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Sharon Hospital: Nuvance going ahead with phaseout of labor and delivery

SHARON — Christina McCulloch, the new president of Sharon Hospital, said that the hospital’s parent company, Nuvance Health, is going ahead with its plans to close the Labor and Delivery unit and consolidate two critical care units into one.

McCulloch was one of several panelists during an online community forum Monday, Aug. 8. The online meeting included a report from the independent monitor that evaluates the hospital’s compliance with its agreement with the state and is required twice a year.

During the question and answer session at the end of the meeting, McCulloch was asked if the influx of new families into the hospital’s coverage area as a by-product to the COVID-19 pandemic might make the hospital reconsider the plan to close the Labor and Delivery unit.

McCulloch said that while the hospital looks at current as well as historical demographic trends, the new families would not result in “nearly enough volume to drastically change our strategic plan.”

McCulloch started off by recognizing and praising hospital staff and by noting a number of awards the hospital has recently received, including a five-star rating from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (See story, Sharon Hospital earns 3rd consecutive 5-star.)

Noting some $14 million in capital investments, McCulloch said the hospital has added 3D mammography, updated MRI capacity and access, and sponsors several support groups, including groups for stroke patients, people having joint replacements, and an arthritis exercise class.

Recruitment of staff has been an ongoing concern. McCulloch said a new primary care physician has been hired and will start in the fall. (The presentation also included a short recruitment video featuring actors Liam Neeson and Meryl Streep.)

McCulloch also mentioned the hospital’s expanded telehealth facility, which aims to improve patient access to specialists.

McCulloch said the certificate of need application for the phasing out of the Labor and Delivery unit is complete and the next step will be a public hearing before the state Office of Health Strategies (OHS).

She said the certificate of need application for consolidation of two critical care units into one “progessive care unit” is in progress.

She said the current units have underused space and the new configuration will be more efficient.

“Same staff, same equipment, different location.”

That application will also be the subject of an OHS public hearing.

David McMillan of PYA, P.C., the independent monitoring firm that was hired by OHS (and is paid by Nuvance) to monitor the hospital’s compliance with the original settlement agreement with the state, went through a lengthy list of conditions and concluded that the hospital was in compliance during the biannual evaluation period that just ended.

McMillan did say that Nuvance’s cost savings projections have “in most cases fallen short.”

He explained that in such a case, Nuvance has to explain why their estimates were off, and have done so, and are therefore in compliance.

Pressed during the question and answer period about Nuvance’s plan to close Labor and Delivery, McMillan explained that while he and his company are aware of the discussion and issues involved, PYA’s job is to determine whether or not Nuvance is in compliance with the original agreement, not pending matters.

One questioner asked how a new EMS coordinator, a position that was announced, will function. McCulloch said the new job will involve acting as a liaison between the hospital and local emergency crews.

A scheduled presentation on the hospital’s Health Equity, Diversity and Inclusion program didn’t happen because of technical problems and will be rescheduled.

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