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Letters to the Editor - The Lakeville Journal - 11-17-22

Sharon Hospital must be saved

In the more than 23 years I have lived in this bucolic region — first in Salisbury and now West Cornwall —change at Sharon Hospital has been a constant. I’ve seen numerous CEOs and changing owners, including a notable shift from nonprofit to for-profit in the early 2000s, then back to nonprofit in 2017. Unfortunately, none of these owners or leaders have been able to solve the hospital’s financial instability.

Today, Sharon Hospital’s nonprofit parent organization, Nuvance Health, is faced with the challenge of addressing more than two decades worth of financial challenges to get Sharon Hospital out of the red, so it can continue serving our community. It’s clear that to do this, leaders must make changes, including the difficult one to close its maternity unit.

I remember the excitement around the new maternity unit at Sharon Hospital. Expectant mothers couldn’t wait to have their babies in the beautiful unit, which was equipped with the latest state of the art equipment and overlooked the beautiful rolling hill landscapes. The hospital’s owner at the time also hoped that this new unit would drive patient volume, helping bring Sharon Hospital back into the black financially. Unfortunately, while the unit has continued to provide top-notch care, it hasn’t had the desired impact on increasing patient volume. Instead, it has had the opposite effect — as our birth rates decline and high-risk patients migrate toward facilities equipped with neonatal intensive care units, the unit remains dramatically underused and is endangering the very survival of the rest of the hospital.

I would hate to think appeasing to maintain the minority (one unit) can possibly outweigh servicing the majority (the full hospital), including expanding key services our community needs most. This could have disastrous consequences to health-care access in our region.

Over the years, my family of four has relied on Sharon Hospital countless times for a wide array of needs. We have visited the ED at all hours, had both scheduled and emergency surgeries, required sedation for procedures, repeatedly visited the lab for blood work, received annual screenings, and benefitted from both physical and speech therapy sessions. None of this will be possible if Sharon Hospital is forced to close.

Sharon Hospital, as a small community hospital, cannot provide every possible service. While I know how special Labor and Delivery has been to our community, we must look to the evolving demographics of our region, and ensure Sharon Hospital is equipped to provide a range of high-quality services for everyone; men, women, children, and the elderly. Clearly, having both hasn’t worked. The only way to save Sharon Hospital is to make difficult decisions regarding underused services.

Silloo S. Peters-Marshall

West Cornwall

 

One physician’s view of SH issues

With regard to the Sharon Hospital transition plan, in the 23 years that I have practiced medicine from my small office in Millerton, our community has been impacted by the many changes wrought by the corporatization of health care. We have half the number of primary care doctors, and lost every endocrinologist, rheumatologist, dermatologist, hematologist/oncologist, nephrologist and neurologist.

Local lab and radiology services have been largely outsourced. The deterioration of services was well underway prior to the 2017 deal with Healthquest/Nuvance as small community hospitals have struggled everywhere. Nuvance is merely planning the coup de grace by closing labor and delivery, overnight anesthesia and surgery coverage. These losses I believe will impact what Emergency Department doctors are willing to sign up for when surgery and anesthesia support are limited.

Nuvance offers the trade-off for cutting these services by promising to bolster primary care. However their track record is poor. Since 2017 they brought in one new MD and lost at least three. There has also been a net loss of nurse practitioners.

What is going to get us out of this tailspin? I believe Nuvance needs to acknowledge that with regard to Sharon  it’s in for a penny in for a pound. Also, local philanthropies need to get involved in a consistent significant way. There needs to be more aggressive work toward good access to telehealth.

I am planning on living in this idyllic place until I die. Hopefully with access to the great health-care services that we have been privileged with in the not so distant past.

Kristie Schmidt

Millerton

 

Join me in recognizing National Hospice and Palliative Care Month

As we enter the upcoming holiday season, it’s important to also acknowledge that November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month. This month, we seek to honor the compassionate caregivers who provide hospice and palliative care, the patients navigating their long-term care journey, and the families who support their loved ones every step of the way, including, but not limited to, their final days.

Palliative care is essential for patients with serious chronic diseases as they chart long-term care strategies based on their individual needs and goals. For many patients, the palliative care journey spans many years, so it is crucial that we enable them to live their lives as fully as possible while managing their illness. Nuvance Health has worked diligently with leaders across the system in recent years to invest in and reinvigorate palliative care, with an eye toward empowering patients to live with respect, dignity, and independence throughout their care journey. I see this investment come to life each day in my role as the system’s chair of palliative care, and it is truly an honor to lead a team who shows such tireless dedication to providing the highest quality of care and support to patients and their families.

As our patients near the end of their lives, hospice provides them with necessary care tailored to their preferences and needs, in our healthcare facilities or at home. Beyond the medical treatment these patients require, hospice staff are also skilled at providing emotional, spiritual, and compassionate support to both patients and their families. Our teams thoughtfully care for each patient, remaining sensitive to cultural and religious values and personal wishes. Whether at home or in a facility, our hospice staff provides comfort and dignity to patients, allowing them to navigate the final stage of their lives surrounded by those most important to them.

Together, Nuvance Health’s hospice and palliative care teams improve quality of life and reduce suffering for patients across our region, empowering them to live their lives without fear following their diagnosis. These compassionate teams provide skilled care of immeasurable value to so many people across Western Connecticut and the Hudson Valley, and I wish to applaud them for their incredible work.

This Hospice and Palliative Care month, let’s all take a moment to honor those facing serious and chronic illness, recognize the loved ones who support them, and thank our hospice and palliative caregivers for continuing to empower our patients and lend our shoulders to their loved ones.

Mark J. Marshall, DO, MA, FACP, FHM

Vice President of Medical Affairs, Sharon Hospital

Sharon

 

After the elections?

Election night is over, what a relief!

We are better off now is my belief

Now to consider what is next

Not so simple but complex

How do we stop idiots from running again

And ensure it’s only for the sane

Yes, the country is better off now

No more Georgia, take a vow

And Florida is just as bad

Wish DeSantis is a fad

Fetterman is the man

The wizard of Oz

To make sure he is a was.

Michael Kahler

Lakeville

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