Hospital chief rebuts nurses’ claims in letter about care
GREENFIELD — Baystate Franklin Medical Center president Chuck Gijanto insists in a countywide letter that the hospital is increasing its medical services — a direct response to resolutions approved in 10 towns that urge the hospital to keep its local services intact.
In the letter — which hospital officials said was sent to every Franklin County household — Gijanto rebuts claims by the Massachusetts Nurses Association that medical services are slowly but surely being transferred to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield.
“We have actually been increasing services over the past few years — adding new specialists in Cardiology, Vascular Surgery, Pulmonology, Sports Medicine, Bariatric Surgery, Infectious Disease, and Physical & Rehabilitation Medicine,” wrote Gijanto.
“And where we have need for still more primary care providers and specialists — such as in Urology, Orthopedics and Gastroenterology — we are actively working to bring them on board,” he wrote. “In planning any new service or program, we need to be sure we have the expertise and technology to provide high quality patient care; sufficient community demand for the service; and the capacity to sustain it financially.”
The resolution — sponsored by the Massachusetts Nurses Association and area residents — directs towns that approve it to send copies to Gijanto and Baystate Health system CEO Mark Tolosky. In the past three weeks, voters in Buckland, Colrain, Deerfield, Erving, Heath, Hawley, Leyden, Montague, Shelburne and Whately approved the resolution and Wendell will vote on June 3.
Linda Judd, co-chair of the local nurses union, said that support for the resolutions demonstrates a deep concern among residents about the need to have a wide variety of medical services available at the Greenfield hospital.
“We sincerely hope that Baystate is listening to what people in these communities are saying and that they will make a commitment to enhance services to meet the health needs of people living in these communities,” she said.
Hospital officials said that Buckland has been the only town to send the resolution to them so far.
“We appreciate our community’s support for, and interest in, the continuing strength of Baystate Franklin Medical Center,” Gijanto said Tuesday. “(We) fully agree that local access to care — at both the hospital and medical practices — is ‘essential to the health and well-being of residents of Franklin County.’ This commitment shapes all of our program planning, both now and as we look ahead to the future.”
Nurses have said that they first heard concerns last fall — while rallying support for the union’s ongoing 19-month contract dispute with the hospital — from Franklin County residents about a reduction in local services. At a union-organized community forum in March, residents told stories about how they had been transferred to Springfield for medical procedures.
In his letter, Gijanto wrote that Baystate Franklin hired four new emergency room specialists in the past two months to ensure that it would meet all of its patients’ emergency needs — something he said the hospital has done since 1895.
When the Greenfield hospital joined the Baystate Health system in 1987 — a move that some nurses and residents argue negatively changed the dynamics of their community hospital — it became “directly linked to the services and specialists at our sister teaching hospital in Springfield,” wrote Gijanto.
“When patients need that level of care, we are already connected, and we’re keeping those services right here in the Pioneer Valley,” he continued. “We view it all as local care — our community hospital; our top notch academic medical center just down the road.”
Nurses contend that the resolutions are not a strategy in their contract dispute with the hospital. The two sides will meet again today, hoping to build on the progress they reportedly saw at last month’s negotiation session.
You can reach Chris Shores at:
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