What: Community forum on the proposal by Baystate Health to close inpatient services at Mary Lane Hospital
When: Thursday, March 3, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Ware High School Auditorium, 237 West St, Ware, MA 01082
CANTON, Mass. – A proposal by highly profitable Baystate Health to close inpatient services at Mary Lane Hospital in Ware strikes at the heart of community health care and endangers patients who need essential medical services close to home.
The Massachusetts Nurses Association supports efforts by community members to oppose the proposal submitted by Baystate to the state Department of Public Health and Massachusetts Health Policy Commission on Feb. 5. Baystate’s proposal would cause Mary Lane to lose its license to operate as it has and shift inpatient services to Wing Hospital in Palmer.
“The potential closing of Mary Lane Hospital highlights a growing crisis in Massachusetts where the consolidation of hospitals into large corporate networks has reduced the financial support for community hospitals that serve vulnerable populations,” said Angela Perez, a registered nurse at Vibra Hospital of Western Massachusetts and resident of Ware.
“Mary Lane Hospital provides essential inpatient care to a community facing significant health risks and social and economic barriers to health care access,” Perez said. “Closing inpatient services means patients traveling farther distances to Wing Hospital or elsewhere, putting their health and lives at risk.”
A 2013 report commissioned by Baystate shows the importance of maintaining accessible health care services at Mary Lane Hospital. The report identified several health issues in the region, including drug and alcohol addiction, serious chronic illness, mental health disorders and high rates of childhood obesity and asthma. The report also listed socioeconomic factors contributing to health disparities, such as high rates of poverty, an aging population and limited public transportation.
The proposal by Baystate comes as the “not-for-profit” organization has enjoyed tremendous financial success. Baystate earned $403 million over the five years starting in 2010, including $96 million in fiscal year 2014. Its flagship facility, Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, raked in $96 million in profits in 2014, according to state records, making it the third-most profitable hospital in Massachusetts after Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Attempting to shutter inpatient services at Mary Lane also contradicts commitments to keeping care local made by Baystate executives.
At a 2014 community forum in Greenfield, Baystate CEO Mark Keroack pledged, “The more we can keep care local, the more we can keep beds open [in Springfield] for complicated transfer patients.” Baystate Mary Lane Chief Medical Officer Dr. Mohammed Shafeq Ahmed has noted the importance of a community hospital: "The people who work in this hospital tend to be from the community, are friends and neighbors of people . . . There's a higher chance they may know you. Connection makes a difference."
The health care needs of the residents relying on Mary Lane Hospital and the many socioeconomic barriers to accessing care ought to be enough to encourage Baystate to use its very significant financial resources to keep Mary Lane Hospital open and available to the patients who rely on it.
“Baystate should follow through on its commitment to keep care local by keeping Mary Lane Hospital open,” Angela Perez said. “Mary Lane is a small hospital. It does not make a lot of money. But nothing should matter more to a health care organization than the health of the community it serves.”