Council Concerned About ER Closing

The emergency room at Union Hospital on Lynnfield Street will close on Nov. 3.   On Tuesday night, the City Council met with officials from police, fire and the ambulance company to discuss the impact of something they had been told was eight months away.

The change is all part of a $207 million expansion project for North Shore Medical Center in Salem and the creation of a smaller medical village on the Union Hospital campus.

Initially, Lynn officials had been told the ER was closing in May of 2020, but in July they were told by the owner, Partners Healthcare, the ER would close on Nov. 3. There will be an urgent care facility opening in its place Nov. 4, and all ambulance runs will be either going to North Shore Medical Center in Salem also a Partners facility, or into one of the Boston hospitals. If there is a conflict,   an option is to go to Peabody Medical Center, which does have a small ER or Melrose-Wakefield Hospital.

“This is horrible. I’m hearing from people waiting five to six hours at Salem Hospital,” said Ward 1 Councilor Wayne Lozzi, who represents the area surrounding Union Hospital. “For them to pull the rug from under us like this is poor planning on Partners part. It leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth in the community.”

He noted the closed fire station on Lynnfield Street that also doesn’t help. As for reopening the station, he said he is always looking for ways to better allocate services.

No one from North Shore Medical Center or Partners spoke at the meeting, but there was a handout in English and Spanish explaining the change. The urgent care will be open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. It is for the care of non-life-threatening medical conditions. There will also be access to radiology services, blood and lab tests, outpatient behavioral health, cardiac/pulmonary rehabilitation and the Heart and Wellness Clinic.

In May 2020 a “medical village” will open on the Union Hospital campus with North Shore Physicians group practice, and behavioral health services. The new Emergency Room at Salem Hospital also opens on Nov. 3.

Lynn Fire Capt. Joseph Zukas said as of now the ambulance cannot take people to an urgent care facility, only an emergency room. He noted that there is a basic life support (BLS) ambulance available 24 hours a day.

Robert White, director of operations for Atlantic/Cataldo Ambulance Company, said they have 10 paramedic vehicles and 23 basic life support ambulance rotating around their coverage areas at all times.

“If you dial 911 we have to take you to an emergency room,” Zukas said.

Fire Chief Stephen Archer said already about 80 percent of the ambulance calls are taken to Salem Hospital because Union’s operating rooms and maternity ward have already been closed. He also has budget concerns.

“This has been ongoing for the last year,” said Lynn Fire Chief Stephen Archer. “It’s not a good thing for us or for the city.”

Ward 2 Councilor Rick Starbard said there are concerns about the traffic on Highland Avenue (Route 107), the route the ambulance has to take to Salem Hospital. The council voted to send a letter to the city of Salem and MassDOT asking for help with traffic mitigation for Highland Avenue.

“It doesn’t sound like they have a plan,” said Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre. “We have to be proactive and let everyone know the impact.”

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