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October 4, 2012

Letter: AGH and national health-care dialogue

To the editor:

Call it what you want — “mission”, “passion” “obsession” — but for over 16 years, I have been deeply concerned about Addison Gilbert Hospital keeping its full medical/surgical designation in order to keep its status as an emergency room provider for Cape Ann.

I was an early joiner of the community citizens’ group called “Partners for Addison Gilbert Hospital” (PAGH) started by two RNs, Peggy O’Malley and Renee Gross-Nutbrown. And since late August, my interest has been partially eclipsed by intrusions of the hoopla generated by two political conventions, a series of political debates and a blizzard of political ads. Then, just this week, with a couple of brand new reminders from acquaintances of mine who needed an E.R. and needed it badly, my thoughts were yanked back to our situation on this island called Cape Ann.

I think back to late August, when, in The Friends Room at Gloucester’s Sawyer Free Library, Alan Sager, Professor of Medical Economics at Boston University, invited by PAGH’s Peggy O’Malley, spoke to a standing room only crowd on the condition of today’s community hospitals.

I think we were all hopeful that he would supply the magic words that would guarantee us our desperately needed health care. Instead he gave us a comprehensive history of what has been happening to community hospitals all over New England.

There has been a somewhat random pattern with at least two hospitals retaining their full status, including the credentials that enable them to supply emergency room services to their community for reasons strikingly similar to ours on Cape Ann. These are on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket by reason of the fact that, like us, they are separated from the mainland by a body of water.

When Dr. Sager was asked bluntly at the end of the August meeting, “What can be done?”, his reply was, “You fill this room.”

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