UMass Memorial Health Alliance-Clinton (Mass.) Hospital revealed plans to close its endoscopy services last week, giving less than three weeks' notice before the closure, according to a statement from the Massachusetts Nurses Association.
The MNA sent a letter to the state Department of Public Health asking for intervention in the closing, as the hospital's nurses feel its endoscopy services are essential to diagnose and treat colorectal cancer and other gastrointestinal conditions. The nurses argue under state law, providers are required to notify DPH of plans to close a specific service, allowing the agency time to determine whether services are essential to the community. The law also requires a minimum of 90 days' notice before the services are closed so DPH can conduct a public hearing.
According to the report, Health Alliance Management told nurses last week the unit would close, and many attended a public form on the changes yesterday. Here are five things to know about the closure:
1. Initially, Health Alliance Management announced the hospital would close endoscopy services on Jan. 26. However, after the public forum Clinton Hospital's CEO Deborah Wymouth agreed to a further hearing and Clinton Hospital informed MNA it would postpone the closing for the 90-day period, according to The Telegram. If the endoscopy services department closes, six registered nurses as well as a licensed practical nurse and other support staff would be laid off from the hospital. At least one of the nurses has worked in endoscopy services at the hospital for more than 15 years.
2. Clinton Hospital made a significant investment in the endoscopy service two years ago with the purchase of new diagnostic equipment. The equipment also increased the number of physicians who utilized the service.
3. In October 2017, Clinton Hospital merged with UMass Health Alliance, which also owns Leominster (Mass.) Hospital and Burbank (Mass.) Hospital. The healthcare organization reported plans last year to stop infusion services at the day surgery center, preceding the endoscopy services closure at Clinton Hospital.
4. MNA's chair at Clinton Hospital is concerned the closure is an attempt to consolidate services at other facilities, which would require local residents to travel farther for care. "The state has rightfully established a process to follow to protect the public when services are closed and we believe our administration should follow that process," she said.
5. UMass Health Alliance reportedly informed MNA the organization didn't have an obligation to notify DPH of the closure.