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Opinion

September 20, 2010

Editorial: Program shutdown spotlights troubles for Addison Gilbert

Gloucester's Addison Gilbert Hospital has, unfortunately, not been a full-service facility for some time.

But it is becoming even less so as the hospital's corporate parent, Northeast Health System, struggles with increased competition, a declining patient census and declining reimbursements.

Northeast, which also owns Beverly Hospital and Bayridge Hospital in Lynn, has eliminated seven full-time jobs at Addison Gilbert — part of an ongoing move to cut 100 jobs throughout the hospital chain.

Now, hospital officials have also announced the closing of the cardiac rehabilitation maintenance program, one of two Addison Gilbert outpatient programs Northeast CEO Ken Hanover has said the corporation will be eliminating.

All these layoffs and changes are part of an effort to cut $15 million from the coming fiscal year's projected operating costs, Hanover told Gloucester city officials in a visit earlier this month. And, given his announcement, the dropping of the cardiac rehab program — in large part, an exercise, counseling and support services program for recovering heart patients — cannot be called a surprise.

But it is disconcerting. And while Hanover insists that none of this puts Addison Gilbert's "core services," including surgery and the emergency care, in jeopardy, local officials have cause for concern.

Hanover, to his credit, is being vastly more cooperative and forthcoming than his arrogant predecessor, Stephen Laverty. And he deserves credit for that — even if Laverty's act was hard to top, or bottom, as the case may be.

But it's also clear that Hanover and Northeast are not fully in control of the forces squeezing health care providers. He told city councilors at the beginning of the month that this round of layoffs and other cuts might not be the last.

"I wish I could say it's over," he said, "but it probably isn't."

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