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January 6, 2012

Tierney, Kirk make pitch to state to secure Addison Gilbert Hospital

BEVERLY — Cape Ann residents and local officials — up to and including Congressman John Tierney and Gloucester Mayor Carolyn Kirk — pressed the state's Department of Public Health on Thursday night to make the survival of Addison Gilbert Hospital's core services a required condition of Northeast Health System and the Lahey Clinic's planned affiliation agreement to form a new merged nonprofit hospital corporation.

Tierney, Kirk and Rockport Selectwoman Frances Fleming were all among the early speakers addressing the need to include an agreement to secure Addison Gilbert's future as part of any partnership between Lahey and Northeast, which has been Addison Gilbert's parent company since an earlier merger in 1994.

The Department of Public Health held the hearing, at Beverly's Memorial Hall, to hear from residents and the companies about the partnership proposal before deciding whether to grant its approval. The affiliation between the two health care nonprofits needs the approval of the DPH, the office of state Attorney General Martha Coakley, and the Federal Trade Commission.

The department will hold another hearing for Lahey's coverage area in Burlington at a date to be announced.

At Thursday night's hearing, Cape Ann residents made it clear that the future of Addison Gilbert should rest on the local public's health need, rather than a fiscal bottom line.

"The fiscal concerns are certainly secondary," Margaret "Peggy" O'Malley, a registered nurse and head of Partners for Addison Gilbert Hospital, said in an interview prior to the hearing Thursday night. "It's a $1.5 billion affiliation, there is plenty of money to protect services at AGH."

At the hearing, several local residents and for Addison Gilbert Hospital asked the Department of Public Health to put a condition on Northeast and Lahey's affiliation — a condition that would require the preservation of essential services at Addison Gilbert to be part of any deal, so long as there is a demonstrated local public health need for them.

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