Page 26 - BusinessWest May 13, 2024
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 “During COVID, we lost hospital personnel because they got sick or their families got sick or burnout occurred and individuals decided to take time off. We also had trainees in the pipeline that, for a couple of years, did not have the ability to learn at the bedside.”
DR. LYNNETTE WATKINS
ible advance because of microsurgery and advanced techniques.” The other dramatic shift regionally — and nationally — has been
a trend toward consolidation. Over the past four decades, Baystate Health, and its flagship hospital, Baystate Medical Center, have brought formerly independent hospitals in Greenfield, Palmer, and Westfield under its umbrella, while Mercy Medical Center was acquired by Trinity Health, and Cooley Dickinson Hospital is now part of the Mass General Brigham family.
“Healthcare has been evolving, and how hospitals are reim- bursed has become extraordinarily challenging. There’s been a shift from inpatient care to outpatient care, which is beneficial for the community, but challenging to maintain revenues to support hospitals, which communities rely on for services,” said Dr. Robert Roose, president of both Mercy and Johnson Memorial Hospital in Enfield, Conn., both part of the Trinity family.
“And as those trends continue to shift and reimbursement rates for services decrease, that has reinforced the value of being part of a large system that has scale, that can leverage strengths across the service area.”
Cooley Dickinson Health Care President Dr. Lynnette Watkins said Cooley becoming part of Mass General Brigham just over a decade ago has been a benefit in many ways, and a model for what’s happening with formerly independent hospitals across the country.
“So you still have that community impact, but you’re also backed by a larger network,” she told BusinessWest, citing, as one example, a current, $26 million capital project that will add about 7,700 square feet to the Emergency Department, increasing its footprint by about 40%. “We would not be able to undertake a renovation like this without the support of Mass General Brigham and its ability
to engage and identify contractors and work through supply-chain issues and, candidly, to finance a project as large as this.
“Also, in order to be able to recruit and retain talent, particularly in primary care, we have to be competitive in the market,” Watkins continued. “And a lot of our colleagues come to Cooley Dickinson for that great community feel and care, but also are attracted by competitive compensation and the fact that we’re part of Mass Gen- eral Brigham.”
Baystate’s own growth story began almost 50 years ago with the merger of three facilities into what is now known as Baystate Medi- cal Center — and it has grown significantly since, with the expan- sion of Baystate Children’s Hospital, a massive addition known as the Hospital of the Future in 2012, and other projects.
But Baystate Health also encompasses Baystate Franklin Medi- cal Center in Greenfield, Baystate Noble Hospital in Westfield, and Baystate Wing Hospital in Palmer, along with a host of physician practices and a cluster of specialty services in Springfield’s North End, most notably the D’Amour Center for Cancer Care, which opened in 2004.
“People don’t have to leave the area to get their care, and to get advanced medical care — level-1 trauma, neonatal ICU, specialty cancer care, specialty pediatric care, all those things that built up over the years,” said Keroack, who will retire from a more than four- decade career in healthcare this year. “Baystate has grown to the point where we’re doing roughly 65% of the medical care in West- ern Mass.”
At the same time, he added, a number of small hospitals closed or were repurposed over the years, from Ludlow Hospital to Farren Memorial Hospital in Turners Falls to Mary Lane Hospital in Ware, partly because of that shift to outpatient care and the ability of the region’s larger hospitals to diversify what they offer. “It’s hard for a small community hospital to make it.”
Getting Back to Work
That said, all hospitals these days, of all sizes, are struggling with workforce shortages across the spectrum, from nurses to many specialists.
Keroack said Baystate employs around 13,500 people and, before the pandemic, typically averaged 600 to 700 open positions at any given time. That number shot up to 2,100 during the Omi- cron phase of COVID — a time known in healthcare as the Great Resignation.
 “No one wanted to work in healthcare. It was scary and difficult,”
Healthcare
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