Worgaftik/My Turn: We need more info on BFMC plans

I attended the Greenfield Town Council Economic Development Committee meeting on July 9 to learn about the Trinity School property, which Baystate plans to buy from the Archdiocese of Springfield. The question on the table was changing the zoning of the property to “health.”

When residents asked what the property will be used for, Chuck Gijanto, president of Baystate Franklin Medical Center, said that he was not sure. Another Baystate staff member said that they plan to update and expand the emergency facilities at BFMC. To do that, the Trinity School building will be demolished and the land turned into a parking area.

Assuming that occurs in the next year or two, will it stay a parking lot? If so, why does it need a health designation?

In the discussion, references were made to possible medical offices. What kinds of medical services will be offered? We don’t know. Call me naive, but I cannot believe that an organization with a budget of more than $1 billion annually does not have specific plans for the Trinity property. Those plans may change, but it must be more than a parking lot.

For the purposes of this piece, we’ll assume that the future for BFMC involves expansion of emergency and surgical facilities and additional medical personnel.

On July 12, I was surprised to see The Recorder headline announcing the layoffs of 10 nurses and the reassignment of three other personnel due to a decreasing inpatient census at BFMC. I recently learned that some patients had been directed to go to Baystate Springfield for inpatient, day surgery and follow-up care because they could not be handled in Greenfield. How could this be if the inpatient census is low enough to lay off nurses?

My information is anecdotal. It comes from talking to people I know. The big picture may be different. But right now, the picture that I have is quite confusing.

Nurses in the medical/surgical unit are being laid off because there are not enough inpatient procedures, but Franklin County residents who need this care are being directed to inpatient services in Springfield. Baystate Franklin wishes to buy the Trinity property and intimates that it will be expanding services, but is unclear what they will be. Something is not making sense here.

Perhaps, it will be clearer if we can get some facts. How many Franklin County patients have been treated at Baystate Springfield for inpatient care in the last two years? How many Franklin County residents have been sent to Baystate Springfield for follow-up care and day surgeries in the last two years? If the data reflect the anecdotal information that I have, is this a temporary situation? If so, why is it happening and how is it going to be corrected? If this is not a temporary situation, then why is Baystate buying up all this property to “expand” services … and for what kinds of services?

We all know that health care is in a state of flux and there are many changes coming. Some will be caused by insurance and some will be the result of new therapies. We know that plans that are made today can change in the next months or weeks.

Many of us live in area, in part, because Franklin County has a hospital with an excellent reputation for patient care. Baystate, please fill us in on your plans for BFMC. We’ll give you our opinions about how they will impact us and our neighbors. Let’s work together to keep great health care in Franklin County.

In the final analysis, the changes that are planned for BFMC are going to affect our lives and those of our loved ones. For us, that is what this is all about.

Susan Worgaftik is a member of the Community Health Care Initiative which is dedicated to ensuring quality health care for Franklin County residents. She lives in Greenfield.

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