Queens Anne’s County Reaches Agreement for Enhanced Health Services

After lengthy negotiations Queen Anne’s County reached an agreement with Shore Health System (SHS) and University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) for the provision of enhanced health services in the county. SHS owns and operates the Memorial Hospital of Easton (MHE) and UMMS is the parent company of Shore Health System.

Highlights of the enhanced services are: an ambulatory surgery center at the professional office building abutting the emergency room at Route 50 and Nesbit Road; the offering of in-home dialysis with a future commitment to seek a provider for in-center dialysis, once there is sufficient experience to evaluate the success of the in-home dialysis offering; mental health and diagnostic services for county seniors; and an effort to raise the level of emergency services that can be offered at the Nesbit Road emergency room.

The agreement also adds seven years to SHS/UMMS’s present three year commitment to operate the Nesbit Road emergency room 24/7 and provides security for Hospice of Queen Anne’s County’s continued offering of hospice services to county residents.

The agreement includes provisions furthering SHS’s stated goal of transitioning to be the true regional provider of health care services to the region including Queen Anne’s County. In this regard, SHS has agreed that there will be at least two county residents on the reconstituted SHS Board of Directors and that a plan for the provision of health services will be provided to the county. An ongoing process is envisioned by which SHS will give biannual plan updates. It is specifically provided that the plan and its updates will consider input from the county and its health officer.

With the agreement, Queen Anne’s County will not engage in the deliberations regarding SHS’s pending application before the Maryland Health Care Commission for authority to move MHE from downtown Easton to a location near the Easton Airport on Route 50. The county had raised concern that the new location would not adequately address the expanding health care needs of its citizens. But, with the SHS/UMMS’s commitments to offer new services and to future engagement with the county it was decided that involvement in that process was not warranted.

Commission President Steve Arentz and Vice President Phil Dumenil engaged in the negotiations as the team representing the full commission. Both Senators Pipkin and Colburn also engaged, aggressively pushing for an agreement. Additionally, the Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Charles County Senator Mac Middleton intervened as the facilitator.

Throughout the negotiations, the county’s Health Officer and Emergency Services Medical Director, Dr. Joe Ciotola provided vital support. “I am most excited about the offering of in-home dialysis which brings better outcomes and is where dialysis is likely heading,” explained Dr. Ciotola. “I intend to partner vigorously with Shore Health to make sure our county’s citizens are aware of this service and the other new services for seniors that will be offered.”

“The negotiations were challenging, but I am very pleased with the result,” said Commission Vice-President Dumenil. “The citizens of Queen Anne’s County are the real winners, as the agreement means their health care needs will be better served.”

“We had a lot of help,” explained Commission President Arentz. “Our own E.J. Pipkin deserves the credit for fueling the negotiations. He opened the door with his persistent advocacy for the county getting ‘a seat at the table.’ Once he got us that seat, the county’s dear friend, Mac Middleton, pulled an agreement together. He deserves special thanks since his Charles County constituents’ interests were not an issue. He’s a true statesman. I remain optimistic that this agreement provides a firm foundation for Shore Health working closely with the county to make sure our citizens’ health needs are addressed.”

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