Shore Health System Board Approves Regional Strategic Plan


The Board of Shore Health System has voted to endorse the conclusions of its strategic planning committee, whose recommendations include the development of a regional healthcare facilities and services network distributed throughout the Mid-Shore, and the development of a new regional medical center to be located in Talbot County, with the site offered by the Talbot County Council identified as the favored location.

“The community can have great confidence in the quality of what we have accomplished,” commented John Dillon, chair of the Shore Health System Board. “The strategic planning process has been thorough, thoughtful and comprehensive and responds to the challenges and opportunities that we expect to encounter in the next two decades, a period in which we expect to see a doubling of inpatient admissions to our hospitals, a near-doubling of emergency room visits, and exponential growth in outpatient visits.”

In announcing what he emphasizes is the favored location, Dillon states that while there remain several issues which need to be considered further before the selection can be final, the Board is optimistic that this site is ultimately the right one.

Dillon said the Board was releasing information about the status of the planning process earlier than originally scheduled for a number of reasons. “First, the planning committee has completed the substance of its work, so we see no reason to delay sharing information that may help relieve any anxiety in the community,” he said. “Second, we want to spend the next several months focused on an in-depth study of the favored location only.”

“ Third, by conducting an in-depth study of one site instead of two, we can direct our attention sooner to moving ahead with the very important ambulatory strategy that will place new and expanded outpatient centers and increase physician access in Caroline and Queen Anne’s counties,” Dillon explains. Dillon said he anticipates the Board will approve a final decision on the location of a new regional medical center by early 2009, pending resolution of several remaining issues.

The strategic planning committee studied the region’s health care needs using data projected through 2030. It examined many factors, such as population growth projections, the aging of the regional population, emerging trends in health care delivery, physician recruitment needs, drive times, changes in the region’s transportation network, and current and projected regulatory and reimbursement trends.

The planning committee’s recommendations anticipate building approximately 500,000 square feet of space dedicated to health care services, and, factoring inflation, could cost as much as $500 million through completion.

Recommendations endorsed by the Board include the following:
• Development of a regional healthcare facilities and services network in Queen Anne’s and Caroline Counties. The network would include:
o A freestanding emergency center in Grasonville, as well as new or expanded ambulatory care facilities and physician office buildings in Centreville and Grasonville
o New or expanded ambulatory care facilities and physician office buildings envisioned in northern and southern Caroline County

• Ongoing enhancements to outpatient and emergency services at Dorchester General Hospital in Cambridge, where a renovated and expanded emergency room is now under construction.

• Development of a new regional medical center in Talbot County, with the site adjacent to the Talbot Community Center identified as the favored location. The plan recommends the development of a new 187-bed regional medical center of approximately 400,000 square feet. The new medical center is envisioned as a comprehensive regional healthcare center with expanded medical specialties and capabilities and advanced inpatient, surgical and diagnostic services. The site adjacent to the Talbot County Community Center has been identified as the favored location, pending satisfactory resolution of the following issues which remain outstanding:

o Evaluating any issues related to the site’s adjacency to the Easton airport
o Confirming that the site offers no overly significant engineering challenges or other obstacles to construction
o Securing satisfactory indications of cooperation by the State and County to plan for and improve highway access to the site
o Conducting a study of the community’s willingness to provide philanthropic support
o Conducting preliminary assessment of the likelihood of securing a Certificate of Need from the State for a new regional medical center at the favored location

The Board has approved taking the following actions to reach closure on each of the remaining questions about the favored site:
o engaging a consultant to identify any issues with the site’s adjacency to the airport and to identify solutions
o hiring a civil engineering firm to complete an in-depth site evaluation
o working with county officials to schedule a meeting with the State Highway Administration to discuss access issues and solutions
o hiring a philanthropy consultant to conduct a formal study of the community’s capacity and willingness to provide philanthropic support

Additionally, the Board has authorized conducting a preliminary assessment of the viability of securing a Certificate of Need from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for a new regional medical center at the favored site.

A comparison of the favored site with a second site, located at Routes 50 and 404, demonstrated that while the two sites were nearly equal on many selection criteria used by the planning committee, the site adjacent to the Talbot County Community Center offered two distinct advantages. Financial modeling favored the site, and construction of a new medical campus could likely begin there sooner. The Board acted to maintain its option on the second site but to suspend any further action on it.

The medical center would be built in phases, with the timing of the phases determined by availability of funding. The Memorial Hospital site would continue to be used for health care until the phased construction is completed.

Recent investments in new facilities at Memorial Hospital at Easton, including a new emergency center and a new ambulatory care center, would continue to be used until similar facilities at a new regional medical center can be constructed. This extended time frame would allow ample time for the Board of Shore Health System to determine the best approach for planning future uses of the site.

Groundbreaking for the first phase of the regional medical center is not expected to occur before 2012.

• The plan calls for creating a sustainable practice model to recruit and retain the next generation of primary care physicians and medical specialists who will be needed to meet the increased demand for physician services that will result from the region’s population growth, the aging of its residents and the retirement of physicians now in practice.

The next step in moving forward with the strategic plan is prioritizing the committee’s recommendations and developing a timeline for their implementation. Then, the health system’s managers will address such matters as facilities design, construction, financing, zoning and regulatory approvals, clinical operations, and more.

“Throughout this planning process, we have solicited the input of elected officials, civic and community organizations and citizens throughout the Mid-Shore region in hundreds of meetings,” Dillon said. “In the months ahead, we will be equally active in communicating this plan to those same audiences and in listening to their feedback.”

Dillon concluded, “We appreciate the patience the Mid-Shore community has demonstrated during this 2-year-long planning process. Our priority has always been on getting the right result, not the fastest. I am confident we have accomplished that goal and a significant milestone in the process.”