Our ever-vigilant Chestertown doctors tell Save the Hospital that University of Maryland Shore Regional Health’s remarkable decision to move its Behavioral Health unit to Chestertown may be in peril. So we’re writing to ask you to keep the plan on track. We need you to send email and letters to the decision-makers.

Moving Shore’s inpatient Behavioral Health unit to Chestertown in 2021, when Shore closes the Dorchester hospital, means our hospital will have a secure future. In addition to inpatient medical and surgery services, Chestertown will gain a 15-bed unit, with a psychiatrists-led staff of more than 50, that will likely operate at or near capacity year-round.

Unexpectedly, some of Shore’s psychiatrists want the unit moved to Easton, and they’ve launched a Facebook campaign to convince the Maryland Health Care Commission to overturn the Chestertown decision approved by Shore’s board of directors and endorsed by the medical staff made up of all of Shore’s doctors.

They don’t care that Shore is a regional system or that CEO Ken Kozel says the move to Kent County will “enhance the stability of inpatient services at Shore Medical Center at Chestertown.”

We need lots of letters and emails to go to the Maryland Health Care Commission immediately. Here’s a suggested letter — the commission vote is likely next month.

Ben Steffen, executive director

E-mail: ben.steffen@maryland.gov

Maryland Health Care Commission

4160 Patterson Avenue

Baltimore, MD 21215

Dear Mr. Steffen,

I (live) (work) in the Kent/Northern Queen Anne’s area served by UM Shore Medical Center at Chestertown and I’m writing to express my solid support for Shore Regional Health System’s decision to move its Behavioral Health unit to Chestertown when the Dorchester hospital closes. This move will provide much-needed inpatient and outpatient mental health services in an underserved area and it also will stabilize our hospital’s future, boost economic prospects for our Mid-Shore region, and confirm that UM Shore Regional Health System really is a regional system.

Because Mr. Kozel regularly laments the high cost of delivering hospital care in our rural area, we can’t imagine that you would endorse a multi-million dollar Easton move, requiring the total conversion of Memorial Hospital’s administration wing. By comparison, renovating Chestertown’s vacant third floor patient unit would give Shore a state-of-the-art behavioral health facility at a fraction of the Easton cost.

Because of the shortage of Behavioral Health beds, patients from our area are regularly treated in Western Shore and Delaware hospitals, and we hope this move will alleviate that reality so more patients can remain close to home. Our doctors assure us that our hospitalists and local consulting doctors will provide whatever medical and consultative services the Behavioral Health patients require. As you well know, our doctors and our community have passionately supported our much-needed hospital for many decades, and we assure you that will remain true.

In short, we hope the Health Care Commission will grant Shore Regional Health’s well-reasoned decision to move the Behavioral Health unit to Chestertown.

Margie Elsberg has served as the volunteer communications coordinator for Save the Hospital. Formerly a Chestertown resident, she writes from Norwich, Vt.

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