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Changes will have lasting effects, for better or worse

The Lakeville Journal Co. Editorial

There are times for all communities that are tipping points, when some centers that shape their residents’ lives in profound ways change or are at such dramatic risk that there is no turning back to what once was. We’ve all seen or know about such places. But it’s not always obvious to us when it’s our community, and we’re in the middle of such change, is it?

Looking at the pages of this newspaper over the past months, of course the most obvious changes that directly affected individuals and institutions came as a result of repercussions from dealing with COVID-19. Worldwide pandemics do have a way of turning things upside down and leaving it to humanity to find a way to right them.

Many rose to the challenge, from first responders and all medical staff to educators to grocery store staff to news reporters. But dealing with the crisis of the moment cannot alleviate the need to address longer-term problems. While Sharon Hospital was a center of help and courage throughout the worst days so far of the pandemic, the long-term issue of needing to increase revenues there could not be avoided.

So we are now at that crisis point of losing key services, especially labor and delivery, the Birthing Suites. The nurses and staff there wrote so eloquently about their work and commitment to their patients in last week’s letters to the editor. And, the rally to support them on Nov. 6 organized by the group Save Sharon Hospital drew around 400 people who feel strongly this department needs to remain for the health and for the vibrancy of the community.

It’s one of the most personal connections any young family can have to a hospital: giving birth to their children there. Those who attended the rally in support of keeping maternity going at the hospital surely had strongly felt connections there, but also understood the importance of having the resource here for new families to create their own new connections.

Hospitals are centers of emotionally fraught times as well, where we and our loved ones go for critical care and may face the end of life. Life and death. Doesn’t get much more serious.

Which explains why so many of us feel the proposed changes at the hospital so deeply. They could surely have a lasting effect on the way our communities look going forward. Will the private schools, for instance, be able to attract young families to live here if the closest birthing center is more than 30 to 40 minutes away?

As state Rep. Maria Horn (D-64) said at a meeting of area town officials on Nov. 5, the state Office of Health Strategy still needs to approve the plans Nuvance has for Sharon Hospital. How will that office decide to handle Nuvance’s requests? One thing we know for sure is that they will want public input, so if you feel strongly about the changes being proposed for the hospital, let the Office of Health Strategy, and Horn and state Sen. Craig Miner (R-30), know your opinions. They are the ones who will be able to influence the outcome of Nuvance’s strategy the most. Their decision will make a real difference to the health of the residents of the region, as well as the health of the communities served by the hospital.



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