To the editor:
Who doesn't like a celebration?
Right now, I'm in the mood for celebrating the 16th birthday of a Cape Ann community group called Partners for Addison Gilbert Hospital (PAGH). Full disclosure: I'm a member.
Back in 1995, the people of Cape Ann were persuaded that a "merger" between Addison Gilbert Hospital and Beverly Hospital would benefit us all. Within months, however, it became obvious that the merger was really a takeover by the newly created "Northeast Health Systems" which had already begun dismantling AGH.
In the summer of 1996, alarmed at what they sensed was coming, two Registered Nurses — Renee Gross-Nutbrown and Peggy O'Malley — convened a citizens' group which met frequently and worked hard to investigate, educate, and advocate for the protection of all the services at AGH on which the lives of 40,000 year-round residents depend, a population which explodes in tourist season.
The group adopted the name "Partners for Addison Gilbert Hospital" because the goal was to work cooperatively with Northeast and public officials to protect AGH. We soon incorporated as a non-profit, tax-exempt 501(c)3 organization.
It's important that local people understand the difference between Partners for AGH and other groups.
First of all, there is no connection whatsoever between PAGH and the giant health care corporation Partners Health Care.
Second, there has been a lot of unfortunate confusion created with the recent formation of a group which took the remarkably similar name of "Cape Ann Citizens Fund for Addison Gilbert Hospital."
Please understand that there is no legal or other relationship between that group and Partners for AGH.
The "Citizens" group wishfully thinks that Lahey will hire surgeons for AGH if local citizens give them enough money. Since 1995, AGH investments, art, and property have been used by Northeast for nearly $100 million expansion of facilities and services in Beverly, not in Gloucester. We've already given enough. We just want to be assured that we will share the bounty.
No, Partners for Addison Gilbert Hospital is a grassroots community action group. We ask only a willingness to save our community hospital. In our group, donations are very gratefully received when "the hat is passed" and many have shown their love for Cape Ann by working endless hours "pro bono."
Yes, we're here and our impact is huge. A few years ago, we gathered, 8,500 signatures within three weeks' time; signatures in which Cape Ann citizens showed their support of keeping AGH alive. We hand-delivered those petitions to the Attorney General and the state's Commissioner of Public Health.
It is we who drove into Boston last month to re-state our need for AGH — and to whose pleas the DPH responded with a condition that, as Lahey acquired Northeast, the new corporation had to put IN WRITING that AGH would undergo no change in services for the next three years, and that, after 2015, Lahey would have to show cause for any changes in AGH services and get DPH approval.
So, here's to Partners for Addison Gilbert Hospital!
It's time to applaud Peggy O'Malley, Louise Palazzola, Marcia Hart, Jeanine Burns, Vicki Williams, and the band of citizens who have come to our meetings for 16 years.
If you'd like to see us for yourself, our next meeting is coming up soon. It will take place on Tuesday from 6:30 to 8:30 in Gloucester's Sawyer Free Library.
No fee or audition is required — just the conviction that we, or our loved ones, will all need to use our community hospital someday.