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Letters to the Editor - The Lakeville Journal - 12-1-22

Our caring hospital in Sharon

I am sitting by my wife in a Sharon Hospital room as she gently but inexorably comes to the end of our 72-year love affair, the last sixty enriched among our Litchfield Hills. The afternoon November sunlight streams over our hills through the room’s southwest-facing windows.

She sleeps comfortably, tended lovingly and carefully by Nurse Bobbie Jo and her colleagues, surrounded by family, for we have been given one of the hospital’s generously proportioned rooms on the second floor designed for such occasions. It is only yards from the room where she recovered from giving birth to our fourth daughter 58 years ago.

As I hold her hand, giving thanks for her love, our life together and the family we have made, I add thanks for the warm, personal care we receive from Bob Chase and Kaki Schaefer-Reid, the volunteer ambulance responders to my 4 a.m. call for help, the sympathetic, caring Emergency and ICU nurses, doctors and staff who quickly eased her pain, treated her considerately and explained our options before moving her to the second floor staff and Hospice nurses who do all in their power to succor her and her family through our ordeal.

We are blessed to have a community hospital staffed with such humane, competent people. How very different is our reception here than in the impersonal mega-hospitals of big cities. It is no accident that Sharon Hospital puts personal care of neighbors first. It was created by local leadership, generosity and dedicated medical professionals over generations. It represents who we have been — and I hope — still are.

Recently, our hospital fell into the grasp of Nuvance, a medical industry invasive species which promised to “save” it financially but, once in control, threatens to jettison its tradition of care as wasteful, to scrap its maternity and ICU wards, and convert it into a moneymaking outpatient diagnostic center, with the top floor rumored to be converted from caring service to Nuvance’s executive suite, its officers replacing patients where my wife is now receiving such loving care.

As Dr. Kurish, who has selflessly ministered to my wife, warns us, only we who live here, depend on and love our hospital can be trusted to save its caring, nonprofit mission.

Carr Ferguson

Lakeville

 

Financial causes Nuvance gives for closing Sharon Hospital’s L&D

There are many good reasons for not closing Labor and Delivery (“L&D”) of Sharon Hospital (“SH”) but this letter will focus on the financial cost of maintaining it.

Nuvance Health’s (“Nuvance”) primary stated reason for closing L&D is their claim that they are losing $3 million annually. We analyzed their financials, spoke to Nuvance’s CFO in December, 2021, and several members of the professional staff. We found that:

 1. For the past 3 years, Nuvance apparently hasn’t collected all the money it is owed for pediatric care at SH, thus artificially lowering its revenue for L&D.

2. Nuvance is apparently billing L&D for all costs of keeping after-hours surgery open, even though we believe not all after-hours surgeries are L&D related.

3. Nuvance claims that “call payments” are made to general surgeons to assist the OBs delivering babies by cesarean sections after hours.  However, to the best knowledge of the OBs delivering babies at SH, this has seldom happened in the last three years.

4. We understand that reimbursement for the OR staff and anesthesiologists were made (and charged to L&D) whenever they were present to do an after-hour surgery, even when they were performing non-L&D cases, such as gallbladder removals.

5. Stated direct costs are excessive. SH has had to pay absurd rates for travel nurses due to SH’s premature announcement that it was going to close L&D, which then prompted the full-time employed nurses to quit. This forced SH to recruit nurses, but their inability to recruit, resulted in SH employing travel nurses, using outside agencies. Thus, SH has been paying up to $225/hour for each travel nurse vs. regular nurses at around $45/hour.

We therefore contend that the L&D losses asserted by Nuvance are both inaccurate and overstated. Furthermore, Nuvance’s FY2021 audited financial statements show, a positive gain of $105.0 million (Excess of Revenue over Expenses), an increase in net assets of $242 million and $3.8 billion in total assets. Thus, the stated $3 million operating loss for SH’s L&D unit is neither significant nor material given the assets and earnings of Nuvance. Moreover, any loss is minimal compared to the major damage it will do to the future of our hospital and the community. L&D is a gateway for SH’s many services as it is for many hospitals. If L&D is closed, the net negative financial impact will be much greater for Nuvance than keeping it open.

During our Dec. 13, 2021, meeting with Nuvance’s CFO, Mr. Steven Rosenberg, I asked Mr. Rosenberg directly how the community could work with him financially to continue L&D. Unfortunately, there was no response to my question. We are open to all good-faith discussions with Nuvance and interested community parties to support L&D. With renewed commitment and marketing, L&D’s future can be assured.

Please participate in the Dec. 6 OHS public hearing and fight for our hospital! Thank you.

Victor Germack

Vice President,

Save Sharon Hospital, Inc.

