, Gloucester, MA

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February 27, 2011

Editorial: AGH activists can't keep pressing for any 'guarantees'

Gloucester officials and advocates pressing for more answers regarding the future of Addison Gilbert Hospital reiterated last week they'd like a written commitment that the hospital will remain a full-service hospital, especially when it comes to emergency care.

But they won't be getting it — at least not now. And that's no fault of Northeast Health System CEO Ken Hanover or anyone else.

The fact is, Hanover, whose company serves as Addison Gilbert's parent corporation, can't make that kind of promise, and must know he would be dishonest if he did. And it seems downright unrealistic — even a bit unfair — for elected officials and others to even keep making such a demand.

Here are the cold facts: As Northeast continues to explore options aimed at a merger or "affiliation" with one or more other major health-care providers, AGH's parent company may not be able to call every shot. And neither Hanover nor anyone else at Northeast could, in good faith, sign off on guarantees regarding specific facilities or services at this point.

Indeed, coming out of Hanover's latest visit to the Gloucester City Council last week, local officials should be encouraged that he is listening to them and has made a promise he can keep — that he will keep them informed as Northeast explores partnership options with other, larger health care organizations.

Hanover indeed offered proof he has been listening since he arrived to lead the Beverly-based hospital corporation 18 months ago.

Besides the often-expressed wish for Addison Gilbert to remain a full-service hospital, "you would like us to add more primary care doctors ... and more general surgeons and surgical subspecialties as well," he said, adding, "In short, I understand the wants, and will be discussing those with our potential partners."

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