By Daniel Menefee : Chestertown Spy/Rock Hall Wave Staff
The Chester River Health System and the Shore Health System are teaming up to share capacity, and determine the future needs of health care in the Mid-Shore counties. A Regionalization Study Committee, consisting of board members from both systems, has been formed to determine how healthcare needs will be met through 2020 in Kent, Talbot, Dorchester, Caroline, and Queen Anne’s counties.
“The Committee is guided by mutually agreed principles that both health systems must continue to meet the needs of their communities, and must maintain the facilities and medical services that are essential to meeting those needs,” said Chester River Health System Chairman Wayne L. Gardener, Sr.”
The two systems fall under the University of Maryland Medical System and make up the Chester River Hospital in Chestertown, Memorial Hospital in Easton, and Dorchester Hospital Center in Cambridge. Executives from both systems said last Friday that population trends and changing healthcare policy require thoughtful study in how healthcare will be managed in Mid-Shore.
The executives said the committee will determine how trends from inpatient to outpatient care will be managed, and how specialized services will be delivered in rural communities, which will see an 11 percent increase in population by 2020. The study will also determine how to integrate changes in national healthcare policy and adjust to how medical services are reimbursed.
“As we survey the future landscape of healthcare, we recognize that health systems such as ours will face increasing challenges to enhancing clinical quality, assuring patient access and preserving financial strength,” said Shore Health System Board Chairman John Dillon.
Dillon said all three hospitals will continue to operate as acute care facilities, and the Memorial Hospital in Easton will be replaced by a new modern regional medical center.
Effective January 1, 2012, physician reimbursement for Medicare and Medicaid is likely to fall by 27.4 percent unless Congress can agree on a temporary measure to stop the cuts, according to a recent press release from the American Medical Association.
Dr. Robert L. Henderson, MD., recently closed his ear, nose and throat practice in Chestertown after 30 years in the face of drastic cuts, according to a staffer at Henderson’s Clarksville, MD office. He said that a growing elderly population in Kent County will make it hard for any physician serving the elderly to maintain a practice over the long term. The staffer said cuts to Medicare and Medicaid were not the sole reason for closing Henderson’s practice, but “it weighed heavily in the decision to no longer provide care in Chestertown.” The staffer said there were no current plans to close the Clarksville office and that some patients from Kent County are making the drive to the western shore to see Dr. Henderson.
The Regionalization Study Committee will hold town meetings in February and March throughout the mid-shore region. Residents, medical staff, first responders, and state and local leaders will weigh in on the future of health care in the five counties, according Julianna L. Vallecillo, Director of Marketing and Public Relations for the Chester River Health System.
The Committee is expected to make its final recommendations by this summer.