Sharon

 

Invasives need control

We on the Sharon Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission read with interest your recent article, “Why invasive species matter,” and commend The Lakeville Journal for publishing this significant piece.

Our committee is particularly concerned about the threat invasive plants pose to sensitive wetland and watercourse areas, and how invasive species are negatively impacting water quality, habitat and bank stabilization.

We recently published a brochure detailing best practices for disposal of invasive plants. It is available at the Sharon Town Hall Land Use office as well as all of the local libraries.

James Krissel, Chairman

Sharon Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission

Sharon

 

May our differences lead us to civility, innovation, compromise, growth

Annually, it is an uplifting of good will. The holiday season in America commenced with Thanksgiving — gathering with others to be grateful for what is, what wasn’t, and some surprises. Come COVID, severe political disagreements, world morass, the retirement of Roger Federer, Americans, as is their tradition, heartfully engage in being thankful, in gathering across the continent, huge masses moving, raising glasses, tossing a ball, transmitting Joy on the fourth Thursday in November.

The year 1621 has historically been celebrated as the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth — pilgrims with their neighboring Wampanoag tribe — a show of neighborly gratitude.    Lincoln designated the holiday in 1863 amid the Civil War. Today folks may wrangle about the 1621 events — who, whether, why — but Lincoln, in 1863, did proclaim Thanksgiving Day as a national holiday celebrated in November. It is secular, it is American.

This year, 2022, I was jubilant at Thanksgiving — buoyed by family, friends, and the state of the nation. I am robust with family, a granddaughter, health and mainly good will. For too many years I have felt bleak about the U.S. as a place and a people.  Americans with whom I had for decades celebrated: Miracle on Ice, 1980 Olympics, planes, bars, living rooms packed with Americans sending spirit and strength to young men amazingly giving their all on 200 feet of ice; Americans with whom I worried over: our troops, astronauts, rescuers, disaster victims; Americans with whom I have joined in vastly differing settings to chant USA, USA, USA were becoming unrecognizable.

I have always been proud of being American — but that exuberance had eroded of late — it is returning. I was uplifted by a restoration of a democratic show of campaigning, voting, accepting and conceding — not exemplary but not, as feared, massively overturned by promised violence.   

In the 2022 as in the 2018 midterm, more voters turned out — historical highs. Americans gifted with the vote exercised it — at lower rates than other counties — but a big U.S. turn out. Regardless of who voters supported, large numbers voted — turned out — and in some states they turned out to keep a firm grasp on their vote – not permitting renegade candidates to seize it. Pennsylvania and Michigan had two of the highest turnouts — their voters had an agenda — to stay voters. Extremism isn’t gone, nor is it in charge.

We Americans raise our voices in large stadiums, at high school games, in conference halls, schools, churches. We raise our voices in song to our American way of life:

O beautiful for spacious skies….for purple mountain majesty… America! America! Confirm they soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law!

We proclaim together; “that star spangled banner yet waves over the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

May the spirit of our differences return us to a level of civility, to a level of innovation, to a level of argument and compromise, to growth for the nation and individuals.

Happy Holidays Land of the free and Home of the brave.

Kathy Herald-Marlowe

Sharon

 

Remove all burning bushes

In a number of recent issues Dee Salomon’s The Ungardener and the Nature’s Notebook columns highlighted the issue of invasive plants and insects and the problems they cause.  The invasive plants mentioned in recent issues include Norway maple, Russian olive, Japanese barberry, bittersweet vine, garlic mustard, mutiflora rose, and Japanese knotweed.  After this good reporting to educate everyone I was saddened to see that the Nov. 24th Compass included a photo titled “Last of the burning bush color”.  This shrub, also called Winged Euonymus, is not one to be celebrated.  It is a problem invasive that should be removed from everyone’s property.  It is recognized as an invasive species in 21 states.

This 6-10 foot shrub does turn bright scarlet in the fall which is attractive and why it is planted.  However, Burning Bush or Euonymus alatus, has now spread from peoples yards throughout our forests by bird droppings. In the fall when the leaves turn brilliant red it is suddenly very easy to see how widespread it is as you drive by forested lands.   I see it everywhere.  This plant is an ecological threat because it forms dense stands in that out-competes and displaces native plants, reduces wildlife habitat and forage. The root system forms a dense mat just below the soil that makes survival of other plants impossible.  Do not plant it and please remove any you have.  There are many wonderful native alternatives such as Red Chokeberry, Winterberry, Ninebark, and Highbush Cranberry.

