The future of health care is as complicated as it is uncertain.
That is especially so in Havre de Grace where the community’s feeling of security based in the comfort of having a full-service hospital, as it has for more than a century after a group of civic leaders established it, is being threatened.
University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health, which owns and operates Harford Memorial Hospital in Havre de Grace and Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air, is the corporate entity borne out of the 100-plus year evolution of what began humbly in a house as the Havre de Grace Hospital.
Upper Chesapeake Health, as the community knows, plans to close the full service Harford Memorial Hospital in downtown Havre de Grace and replace it with a freestanding medical center on the outskirts of town at the intersection of Interstate 95 and Route 155. Most of the existing medical/surgical beds that were licensed in Havre de Grace would be transferred to the Bel Air facility.
After an appropriate amount of time using a fact-gathering, open-minded approach to the proposal, elected officials in Havre de Grace recently did the right thing, putting up a united front of opposition to any effort to provide their community with what they see as any diminished health care or facilities.
Havre de Grace Mayor Bill Martin wrote a lengthy, well thought-out letter of opposition to the plan to state officials. All the city council members, except one, signed on to Martin’s letter.
Time will tell what’s best for Havre de Grace, or if what is feared as the worst option really is so, if it comes to fruition. In the rapidly changing, costs driven health care industry, accepted practices are, in some cases, changing at warp speed. As a result, so, too, are the needed facilities to provide that health care.
The final outcome of the major health care changes coming to Harford County is yet to be settled.
What’s clear, however, is who Havre de Grace City Councilwoman Monica Worrell was looking out for, and it wasn’t Havre de Grace, when she refused to join her colleagues in signing on in support of Martin’s letter.
“I, too, prefer a general hospital to a freestanding medical facility, but unfortunately, in today’s medical health care environment I don’t believe we can preserve two general hospitals in our community at this time,” Worrell said, explaining why she didn’t support the city’s position.
Last time we checked, Havre de Grace had one hospital, not two. And, as an official elected to represent the City of Havre de Grace and its people, the most prudent position is to stand in defense of the city’s hospital. That hospital has not only given this community modern health care for more than 100 years, but also through the ages begat all the health care organizations that eventually became the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health System. Those who started the Havre de Grace Hospital are the ones who ultimately facilitated the creation of Harford County’s modern hospital system. That’s civic leadership.
What Worrell has made clear is that the role she desires in Harford County supersedes the role for which she was elected in Havre de Grace. Her first foray into elected politics was a primary loss to Curtis Beulah in a bid for the Harford County Council. She regrouped and got elected to the Havre de Grace City Council. Now she’s running for the House of Delegates.
As a representative to the House of Delegates from District 34, to which she aspires, her position may make some sense. As an elected member of the Havre de Grace City Council, it doesn’t make any.