Joint Committee on Public Health Holds Sept. 24 Hearing On Bill to Provide Communities with More Notice and the DPH with Greater Authority to Prevent the Closure of Essential Hospital Services

Sep 23, 2013, 15:38 ET from Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United

The measure responds to efforts by hospital networks to cut needed services in an effort to boost profits even though the DPH has deemed these services to be essential for the communities served by those hospitals.

Nurses and other advocates for access to needed health care services will testify, including a nurse from North Adams Regional Hospital, which has announced a plan to shutter the hospital's inpatient psychiatric unit, pediatric unit and critical care unit. 

BOSTON, Sept. 23, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is being released by Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United:


WHAT: The Joint Committee on Public Health has scheduled a hearing for Tuesday, Sept. 24, beginning at 10 a.m. for testimony on a bill that will require hospital owners to provide the public and impacted communities with longer notice of any proposed closure of a service, while also providing the DPH with greater authority to prevent such closures. Right now, hospitals are required to provide only three months notice of their intent to close a hospital, or a service within a hospital, to the Department of Public Health at which point a public hearing is scheduled by DPH for advocates and the members of the community to voice concerns about the closing. While the DPH may issue a finding that the service is "essential" and should be maintained, the agency has no authority to prevent the closure. The new bill extends the notice period from three to six months, and provides DPH with greater authority, particularly for hospital owners who are making a significant profit, to prevent the closure. 

The call for this law has intensified in the wake of recent health reform initiatives, as more and more hospitals are being consolidated into massive health care networks, both profit and non profit, and where hospital services and programs, such as mental health and pediatric programs, are being eliminated to boost hospital profit margins. In 2010, UMass/Health Alliance closed its 15-bed inpatient psychiatric unit at Burbank Hospital. This year, Steward Health Care is moving forward with the closure of its pediatric unit at Morton Hospital; Partners Health Care closed beds in its popular medical detoxification unit at Faulkner Hospital, and is now seeking to close its pediatric unit at Cooley Dickinson Hospital. Just this month, North Adams Regional Hospital announced plans to close its inpatient psychiatric unit, its pediatric unit and its critical care unit. In the case of Burbank's psychiatric unit, Partner's detoxification unit and Steward's pediatric unit at Morton Hospital, the opposition to the closings was overwhelming and the DPH issued findings that these were indeed essential services that should remain open. Yet in each case, the DPH was powerless to stop these providers from eliminating these services. 

WHO: The MNA will be providing testimony at this hearing, including a psychiatric nurse from North Adams Regional Hospital, who, along with other advocates in her community, are working to save services at the facility slated for closure.

WHEN: Tuesday, September 24 at 10 a.m.           

WHERE: State House, Hearing Room A1

SOURCE Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United