Kozel talks health care with Chamber

By Dave Ryan
Dorchester Banner
CAMBRIDGE — “What we at Shore Health are doing, is trying to stay steps ahead of the process,” Ken Kozel said Sept. 12. Speaking at a lunch meeting of the Dorchester Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Kozel was referring to the changing nature of health care on the local scene and at the federal level.
As president and CEO of University of Maryland Eastern Shore Regional Health, Mr. Kozel is leading the effort to build a medical campus on U.S. 50 in Cambridge, to replace the aged University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Dorchester, formerly known as Dorchester General Hospital.

Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan
President and CEO of University of Maryland Eastern Shore Regional Health Ken Kozel gave a presentation Sept. 12 to members of the Dorchester Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Kozel brought the local business leaders up to date on the latest discussions regarding health care in the area.

“The University of Maryland Medical System (also known as UMMS) is a private, not-for-profit corporation founded in 1994 and based in Baltimore,” the group’s Wikipedia page said. “It owns and operates 11 hospitals (as of 2012) in Maryland and has more than 1,700 licensed beds, 83,000 annual admissions and gross patient revenues of $2 billion annually.”
“Cambridge [hospital] has been around a long time,” Mr. Kozel told the group. That might provide for local tradition, but the plumbing, electrical system and more are expensive to keep running.
“It costs us a tremendous amount to keep the lights on,” Mr. Kozel said. “We’re spending millions and millions of dollars a year to keep maintaining our hospitals in Cambridge, Easton and Chestertown.”
Shore Health’s objective is to relocate services to what is being called a “free-standing medical facility,” (FMF) at the site now under construction in the center of town along the highway. Plans call for the original shopping center to be replaced with a more modern layout, to include the stores of Cambridge Marketplace, and the medical campus.
The facility would include not only the FMF, but also a medical pavilion which could feature diagnostic services such as CT and MRI scans, and pharmacy support. Ambulatory surgery could be performed in the pavilion as well.
Mr. Kozel told the group that Shore Health’s plans are still under discussion and nothing has been finalized.
He said the FMF would be 95 percent of what is in Cambridge today, except for beds, which would go to Easton. Why not have beds in Cambridge? The current hospital has an average of only 22 in-patients, he said.
“That’s a challenge,” Mr. Kozel said. “We need to centralize those beds.”
In the meantime, Cambridge’s current hospital treats an average of 20,000 patients annually in its emergency room. So the FMF would be an emergency center, with a few observation beds to help doctors decide if a patient needed to be sent to Easton to be admitted.
Mr. Kozel acknowledged local requests that services be brought back to the city, to save patients from having to travel to see specialists. “Our goal is to bring them back as quickly as possible,” he said.
Outpatient services and specialists are likely to include cardiology, diabetes/endocrinology, gastroenterology, gynecology, obstetrics, orthopedics and pediatrics, as well as others.
In the meantime, it looks like a great deal of money will be spent in a business with very slim margins. “We are budgeting $0, break-even this year,” Mr. Kozel said.
The new campus would cost about $75 million – money that has not yet been raised – but even that is a much lower cost than a new, full-fledged hospital. “To spend $300 million on a new facility for a daily census of about 20, isn’t prudent,” Mr. Kozel said.
Construction on the FMF could be begin in 2020.
“My goal is to do that sooner,” Mr. Kozel said. “We have to start getting this in motion, because you never know what is going to happen.”

Dave Ryan is editor of the Dorchester Banner. He can be reached at dryan@newszap.com.

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