union Hospital Campus will be maintained for the residents of the service area.”
The letter also directs Partners/NSMC to provide a details of how it will ensure,” the availability of emergency department services to the residents of Lynn and the surrounding towns.”
The DPH letter, which was sent to Partners./NSMC – through its attorneys – was delivered last Friday and gives the health care provider 15 days to provide other information about how services currently offered at Union Hospital are used and how long it will take patients to travel to alternative health delivery sites for those services.
Opponents of Partners/NSMC’s proposal to close surgical and emergency services at Union Hospital, as part of a $180 million expansion of Salem Hospital, saw last weeks’ letter to the health care provider as a victory in their fight to keep Union Hospital open.
“Clearly, we’ve been able to articulate how important the hospital is to our community,” State Senator Thomas McGee said last week. “That message was heard.”
However, McGee and other Lynn officials noted that the fight to save the hospital is not over and supporters of Union Hospital must maintain efforts to keep the hospital open, as state officials continue their review of Partners proposal.
The DPH letter also referenced a January 7, 2016 public meeting in Lynn, which was attended by DPH officials and representatives of Partners/NSMC.
“Your plan must address the concerns raised at the (Jan. 7) public hearing, including but not limited to the availability of emergency services in Lynn and to the surrounding municipalities<” read the letter.”
Partners/NSMC has stated that their plan to close surgical beds and emergency services at Union Hospital while renovating and expanding services at Salem Hospital is needed, due to the difficulties of maintaining and improving care at two hospitals less than six miles away from each other.
Partners is also promoting its plan to expand the behavioral health center at Lynn Union Hospital, as responsive to the current need for treatment for patients with mental health and addiction recovery needs, especially as the state continues to grapple with the opiate crisis.
Partners/NSMC did not offer a response to the DPH letter, as of the Journal’s deadline.