, Gloucester, MA


January 5, 2012

Editorial: The public's night to be heard

When the state's Department of Public Health convenes a public hearing tonight in Beverly's Memorial Building to take input regarding the planned "affiliation" between Northeast Health System and Lahey Clinic into a new entity called Lahey Health System, there are already speakers in line to make scheduled presentations.

Those include Northeast CEO Ken Hanover, Lahey President and CEO Dr. Howard Grant and Steven Defossez, who heads Northeast's medical staff.

Lori Howley, Northeast's marketing director, said the three will talk about the affiliation plans, and the hospital system's goals going forward — and that's fine. But it's hard to believe that these hospital officials — who are, after all, the applicants in this high-profile push for a partnership — haven't already had ample time to make their cases to the health panel that must decide whether the merger goes forward.

To that end, it's essential that their presentations be appropriately brief summaries and not take away any significant time from the general public — whose input the board is really supposed to be seeking.

That's especially true for those Cape Ann residents who will be making a case the state panel may not yet have had the chance to fully assess — the need to maintain sufficient core services at Gloucester's Addison Gilbert Hospital.

Grant, Hanover and other hospital officials have made their case through their applications before the state panel, and at well-attended community forums, such as those held at Cruiseport Gloucester this past fall.

Tonight's public hearing, set to start at 6, should be the public's chance to be fully heard — and for many, it will be their only chance to pose their questions and concerns to one of the decision-making bodies.

Let's hope the Department of Public Health sees it that way, too.

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