Press Release

Joint Committee on Public Health Holds Sep. 24 Hearing on Bill to Give Communities with More Notice

And the DPH with Greater Authority to Prevent the Closure of Essential Hospital Services

The measure responds to efforts by hospital networks to cut needed services in an effort to boost profits even though the DPH has deemed these services to be essential for the communities served by those hospitals.
Nurses and other advocates for access to needed health care services will testify, including a nurse from North Adams Regional Hospital, which has announced a plan to shutter the hospital’s inpatient psychiatric unit, pediatric unit and critical care unit.
WHAT:             The Joint Committee on Public Health has scheduled a hearing for Tuesday, Sep. 24, beginning at 10 a.m. for testimony on a bill that will require hospital owners to provide the public and impacted communities with longer notice of any proposed closure of a service, while also providing the DPH with greater authority to prevent such closures. Right now, hospitals are required to provide only three-months notice of their intent to close a hospital, or a service within a hospital, to the Department of Public Health at which point a public hearing is scheduled by DPH for advocates and the members of the community to voice concerns about the closing. While the DPH may issue a finding that the service is “essential” and should be maintained, the agency has no authority to prevent the closure. The new bill extends the notice period from three to six months, and provides DPH with greater authority, particularly for hospital owners who are making a significant profit, to prevent the closure.  

The call for this law has intensified in the wake of recent health reform initiatives, as more and more hospitals are being consolidated into massive health care networks, both profit and non profit, and where hospital services and programs, such as mental health and pediatric programs, are being eliminated to boost hospital profit margins. In 2010, UMass/Health Alliance closed its 15-bed inpatient psychiatric unit at Burbank Hospital. This year, Steward Health Care is moving forward with the closure of its pediatric unit at Morton Hospital; Partners Health Care closed beds in its popular medical detoxification unit at Faulkner Hospital, and is now seeking to close its pediatric unit at Cooley Dickinson Hospital. Just this month, North Adams Regional Hospital announced plans to close its inpatient psychiatric unit, its pediatric unit and its critical care unit. In the case of Burbank’s psychiatric unit, Partner’s detoxification unit and Steward’s pediatric unit at Morton Hospital, the opposition to the closings was overwhelming and the DPH issued findings that these were indeed essential services that should remain open. Yet in each case, the DPH was powerless to stop these providers from eliminating these services.
WHO:              The MNA will be providing testimony at this hearing, including a psychiatric nurse from North Adams Regional Hospital, who, along with other advocates in her community, are working to save services at the facility slated for closure.
WHEN:          Tuesday, September 24 at 10 a.m.           
WHERE:        State House, Hearing Room A1
CONTACT:  David Schildmeier, 781-249-0430 (For more information, background on bill, or to schedule interviews).
SENATE  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  No. 1017

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts


Jennifer L. Flanagan

To the Honorable Senate and House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in General
              Court assembled:

              The undersigned legislators and/or citizens respectfully petition for the passage of the accompanying:

An Act relative to the closing of hospital essential services.


Jennifer L. Flanagan
Worcester and Middlesex
Sarah K. Peake
4th Barnstable
Jennifer E. Benson
37th Middlesex
Sheila C. Harrington
1st Middlesex
Kimberly N. Ferguson
1st Worcester
Bruce E. Tarr
First Essex and Middlesex
Denise C. Garlick
13th Norfolk


SENATE DOCKET, NO. 232        FILED ON: 1/15/2013
SENATE  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  No. 1017
By Ms. Flanagan, a petition (accompanied by bill, Senate, No. 1017) of Jennifer L. Flanagan, Sarah K. Peake, Jennifer E. Benson, Sheila C. Harrington and other members of the General Court for legislation to close hospital essential services.  Public Health.

SEE SENATE, NO. 1103 OF 2011-2012.]

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
In the Year Two Thousand Thirteen
An Act relative to the closing of hospital essential services.
              Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:
              SECTION 1.  Chapter 111 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2004 Official Edition, is hereby amended by striking Section 51G(4) and inserting in place thereof the following section:—

              (4) Any hospital shall inform the department 180 days prior to the closing of the hospital or the discontinuance of any essential health service provided therein. The department shall by regulation define “essential health service” for the purposes of this section. The department shall, in the event that a hospital proposes to discontinue an essential health service or services, determine whether any such discontinued services are necessary for preserving access and health status in the hospital’s service area, require hospitals to submit a plan for assuring access to such necessary services following the hospital’s closure of the service, and assure continuing access to such services in the event that the department determines that their closure will significantly reduce access to necessary services. The department shall conduct a public hearing prior to a determination on the closure of said essential services or of the hospital. No original license shall be granted to establish or maintain an acute-care hospital, as defined by section 25B, unless the applicant submits a plan, to be approved by the department, for the provision of community benefits, including the identification and provision of essential health services. In approving the plan, the department may take into account the applicant’s existing commitment to primary and preventive health care services and community contributions as well as the primary and preventive health care services and community contributions of the predecessor hospital. In approving the plan, the department shall consider the financial health and capacity of the hospital and/or of the network which owns said hospital, and shall deny or delay said plan if the hospital’s and/or network’s net profit at the time of such application exceeds 5 percent.  The department may waive this requirement, in whole or in part, at the request of the applicant which has provided or at the time the application is filed, is providing, substantial primary and preventive health care services and community contributions in its service area.