Residents’ input sought on planned closure
Published in the August 12, 2015 edition
By DAN TOMASELLO
LYNNFIELD — The Board of Selectmen has been ramping up pressure at the state level to stop efforts by Partners HealthCare to close Union Hospital.
Partners announced last month it will be closing Union Hospital in Lynn and will be consolidating North Shore Medical Center’s medical, surgical and behavioral health services on one campus at Salem Hospital. Partners said it plans to close Union Hospital within three years.
In an interview with the Villager last week, Selectmen Chairman Phil Crawford said he recently attended a meeting with state Sen. Tom McGee (D-Lynn), state Rep. Donald Wong (R-Saugus) and Lynn Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy to discuss their opposition to Partners’ plan to close Union Hospital with representatives from the Department of Public Health (DPH).
“We wanted the Department of Public Health to know what was going on with Union Hospital,” said Crawford. “They were unaware of Partners’ plans to close Union Hospital because they have not notified the Department of Public Health.”
Partners’ plan to close Union Hospital needs to be approved by the state Department of Public Health (DPH).
Crawford said Partners HealthCare will be required to give the state DPH a 90-day notice about its plans to close Union Hospital. He also noted Partners will be required to hold a public meeting on the proposal and he encouraged local residents to attend that meeting once it is announced.
“Representatives from the Department of Public Health said it’s important for residents to voice their opinions about this issue,” said Crawford.
Crawford said he was going to attend a Save Union Hospital meeting at Lynn City Hall on Tuesday, Aug. 11 along with Lynn and area officials to ramp up the pressure on Partners to keep Union Hospital open. He will also be discussing the matter with Lieutenant Gov. Karyn Polito and state Rep. Brad Jones (R-North Reading) on Aug. 17.
“We are going to bring her up to speed and see if there is any way to keep the emergency room and trauma center open at Union,” said Crawford.
Crawford also plans on discussing the situation with Gov. Charlie Baker sometime in September. He noted Polito is the liaison to local municipalities and he anticipates she will be discussing the matter with the governor as well.
Travel time, transport costs will increase
The selectmen and local officials have blasted Partners’ plan to shutter Union Hospital because 48.9 percent of the fire department’s emergency transports head to Union Hospital. Local officials want to have a hospital in close proximity because of emergency situations. Local officials have also criticized the plan because it will lead to higher costs because the fire department charges per loaded miles for emergency transports.
“The travel time will significantly increase if people have to be transported to Salem Hospital, not to mention there is an additional cost to the town,” said Crawford.
Additionally, the selectmen voted unanimously to endorse a letter written by Crawford last month that was sent to Partners HealthCare protesting the health care company’s plans to close Union Hospital. The letter cites the “valuable and needed service” provided by hospital to Lynnfield as well as the North Shore.
“Union Hospital not only provides medical care to the city of Lynn, but also to neighboring communities such as Lynnfield and Saugus,” Crawford told the Villager.
Selectman Chris Barrett commended Crawford’s leadership on the Union Hospital closure fight.
“Phil has been an outstanding leader on this issue,” Barrett told the Villager. “This is a situation that the state and the Department of Public Health needs to stop.”
Selectman Tom Terranova did not return a call for comment by press time but he has gone on the record at past public meetings as being in favor of keeping Union Hospital open.
Crawford said he has heard reports that EMS personnel have been transporting local patients to Salem Hospital instead of Union. He said he believes Partners has plans to close Union Hospital sooner rather than later.
“I think the timeframe will be much quicker than the three years they have said,” said Crawford.
Residents’ feedback wanted
Crawford said he would like to learn about local residents’ experiences if they were transported to Salem Hospital instead of Union recently. He said he would relay any feedback from residents to DPH General Counsel Margaret Cooke and DPH Director of Government Affairs Jay Youmans. He also said residents can contact Cooke and Youmans directly.
While the selectmen have been on the same page with fighting Partners’ plan to close Union Hospital, Town Administrator Jim Boudreau commented at the last selectmen’s meeting on July 13 that fighting Partners will be an uphill battle. He said Steward Health Care recently closed Quincy Hospital and Quincy is a city similar in size to Lynn.