Northeast Health System CEO Ken Hanover deserves credit for leveling with the community regarding talks his corporation — parent company of Gloucester's Addison Gilbert Hospital — has been having regarding potential mergers with Lahey Clinic, Beth Israel Deaconess, Vanguard Health Systems and Steward Health Care System.
Similarly, longtime nurse and local health-care advocate Peg O'Malley deserves credit for organizing a pair of community meetings today through the Partners for Addison Gilbert citizens group — one from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Rockport police station community room, the other from 6:30 to 8:30 tonight at Gloucester's American Legion Hall. And it would be good if Hanover or other Northeast representatives and our elected officials were able to attend.
But it's also important that these community meetings truly serve as forums for information — not a setting for exchanging rumors and spouting scare tactics about a potential Addison Gilbert closure that isn't even on the table.
Many Cape Ann residents have been skeptical of Northeast's moves and motives since its 1994 acquisition of the hospital — and the corporation fueled that skepticism during the virtually closed-door reign of former CEO Stephen Laverty. But Hanover has remained open with the community, whether on the plus side of plans to recruit primary-care providers tied to Addison Gilbert, or on the downside of layoffs and plans to drop two "non-essential" Addison Gilbert programs.
So the most important aspect of today's community meetings should be for both sides to truly listen to the issues and concerns regarding how any merger creating a larger corporation could effect Cape Ann's essential health-care facility.
Given ongoing changes in the health care field — and major North Shore advances by giant provider Partners, which encompasses Massachuseets General Hospital, Brigham and Women's and their affiliates — it's easy to see why Northeast and its potential merger "partners" may need to unite to compete.
Yet that has not seemingly threatened the core services at Addison Gilbert, which remains "viable" and "vibrant," as hospital chief Cindy Donaldson put it in a December interview with the Times.
So as these merger talks go forward, it's crucial for both sides here on Cape Ann keep open minds — and ears — to each other's needs and concerns.
A vibrant and viable Addison Gilbert, after all, is in everyone's best interest — Northeast's, our community's, and any potential merger partners' as well.