An innovative approach to improving the health of Caroline County’s citizens was endorsed today when Shore Health System and the County Commissioners jointly announced their five year initiative to enhance health care services.
Shore Health CEO Kenneth Kozel attended the Commissioners’ meeting to explain the year long study process and the resulting agreement, which was signed by Kozel on behalf of Shore Health.
“Caroline County and Shore Health share a common interest—the health and wellbeing of Caroline’s residents,” Kozel states. “Without the cooperation and diligence of many people, this new era in Caroline County’s health care would not be possible,” he adds. “Commissioners Porter, Levengood and Ghrist have been exceptional partners along this path,” Kozel says, adding, “Commissioner Porter was the leader who saw a need for enhanced services and helped shape the discussions that have become the agreement we celebrate today.”
“This is indeed an exciting time in our history and it marks a milestone in our relationship with Caroline County, her leaders and her citizens,” Kozel explains. “It does take a village for these accomplishments to be realized and in this case, our partners at the University of Maryland Medical System, including CEO Bob Chrencik, as well as Shore’s Board Chairman John Dillon, Caroline residents and Shore Health Board members Keith McMahan and Bob Carmean, and the full Shore Health System Board of Directors, have been solidly behind this planning,” Kozel states.
The agreement, reached after more than six months of discussion and a more intensive 12 month study process, outlines a number of avenues by which the people of Caroline County will have improved access to services and support for their health care needs. Among the most visible of the agreed upon services is an urgent care center to meet non-emergency health care needs in extended, weeknight hours. The center will be a walk-in, no appointment necessary service designed to help people who have illness or minor injury that does not require hospital –based emergency care. Staffed by physicians and a nurse practitioner, the center will offer diagnostics including routine xray and immediate lab results. It is anticipated to open in late summer or early fall at the location of Shore Family Medicine, in the Food Lion shopping center on Route 404 in Denton.
Other aspects of the agreement, outlined as a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Shore Health and Caroline County, include a medical transportation grant to assist the county for five years. “We recognize that Caroline County is the only county in Maryland without a hospital or emergency center. The challenges of transportation are therefore unique in Caroline and Shore will assist the county in meeting those challenges with a grant that supports local efforts,” Kozel says.
One of the more unique aspects of the agreement is a study to explore the feasibility of a Community Based Paramedic Program that serves population health needs in the county. That planning will begin by early summer, in cooperation with the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services System (MIEMSS) and Caroline’s Department of Emergency Services.
The MOU also outlines studies of other health care needs in Caroline County, including: exploring the provision of health, wellness and prevention classes in the County, in concert with the Health Department; a study of dialysis services in the county; an analysis of diagnostic and specialty services in the county; and the study of regional hospice services, including the non-residential and residential services in-county.
“It is important to recognize that many people have brought us to this moment, including Governor Harry Hughes, Senators Thomas “Mac” Middleton, Richard Colburn and E.J. Pipkin, Delegates Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio and Adelaide Eckardt, County Health Officer Dr. Leland Spencer, and Shore Health Board members and Caroline residents Keith McMahan and Bob Carmean, and Mark Wasserman, Senior Vice President at UMMS, ” Kozel states. He also credits the community based members of the Joint Oversight Caroline County Task Force with moving the discussions forward, including: Choptank Health System CEO Joe Sheehan and retired Choptank Executive Wayne Howard; MIEMSS Region Four Director John Barto; Salvatore Verteramo, MD, Shore Health’s Regional Director of Emergency Medicine; retired educator and community advocate Dale Brown; Federalsburg Mayor Bill Beall; and both County and Shore Health support staff.
The agreement between Shore and Caroline County will be reviewed and monitored on an ongoing basis, with an annual evaluation and report from the Commissioners as the Board of Health, with leadership from the County Health Officer and the involvement of Shore Health’s CEO, staff and Board members, two of whom reside in Caroline County.