Beware the view of Lahey Health’s CEO Howard Grant that “bigger is better” in hospital systems. Recent history demonstrates just the opposite.
In 1991, hospital finance in Massachusetts was deregulated to please the hospital and insurance industries, who promised state legislators it would lower health care costs and improve care.
Since then, half the hospitals in Massachusetts have closed, all of them community hospitals providing excellent, efficient care locally. Hospitals that merged with larger ones suffered elimination of essential services by the bigger corporate partner, forcing patients to travel farther for care, often at risk to their safety and survival.
Meanwhile, unregulated price increases were passed on from hospitals to insurers and then to each of us.
Since its merger in 1995 with Beverly Hospital, now part of Lahey Health, Addison Gilbert Hospital in Gloucester, a well-endowed 111-bed hospital before the merger, has been so extremely downsized that 40,000 of us who live on Cape Ann — an actual island — are now literally fighting for our lives.
A united effort by the people and elected leaders of Cape Ann has, so far, been unsuccessful in persuading Lahey to guarantee the eight essential services required to operate a full-service emergency department at Addison Gilbert Hospital beyond May 2015.
But Lahey, the so-called “nonprofit” corporate system that made $52 million last year, doesn’t want to be tied down to such a guarantee.
And, because of deregulation, there is no one in state government who can make it do so.
In fine PR form, Lahey proclaims it is committed to providing the best care “close to home,” but not if your home is Cape Ann, where only two bridges — both tenuous — provide our only lifelines off- island.
These mergers and other “cost-saving” schemes foisted upon all of us for the past 20-plus years by powerful hospital and insurance lobbies and state government have led to the reverse: Dramatically higher prices for diminished access and quality of care.
It’s a recipe for disaster.
Peggy O’Malley, RN