, Gloucester, MA

Letters/My View

July 19, 2013


To the editor:

In March 2012, the Massachusetts Public Health Council approved the merger of Northeast and Lahey with the conditions that no change to AGH services could be made for at least three years and that Lahey conduct a Cape Ann health needs assessment and a process of community input to guide the determination of what services will be provided at AGH after May 2015.

Furthermore, the council ordered Lahey executives to return in just two years and report what they had learned and how it guided their plans for AGH after May 2015.

This would give the council and the people of Cape Ann a full year’s notice before Lahey’s plans could be initiated. It’s now just eight months until Lahey’s plan is due. How is it coming along?

The Cape Ann community health needs assessment was done. It found that transportation and cost were the major barriers to Cape Ann residents getting care.

It documented that in Rockport, nearly 3,000 people — 43 percent of all residents — are 55 or older. In Gloucester, it’s nearly 10,000 people, or 35 percent of residents. That leads to more hospitalizations. Cape Ann is home to 6,550 children and 5,600 women of child-bearing age.

There were nearly 13,000 visits to the Emergency Department by Cape Ann residents. That doesn’t even account for those by visitors.

Gloucester has the highest rates in Essex County of these chronic diseases: diabetes, respiratory disease, and lung cancer, all associated with more frequent hospital admissions. It has more hospitalizations for pneumonia and chronic obstructive lung disease.

Depression and anxiety are high, too. Among Gloucester residents, there are more hospitalizations for mental disorders as well as those for abuse of alcohol, prescriptions and illegal drugs than the county or state.

So the data support what we’ve known all along. Among Cape Ann residents and leaders, there has been for many years a consensus that we need, at a minimum, every acute care service at AGH that the state requires for a full-service ER, one that can accept ambulance calls through the 911 EMS system. These include 24/7 availability in the AGH building of surgery and anesthesia, and ICU and medical/surgical beds. To date, Beverly Hospital, and now Lahey Health, has refused to guarantee even these minimum services.

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