Published in the February 3, 2016 edition


LYNNFIELD — Score one for the little guys.

The town received favorable news last week in its ongoing opposition to the proposed closure of North Shore Medical Center’s (NSMC) Union Hospital campus in Lynn within three years by Partners HealthCare.

Following a public hearing held earlier this month by the state’s Department of Public Health (DPH), at which testimony from Lynnfield’s elected officials and residents was provided in support of keeping the Union Hospital campus in place, the DPH issued a finding that “the services provided by NSMC at its Union Hospital campus are in fact necessary for preserving access and health status within NSMC’s service area.”

As a result of this determination, per state regulations, the DPH is requiring Partners to “prepare a plan that details how access to the services provided at its Union Hospital campus will be maintained for the residents of the service area.”

The state DPH is requiring Partners to respond to its request swiftly, giving them just 15 days to respond to six specific assessments and protocols and 30 days to respond to other requirements. Partners must also provide the DPH with quarterly reports throughout this process, with the first such report due April 30, 2016.

The first response is due to be submitted by Partners by Feb. 6.

Local concerns must be addressed

Both town officials and residents have been actively engaged in the efforts of the advocacy group, “Save Union Hospital,” for the past two years, partnering with residents as well as local and state officials from Lynn and surrounding communities whose 190,000 residents comprise Union Hospital’s service area.

“They not only have to justify what they are doing, they have to respond to many of the concerns that the residents and all the elected officials brought up at the hearing,” said Selectmen Chairman Phil Crawford, who was among the local officials to address the DPH at the public hearing held in Lynn on Jan. 7 on behalf of the town.

“This is very good news and I think it’s a testament to all the people that worked on this,” Crawford said at the last week’s selectmen’s meeting. He offered his thanks to “everybody that came forward over the last year and a half to protest this. There were hundreds of people from Lynn, Saugus and Lynnfield that put a lot of time and effort into this. Believe me, it has so far been listened to by the Department of (Public) Health and I was very pleased to see that the commission has backed the citizens.”

This decision, issued on Jan. 22, is a big blow to the publicly announced plans by Partners Healthcare, which has been moving forward with its plan to shutter the Union Hospital campus and consolidate services with its Salem Hospital campus. The plan includes a proposed $350M renovation and expansion project at its Salem campus, including an additional 100 beds being proposed.

Particularly disconcerting to town officials has been the potential loss of emergency room services at Union Hospital, where more than half of the patients transported in the town’s ambulances are taken for emergency care.


“This is very good news and I think it’s a testament to all the people that worked on this.”

 ~ Selectmen Chairman Phil Crawford 


Because travel time to Salem is difficult in even the best of conditions, critics have said that when bad weather, rush hour traffic or both are factored into the equation, an additional 30 minutes could be added to that ambulance ride, which could mean the difference between life or death for a vulnerable patient.

Fire Chief Mark Tetreault had also stated at prior meetings that a longer return trip back to town would keep an ambulance out of service range longer than those sent to Union.

Crawford explained that the biggest victory for the communities opposed to the closure of Union Hospital is DPH’s requirement that Partners must maintain emergency services for the region.

“If they can’t do it at the Lynn campus, they’re asking for a new satellite location to be designated, which is one of the musts that we have to have for the town of Lynnfield. I’m very happy to see that is going on,” he said.

Patricia Campbell of Patrice Lane is one of the residents who has actively opposed the hospital’s closure.

“That is great news because so many people think you can’t fight Partners Healthcare,” Campbell said of the DPH decision.

Campbell said she also attended the Determination of Need hearing held in Salem with the DPH where she presented to them a copy of a letter she had received from Partners back on Oct. 13, 2013 because she also owns property that abuts the Lynn Union campus. She said a DPH official she spoke to suggested a letter also be sent to the Attorney General outlining the town’s concerns.

Campbell said she asked the DPH at this meeting to require Partners to update their feasibility study to reflect more accurately the concentrations of populations in Lynnfield near the Lynn line that are also dependent upon Union’s services.

“They had a whole different plan then,” Campbell said of the 2013 letter from Partners.

Among these populations, Campbell said, are two senior housing complexes near Goodwin’s Circle, as well as the Lynnfield Commons apartments plus Our Lady of the Assumption School’s students and staff and the town’s Senior Center.

“And then there’s 650 employees at MarketStreet. None of that appeared in their feasibility study at the time, so I’d be willing to help, if you think it is an idea with any merit, to write a letter to the Attorney General and make those additional comments,” Campbell said.

She was also concerned that frequent references have been made by Partners to the availability of public transportation to those needing it to get to Salem Hospital, but they do not acknowledge that public transportation does not exist in Lynnfield, Campbell said.

Crawford agreed it would be a good idea to write a letter to the AG and thanked Campbell for offering to do so. “I think any of those comments and those facts and figures are helpful because the more that gets brought to not only the Attorney General, but the Department of Health and the regulators there that make these determinations – the more they hear from residents – the better it is for the residents,” he said.

Crawford added that the DPH’s letter to Partners specifically asks if “Partners was going to provide transportation to get people over there.”

DPH requirements of Partners

The response required by Partners to the state DPH by the end of this week must provide the following information:

(1) Information on utilization of the services prior to proposed closure; North Shore Medical Center – Union Hospital Campus;

(2) Information on the location and service capacity of alternative delivery sites;

(3) Travel times to alternative service delivery sites;

(4) An assessment of transportation needs post- discontinuance and a plan for meeting those needs;

(5) A protocol that details mechanisms to maintain continuity of care for current patients of the discontinued service; and,

(6) A protocol that describes how patients in NSMC’s service area will access the services at alternative delivery sites.

The DPH is also requiring Partners to provide the following additional information on the “essential services” it provides to the region to determine if the plan to close the Union Hospital campus “appropriately assures access to the essential services in question following the closure of services at the Union Hospital campus.”

(1) Information regarding NSMC’s plans to ensure the availability of emergency department services to the residents of Lynn and the surrounding towns.

Your plan must address the concerns raised at the public hearing, including but not limited to:

• the availability of emergency services in Lynn and to the surrounding municipalities;

• the impact of the closure of the Union Hospital campus on remaining emergency departments in the area, including but not limited to Salem Hospital;

• methods under consideration to address transport times to remaining emergency departments in the area, and the increased time out of services for ambulances during return trips; and

• NSMC’s plan, if any, to provide emergency services in Lynn, including but not limited to establishing a satellite emergency facility (SEF) of Salem Hospital in Lynn.

(2) Information regarding NSMC’s plans to meet the cultural and linguistic needs of the Lynn community when accessing inpatient services at its Salem campus, and outpatient services provided by NSMC.

(3) Information regarding NSMC’s plans for ongoing community engagement through local elected officials and community leaders, and with the community at large, regarding future plans for the Union Hospital site and ongoing access to services in the community.

(4) A plan to provide both the Department and the greater Lynn community quarterly updates throughout the closure period, beginning with the period of North Shore Medical Center – Union Hospital Campus Page 3, January 2016 through March 2016, and continuing until the closure of medical and surgical services at Union Hospital.