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Medical facility model was opportunity for McCready
July 10, 2019

Medical facility model was opportunity for McCready

Surgical and hospital care no longer made sense, FMF possible through acquisition

By Richard Crumbacker

Crisfield-Somerset County Times


CRISFIELD — In just a few months Peninsula Regional Health System will acquire McCready Health.


Pending regulatory approval, the Hall Highway medical center that opened in May 1923 as the Edward W. McCready Memorial Hospital will forever discontinue surgery and hospitalization and transition virtually all other services to what is called -Freestanding Medical Facility (FMF). That is anticipated to occur on or about Nov. 1. Although it’s business as usual until then, the lone surgeon, Dr. Sidney Barnes, has already left the area, resigning May 14. Meanwhile the med/surg (hospital) census continues to be so low that it’s a struggle to keep two of the three hospital beds filled per federal regulations.


McCready CEO Kathleen Harrison said, “you canimagine how difficult it is” to staff a hospital that has zero patients one day and three the next.


The FMF model became an opportunity for McCready but only it if was acquired by a larger partner.


“Our board has recognized that in order to keep healthcare in this community and in Lower Somerset this is the step we had to take,” Ms. Harrison said. “Fortunately the state of Maryland has these freestanding medical facilities with the regulations around them that has enabled us to do that, (but) the first step was to be affiliated” with PRHS.


Dr. Steve Leonard, President/ CEO of PRHS, said the conversation in Crisfield “is not unique” and directors of both hospital boards unanimously approved the new arrangement. “There’s mergers, and there’s FMF conversions, and I think our best outcome is one that allows us to have services close to home as opposed to having people coming to Salisbury or Berlin. It’s a win-win.”


Although not specifically said where, property has been purchased on Crisfield Highway within five miles of McCready to locate what will be called the McCready Health Pavilion. At that location 24/7 emergency care, physical therapy, speech therapy, behavioral health services, family medicine, imaging and laboratory services will be located.


Until the new center is built, about two years from now, all of this will continue at the present McCready campus.

“When we evaluated whether it was more expensive to build a site or renovate it was comparable in expense but you’d still be left with a 1980’s platform in a flood zone,” Dr. Leonard said. “So that’s why a decision was made to build new.”

“I’m sure at some point in time there will be a sign there,” Ms. Harrison said of the new location.


The Alice B. Tawes Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and Chesapeake Cove Assisted Living on the fourth floor will stay where they are, in a building that opened in 2010.


As for the future of the original hospital building and the other medical service locations which will be vacated, Ms. Harrison said right now there is no definitive answer as to what will happen to them.


The some 200 employees at Mc-Cready will be joining a medical system with 3,300 workers, and Dr. Leonard said he sees opportunity during the transition. “There will be some areas that will grow here, for example, we would like to see the ER grow in staffing. If we’re going to be building a freestanding medical facility we’re going to be making an investment and we have a number of Somerset County people that come up for ER services, it would be great if some of those people could stay down here for some of those services.”


Dr. Leonard pulled back on the word “grow” because the goal is not to increase ER volume, but rather have patients more comfortable utilizing primary care doctors so they can avoid making an emergency room visit.


Ms. Harrison said a staff meeting was held 9 a.m. July 1 to announce the acquisition, and leadership which was already “tuned in” about the changes got to speak directly to Dr. Leonard.


The reception was “ very positive” and there were no surprises as a letter of intent to do this was announced in April 2018, with employees receiving periodic updates through the facility’s internal newsletter.


“Technically speaking, we’re still separate until the deal closes,” Dr. Leonard said. “Some stuff you can do now but some stuff we have to wait on.” “We can plan, but we can’t necessarily execute on something.”


Pay scales are one example which haven’t been looked at and can’t be reviewed prior to the takeover. “Somebody has to tell us until the actual closing takes place,” he said, but pay and benefits will be at the market level “so I don’t think there will be any surprises.”


All of the assets and liabilities from McCready will shift to PHRS, and any existing debt will probably be refinanced, Dr. Leonard said.

A casualty of declining business has also been the Princess Anne Immediate Care, which closed June 14. Ms. Harrison said hours had been reduced and other changes made to keep it open “ but it wasn’t feasible.”


Dr. Leonard said the plan is to go back and look at that location, and see if some alternative such as primary care makes more sense.


When the transition is complete McCready Health will no longer have a board of directors, but PHRS will include a representative from southern Somerset County. The membership of the PHRS board is being reviewed now, especially with Nanticoke joining the system, and Dr. Leonard said he sees vacancies filled by new members as others come off.


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