John Landon

SalisburyAssociation Land Trust

Salisbury

 

Sharon Hospital is not closing, it is open for all patients

I am a member of the Sharon community, and a clinical navigator at Sharon Hospital. I am writing in support of Sharon Hospital’s transformation plan, and to remind community members that Sharon Hospital is OPEN and welcoming all patients.

In 1993, I started working at Sharon Hospital on a temporary basis and never left.  Sharon Hospital is an incredible place, and one that should be a part of our community for years to come.

The health-care system in the United States is changing, and while all hospitals are affected, those in rural areas are particularly impacted. Adapting to these changes to best serve the needs of patients requires a tremendous amount of skill and fortitude by those in leadership.

I have watched this evolution of health care at Sharon Hospital over the past 29 years. So many changes over this time have been positive and are seen through clinical advancements — for example, 25 years ago, a hip replacement would keep a patient in the hospital for two weeks. Today, it’s a few days at most. These advancements are seen in so many services, and because of this, we are seeing the role of the hospital change.

We are also seeing rising costs and changing populations, which pose challenges for all hospitals. Despite our proudly held five-star status, Sharon Hospital is not immune to these challenges, and so I urge my community to understand that Sharon Hospital must adapt to survive this difficult time in health care.

I understand my community’s feelings around closing our Labor and Delivery unit. However, I have witnessed firsthand the underutilization of this service. At times, many days go by and our Labor and Delivery Unit sees no patients. I have also seen the vulnerability of our aging community and the changing health-care environment and our system’s commitment to help our hospital meet those needs.

I have great respect for my neighbors who are passionate about making a change in our community. However, our community needs to come together to address misinformation, which can have the unintended effect of hurting the hospital. We need to make it clear that Sharon Hospital is here, providing five-star care to the region 24/7/365.

Words matter. When the staff at Sharon Hospital formed a group in support of the hospital in the 1990s, we called our group “Friends of Sharon Hospital,” words that exude support without raising alarm. I urge my community to be forward-looking and positive as we come together to support the future of Sharon Hospital. This future may include tough choices, but I believe Sharon Hospital leadership is acting in the interests of our community.

Sharon Hospital is not closing. We are here for you.

With respect to all involved.

Jim Hutchison

Norfolk

 

Making tough choices at Sharon Hospital

As a member of the Salisbury community, I support Nuvance Health, Sharon Hospital, and their plan to preserve our region’s healthcare access by closing an underutilized and unsustainable service.

I’m in no way affiliated with the hospital. I heard about the proposed changes as a member of the community, and I want to use my decades of experience as a health-care leader — including leading rural hospitals — to help my neighbors understand the stark financial landscape that all hospitals have faced over the past 20 years.

I am impressed that the plan is comprehensive, forward-looking, and growth based. It didn’t need to be this way — over 100 rural hospitals have closed in the last decade. When faced with the difficult choice between adapting to meet the challenges facing our industry or maintaining the status quo, most of them chose to maintain the status quo, forcing them to close their doors and jeopardize patients’ access to care. With maternity volume nowhere near sustaining the unit, keeping the department open jeopardizes the entire hospital, including services in high-demand. I have yet to see a viable plan to keep Sharon Hospital open in the long-term without service reductions.

Nuvance, like most hospitals in the U.S., is a nonprofit — meaning it has a mission of serving its patients and communities. Unfortunately, nonprofits face most of the same challenges and responsibilities as other businesses.

For example, a grocery store needs to pay its staff, electricity bills, and supply costs. If it does not make enough revenue to cover these costs, it will be forced to close. The same is true for hospitals. To remain open, they need to be able to pay the salary, benefits, and pensions of their workforce; fund necessary repairs and maintenance projects; and buy supplies and equipment. And like all businesses, hospitals grapple with inflation and a tumultuous job market.

So what is the difference between nonprofit hospitals and other businesses?

First, they are funded differently. Most hospital funding comes from government and private insurers by way of patient revenue. In rural markets, much of this revenue comes from Medicaid and Medicare, which pay hospitals less than commercial insurers — well below what it costs hospitals to provide their services. This funding is supported by investments and philanthropy, but given market volatility and the instability of these sources in providing year-over-year revenue, hospitals rely less on these contributions to support operational costs.

The difference that inspired me to spend my career in nonprofit health care, though, is the benefit to patients when nonprofits thrive. For-profit entities keep “leftover” revenue, while nonprofits like Sharon Hospital invest it in programs that serve their mission. That is why Sharon Hospital leadership continues saying that by cutting a service that loses millions of dollars each year, they can grow in other areas. This is a reality.

This tough decision will help Sharon Hospital serve our community for years to come. I urge our community to reflect on this and join me in supporting the hospital’s transformation plan.

George Zara

Salisbury

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