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Thursday night panel will explore future of Baystate Franklin Medical Center

GREENFIELD — A community health organization is hosting a Thursday night discussion about the future of medical care at Baystate Franklin Medical Center.

Organized by the Community Health Care Initiative, the forum will take place from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Greenfield Middle School. Baystate Health officials will present their plans for the coming years and field questions from community members. It is free and open to the public.

“(We) want to make sure the community is being heard ... (and that the) services meet the needs of the community here,” said Patti Williams, one of the health initiative’s founding members.

Baystate Health officials are expected to discuss the upcoming operating room construction project, physician recruitment efforts, new clinical programs and new community partnerships in Franklin County.

Speakers will include Mark Keroack, who will become the health system’s chief executive officer in July; Steven Bradley, one of the health system’s vice presidents; Chuck Gijanto, outgoing president of Baystate Franklin Medical Center, and Sara Rourke, president of the hospital’s medical staff.

“(We) appreciate having the opportunity to bring the public up to date on where we are now and where we are heading as an organization,” wrote Gijanto in an email to community members. “We anticipate there will be a good turn-out ... and we are looking forward to a lively dialogue during the Q & A session.”

Shortly after Baystate Franklin and its nurses settled a prolonged contract dispute in February, the health initiative reached out to the hospital about the public forum. Williams said that hospital officials responded favorably and quickly to the invitation.

The health initiative continues to be concerned about availability of pediatric care and sufficient in-patient mental health and addiction rehabilitation services in Franklin County.

The group formed in April 2013, after residents expressed concern at a nurse-organized forum that medical services were shifting from Greenfield to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield.

The hospital didn’t receive an invitation to that forum and Gijanto refuted claims that local services were decreasing. Months later, the hospital announced plans to build new, larger operating rooms — a project that officials hoped would turn the tide in the effort to bring doctors to rural Franklin County.

The $26 million operating room construction project, which will begin this summer and is scheduled to be completed in 2016, has indeed already helped recruitment efforts.

Six physicians, in full-time and part-time roles, have either signed contracts or made verbal agreements to work here, Gijanto said earlier this month.

The health organization also started funneling money into Franklin County projects last fall, beginning with a $150,000 gift to help the town of Greenfield connect buildings with broadband Internet.

The organization served as the lead sponsor in this year’s United Way of Franklin County campaign. And, earlier this month, it gave $20,000 to the YMCA to help hundreds of residents follow through on an exercise regimen prescribed by their doctors.

You can reach Chris Shores at: cshores@recorder.com, 413-772-0261, ext. 264, or on Twitter follow @RecorderShores

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