Local community hospitals are in many respects the lifeblood of a vibrant region. Besides the professional healthcare services they provide, local hospitals become partners in the social and economic well-being of the communities they serve.
That’s why it’s so hard to understand the direction being taken by executives operating UMass Memorial HealthAlliance-Clinton Hospital in Leominster and its Burbank Campus in Fitchburg.
UMass Memorial Health Care, the parent company of the aforementioned facilities, says declining patient volume, rising costs, and lower federal reimbursement rates are driving a business decision to eliminate the following local units:
* Inpatient pediatric services, cardiac rehabilitation and pulmonary rehabilitation units in Leominster;
* The urgent care facility in Fitchburg.
On Wednesday, Aug. 1, officials from the state Department of Public Health with hold a public hearing at the DoubleTree Hotel in Leominster, beginning at 6 p.m. They’ll listen to residents’ concerns about the proposed changes, but there’s little the state can do to stop HealthAlliance’s plan. Still it’s important for citizens and public officials to speak their minds. What the state can do is make sure that services deemed essential to public health remain preserved -- and it might be left up to HealthAlliance to help with a plan.
As it stands now, HealthAlliance is urging patients who need the affected services to go to the emergency room, drive to its Clinton hospital, or visit either of the two independent urgent care facilities in the area.
We have two questions:
First, if the hospital’s patient volumes are declining, where are those clients going and why?
Second, what is HealthAlliance’s future in Leominster and Fitchburg?
Public officials have to stay on top of this situation, because it could mean the difference between attracting newcomers to this area or losing them.