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Game changer at Sharon Hospital

As a lifelong resident of this region, a 25-year resident of Sharon and as a selectman since 2013, I have watched and rooted for Sharon Hospital. I’ve participated on panels, testified at public hearings and been part of advisory groups, all with the intent to enhance or save health care services in the northwestern part of Connecticut. I’ve had both of my children there, visited the emergency department several times and have been very happy to be able to have routine services performed so close to home.  

I supported its return to a nonprofit status last year as it seemed to me the relationship with Health Quest was necessary to keep the hospital from disappearing altogether, due to its inability to form the kinds of partnerships necessary to ensure vital services would continue to be offered. With the Health Quest acquisition, Sharon residents would have an opportunity to stay within a network and the community would retain the jobs as well as have our local businesses benefit. The leadership of the Foundation for Community Health had felt confident enough in Health Quest to provide funding for the sale.  All signs pointed to a win or at least a higher score in this game of maintaining health care access in a rural community.  

The game changed last week with the announcement of maternity closing. There was a date provided, and then retracted. There was no solid and comprehensive statement from Health Quest to the community about the date for closure, nor time enough provided to roll out the new scenario for how prenatal services, labor and delivery will look for expectant mothers. Without timely information given, Health Quest has only left room for speculation and rumors, which have run their course over recent days. There are accusations swirling about non-compliance with the Certificate of Need and of promises broken to the community. Democratic candidate for the state of Connecticut House 64th District, Maria Horn, a former attorney with the U.S. Attorney’s office, has asked the Connecticut Attorney General to investigate. This is the right thing to do to ensure that the Certificate of Need has not been violated and I thank her for taking that proactive stance.  

As an elected leader I was told nothing about this, nor given the opportunity to learn about this decision and any new service delivery plans. This is disheartening, as it gives the appearance of little thought to the effect of this news or insight as to how important this service is to area women and their families. We are a region struggling to attract families and promote community and economic development. There are initiatives being promoted from a regional fiber optic network to a marketing platform for all the towns. Local leaders are supporting and working together on all of these projects because we realize how vulnerable we are at this moment. Not being informed on a change in how critical services will be delivered only adds to our uncertainty and excludes those of us already working on ways to keep our towns healthy and vibrant.  

Health care services account for almost 60 percent of the jobs in my town. Most of these jobs within the health care service sector comes from the hospital. If maternity is going, what’s next? Who will I run into in this town or a neighboring one who tells me they don’t have a job anymore because of a service merger?  

Rural areas are already at risk and yet our area is such an incredible asset to this state. Unlike the rest of Connecticut, we are financially sound, as are many of the towns around us, and we are working hard to take care of our residents and keep them here. To keep our residents here, however, we need to maintain critical health care delivery systems. Let’s pledge to do all we can to work for a local hospital that works for us.   

 

Jessica Fowler lives in, and is a selectman for, the town of Sharon.