News & Events

UMass Memorial Health Alliance Clinton Hospital Plans to Close Popular Endoscopy Service in Violation of State Regulations Requiring 90 Day Notice and Public Oversight

01.16.2018

Nurses at UMass Memorial Health Alliance Clinton Hospital are outraged by a hastily announced decision last week by Health Alliance Clinton Hospital CEO Debra Weymouth to close the Endoscopy Service at the hospital, an essential program for the diagnosis and treatment of colorectal cancer and other serious gastro-intestinal conditions that serves several hundred patients each year. The plan is to close the unit with less than three weeks’ notice on Jan. 26, a move that the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA), which represents the nurses at the hospital, contends is in direct violation of state Department of Public Health regulations governing the proposed closure of essential services. Last Friday the MNA sent a letter to DPH calling for their immediate intervention to ensure the hospital follows the law.  The full text of the letter to DPH can be found at the bottom of this release.
 
Under state law, any plan to close a hospital or specific services, such as Clinton’s endoscopy service, requires the provider of that service to notify the Department of Public Health so that the agency can determine if the service is essential to maintaining the health of the community, and if it is eventually closed, that there is an appropriate plan in place to ensure patients have access to needed care.  The law requires a minimum 90 day notice of the closure following notification to DPH, and a public hearing conducted by DPH where community members and other advocates can provide testimony concerning the essential nature of the service.
 
Health Alliance management informed the nurses of their intent to close the unit last week and informed the MNA that they had no obligation to notify the DPH of the closure and planned to proceed with the closure as of Jan. 26, which prompted the MNA to make their appeal to DPH.  The closure of the service would result in the layoff of six registered nurses, a licensed practical nurse as well as other support staff who work in the program. 

“The loss of this program is a disservice to our community and to the patients we care for every day,” said Louise Fusco, a nurse who has worked in the Endoscopy service for more than 15 years, “This has been an important service for our community and for the patients under our care.  We were surprised by the announcement, as there has been an effort in recent years to enhance this service, with the purchase of the latest equipment, and expanded demand for endoscopy services by our patient population.”

Two years ago, management at Clinton Hospital made a significant investment in the endoscopy service, purchasing new diagnostic equipment and increasing the number of physicians utilizing the new service.  In that period, the program went from two full days of utilization, to an average of four days of operation each week.  However, last October, Clinton Hospital was merged with UMass Health Alliance, which also operates Leominster Hospital and Burbank Hospital.  Last fall the hospital announced plans to stop infusion services in their day surgery center, and now they have continued their dismantling of services by closing the endoscopy service.

“Clinton Hospital provides important access to needed health care services for patients living in smaller communities outside of Worcester.  We are concerned that UMass Health Alliance is attempting to consolidate services at other facilities, depriving our community of needed services and forcing them to travel a longer distance for care,” said Maryellen Thompson, chair of the local bargaining unit of MNA at Clinton Hospital. “The state has rightfully established a process to follow to protect the public when services are closed and we believe our administration should follow that process.  We intend to do whatever we can to ensure our patients and our community are protected.”

In addition to contacting DPH, the Clinton nurses are reaching out to policy makers and other community leaders to share their concerns. In addition, several nurses intend to attend a public forum Clinton CEO Weymouth is holding on Jan. 6 at the Clinton Town Hall at 6 p.m. to share information on changes planned for Clinton Hospital. The nurses want to make sure the public is aware of this closing and the need for it be handled in accordance with state law. 
 
Full Text of Letter to DPH Regarding the Proposed Closure of Endoscopy Service at Clinton Hospital
Sherman Lohnes, Esq.
Massachusetts Department of Public Health
Division of Health Care Quality
99 Chauncy Street, 11th Floor
Boston, MA  02111
 
Dear Sherman,
 
Nurses represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association have been notified by UMass Memorial HealthAlliance-Clinton Hospital of their plan to close their endoscopy service at Clinton Hospital as of January 26, 2018. We believe this constitutes the closure of an essential service that under DPH regulations, requires notification by the hospital to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH), with a subsequent 90-day notice of closure and a public hearing to determine whether this is an essential service; and if closed, the facility must provide a detailed plan for how the service will be delivered post closure. 
 
In meetings with Health Alliance management, they contend that there is no need to notify MDPH or for the essential service regulations to be implemented.  We hereby dispute that claim and are taking this opportunity to request MDPH intervention in this matter, and that the essential service closure process commence. 
 
We make this request based on our review of the relevant law of the Commonwealth at https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartI/TitleXVI/Chapter111/Section51G   
and the following criteria:
 
  • The endoscopy service is an ambulatory service that is clearly identified by Massachusetts regulations under http://www.mass.gov/courts/docs/lawlib/104-105cmr/105cmr130.pdf as subject to an essential service review.
  • The nearest service is 12 miles away, beyond the five mile limit called for under the regulation.
  • The nearest alternative service is outside the zip code of the current service.
 
It is clear that this service meets all the requirements set forth by the MDPH for such a closure, and we believe that the community and the employees of Clinton Hospital should be provided with the required notice for such a closure, and that the public has a right to a hearing on this closure to ensure that the public health is protected.  We look forward to a response to this request and for prompt action to hold Health Alliance accountable for following the law.
 
Thank you for your prompt attention to this. 
 
Sincerely,
 
Mary Crotty, JD, MBA, BSN

 

FPO