June 04, 2009 05:45 am
I am writing to share testimony I presented Monday night in Beverly, where the state’s Department of Public Health, Office of Determination of Need, held a public hearing on Beverly Hospital’s application to spend $10 million to build facility to provide radiation therapy at Beverly Hospital:
I am a Registered Nurse and chair Partners for Addison Gilbert Hospital, a non-profit citizens group formed in 1996, with the mission of protecting all acute care services needed at Addison Gilbert Hospital, our local community hospital since 1897.
We hoped that this hearing would be held in either Gloucester or Rockport. Recurrent "Determination of Need" hearings in Beverly should indicate that Northeast’s expansions of hospital services all occur in Beverly, not in Gloucester at Addison Gilbert Hospital, the wealth of which underwrites many of these expansions while our own hospital is starved for resources for essential services. We come before you because this is one of the only opportunities we have to bring our concerns to the attention of the commissioner and the Public Health Council.
Before Northeast is allowed to spend over $10 million to build unnecessary radiation therapy services in Beverly, we ask that it be required to fund the essential emergency, surgical and other critical services needed to protect the health and safety of the 40,000 year-round residents of Cape Ann, a number which soars in summer.
At a minimum, we seek a guarantee for the eight services which DPH has ruled must be available in a hospital building for Addison Gilbert’s emergency department to be fully licensed for emergency services and to receive and treat patients transported by ambulance through the 911 system.
The need is well-documented. In Gloucester alone, there were more than 4,000 ambulance runs last year. The emergency room at AGH has about 15,000 visits a year. Northeast states in their application they operate "Addison Gilbert Hospital, a 70-bed acute care facility", "a full-service community hospital in Gloucester". This is a misrepresentation. Northeast operates only 32 acute care med/surg beds at AGH.
About 12,000 hospital visits were made by Cape Ann residents in 2005. This illustrates the huge number of patients that must be "diverted" from AGH to Beverly. The two reasons most often given to these patients are: (1) There are no more beds at AGH, and (2) There is no surgeon or anesthesiologist at AGH.
Nearly 55 percent of all emergency room visits at AGH occur between 3 p.m. and 7 a.m. Yet, Northeast assigns only one surgeon to cover emergencies at both Beverly and Addison Gilbert Hospitals during evenings, nights, and weekends. In fact, there is little surgery at all now done at AGH …
Northeast acknowledges in its application how important location/convenience is for patients, referring to drive times in excess of 30 minutes to a radiation therapy site, which "can be much longer depending upon traffic patterns, time of day, and increased traffic during the holiday season, or any other circumstantial events relative to traffic". The same organization routinely requires the people of Cape Ann to travel, often for life-or-death treatment, more than 30 minutes to reach Beverly Hospital.
… Northeast acknowledges that "Core to its mission, NHC has an obligation to respond to the health care needs of its community." It goes on to report on its discussions with the North Shore Community Health Network and its plan to spend over half a million dollars, if this application is approved, on needs identified by that group.
In comparison, the people of Cape Ann, who have provided Northeast with millions of dollars including a collection of art worth more than $6 million (some of it seized by police in the home of a Northeast executive trying to sell it), can’t even get a meeting with Northeast Trustees to discuss, and get guarantees for, services needed at AGH.
We respectfully ask that Northeast be denied their application to spend many millions of dollars on unnecessary services at Beverly until it meets its duty to fund all the services at AGH which are essential to the lives and safety of the people of Cape Ann.
Peg O’Malley of Gloucester is a Registered Nurse and the chairwoman of Partners for Addison Gilbert Hospital.
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