What follows is some of the testimony that I offered at the Department of Public Health public hearing on Thursday night regarding the future of Addison Gilbert Hospital:
"If I could characterize in simple terms the public sentiment in our city for the proposed transfer of ownership of the licensed hospital, Addison Gilbert, to Lahey Health Systems Inc., I would characterize it as conditioned support.
"Many of us believe that the Northeast Health System and Lahey Clinic affiliation is the right opportunity for our community and the region, and we are excited about the reach and quality of care that the new organization promises. Both Northeast Health Systems and Lahey Clinic have been serving the region for many years independently and collaboratively. The integration of these two organizations makes sense.
"I'd like to note that throughout the affiliation search process, Mr. Hanover, has been transparent and committed to keeping the Cape Ann communities updated. He has met with me at key junctures in the process, he has addressed the Gloucester City Council on a number of occasions, and most recently he, along with Dr. Grant, presented information and answered questions at highly attended community forums. Mr. Hanover has committed to continuous updates, and to stay engaged with the community going forward. We are greatly appreciative of these efforts.
"We in Gloucester understand that the landscape in health care is changing, and providers must look out for, and we must be open to, new ways in which high quality, more cost-effective care can be delivered. My conclusion is that our best opportunity for assuring continued access to quality care and services in the region is through the proposed affiliation between Northeast Health Systems and Lahey Clinic.
"But not at the expense of Addison Gilbert Hospital.
"Addison Gilbert Hospital must continue to play an integral role as part of this proposed system of care, and the eight essential services that constitute a licensed emergency services site for a hospital must be maintained.
"Addison Gilbert is an important source — and for many, the only source — for primary care, comprehensive cancer care, and emergency services for our residents. It also provides much needed local jobs, and many of us have personal regard and high professional respect for the men and women who work there seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
"The 2007 Health Assessment shows more than 12,000 visits to the Addison Gilbert emergency room.
"The Gloucester Fire Department alone does about 4,000 ambulance runs a year. The city has invested heavily in its paramedic service, and we take great pride in it. We now employ 20 licensed paramedics, and are steadily investing in ambulances and proper equipment. The loss of the hospital or the emergency room would dilute the resources of the city with frequent transports to Beverly or beyond, and jeopardize our ability to maintain our level of service to the community.
"One of the reasons we are successful with our emergency services model is because of the strong and collaborative relationship between our EMS professionals and Addison Gilbert Hospital and Northeast Health Systems.
"The strength of this collaboration is also seen in the joint response to declared emergencies in the city. Northeast Health Systems and employees from Addison Gilbert are key partners in the city's emergency preparedness and carrying out our emergency operations.
"On behalf of the city of Gloucester, we offer conditioned support for the proposed affiliation between Northeast Health Systems and Lahey Clinic. We are grateful that the affiliation agreement has protections in it for Addison Gilbert Hospital and its emergency room.
"We ask that you reinforce protections of AGH and the ER in your recommendation by also conditioning your support of the transfer of ownership of the hospital to Lahey Health Systems. Thank you."
Written comment can be submitted up until 5 p.m. Jan. 23, for any member of the community who would also like to testify on this matter. Send comments to: Department of Public Health, Determination of Need Program, 99 Chauncy St., second floor, Boston, MA 02111. Include your email address as well.
Carolyn Kirk is mayor of the city of Gloucester.