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Dept. of Public Health to Hold Public Hearing May 21 On Proposed Closure of a 13-bed Pediatric Unit

Press Release, 5/17/13

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Department of Public Health to Hold Public Hearing May 21 On the Proposed Closure of a 13-bed Pediatric Unit at Steward Morton Hospital in Taunton
Opponents to the Closing Will Present Testimony Detailing the Devastating Impact the Loss of this Service Will Have on the Vulnerable Children of Greater Taunton
Steward’s Decision Violates Its Promise to the Community to Maintain All Services at Morton Hospital, and Will Mean Sick Children Will be Boarded in the Busy Emergency Department or Shipped to Boston, Providence or Fall River for Care

What: Department of Public Health – Public Hearing
When: Tuesday, May 21 at 2 p.m.
Where: Taunton Public Library, 12 Pleasant St., Taunton MA
Who: Local, physicians, nurses, parents, former patients, local community leaders and elected officials scheduled to speak at the hearing

The Department of Public Health will hold a public hearing on May 21 concerning a controversial plan by Cerberus-Steward Health Care  to close its Level II 13-bed Pediatric Unit, a popular service that has existed at the Taunton-based community hospital for more than 50 years, and which cares for between 4 – 8 children per day. The public hearing is part of the legal process Steward is required to go through prior to closing the unit, which is designed to determine if this is an essential service for patients in the community. The proposed closing has been met with strong grassroots opposition by clinicians, parents and elected officials. Opponents to the closing believe the loss of this service will have a devastating impact on the most vulnerable children in the community who rely on this service for quality care close to home. The Morton Hospital Pediatric Unit provides first rate care to hundreds of children each year who are suffering from a variety of acute medical conditions, undergoing tests or undergoing and recovering from surgical procedures. For example, care provided includes care and observation of children undergoing IV hydration, or infants whose parents have witnessed them either stop breathing or have  a seizure at home. Higher acuity patients include six-week old infants with respiratory illnesses who need oxygen and are breathing too hard and/or too fast to feed, newborns who are having trouble withdrawing from narcotic addiction and children in toxic shock.

The unit is staffed by a team of expert caregivers including licensed practical nurses and registered nurses who together have more than 200 years of experience in pediatric nursing and many of the RNs are board certified in pediatrics. “We’re absolutely upset and angry they would consider abandoning the children of our city and surrounding communities,” said longtime Morton nurse Joyce Wilkins, bargaining unit chairwoman of the Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United. Taunton City Council President, John McCaul strongly opposes the closing stating, “When Steward purchased this hospital, they made a promise that they would not decrease or eliminate any services to this community for at least ten years. They are now breaking this promise and their commitment to our community and, as a result, our children will be boarded in a busy emergency department, or will be sent to Boston, Providence or Fall River for care they have always received right here in Taunton.”


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