Homewood hospital workers sad about closing, angry at Hopkins

February 26, 1991|By Jonathan Bor

An atmosphere of gloom and anger settled over the Homewood Hospital Center-South yesterday, as word that the financially troubled hospital will be closed within two to three months filtered out to the 650 people who work there.

Nurses, physicians, housekeepers and other employees huddled in small groups inside and outside the hospital, talking somberly about the death of a center-city hospital with a family atmosphere and about their uncertain job prospects.

Officials with the Johns Hopkins Health System, which acquired the 213-bed hospital in 1985, announced plans to close the hospital during an afternoon meeting attended by about 100 supervisors.

But employees said rumors of the shutdown had been flying about the hospital for weeks -- so they were saddened but not surprised when supervisors informed them yesterday of the plans.

"We're very angry that a system like Hopkins that is world-renowned,that supposedly cares for people, would come in and rape a system like they raped this one," said Carol Caudrilli, an operating room nurse who recently got a job with a suburban hospital in the face of Homewood's uncertain future.

"There's gloom, doom and despair," she added. "It's like a funeral, like we're mourning a friend. This is a family-oriented type of place, where everybody knows everybody else and you're on a first-name basis."

Dr. Malcolm F. Freed, who is chief of gynecology, said he was disappointed that administrators did not try to reduce the hospital's size to increase its occupancy rate and profitability.

"Most of us feel the Johns Hopkins Health System sort of failed us," he said. "They bought us, were planning to do all kinds of things to help us stay open, and let us go by the wayside."

Plans call for the entire inpatient hospital known as Homewood-South -- the old North Charles General Hospital -- to be closed. The hospital is on Charles Street between 27th and 28th streets.

The Hopkins system plans to maintain outpatient services for military personnel, their dependents and retirees, as well as Defense Department employees, at the Homewood Hospital Center-North, which is a few blocks away at 3100 Wyman Park Drive. But 75 beds for psychiatric and substance abuse patients there will also be eliminated, the hospital said.

The Hopkins system merged the two hospitals in 1988 -- calling the combined entity the Homewood Hospital Center. But the center was plagued by a declining occupancy rate and mounting losses.

The combined hospitals lost $3.6 million in fiscal year 1990 -- the largest deficit anywhere in the state's hospital industry. Meanwhile, occupancy at the southern campus plunged from an average of 71 percent last year to a current level of about 50 percent, according to Irvin Kues, senior vice president of the Johns Hopkins Health System.

Mr. Kues said about 600 of the 650 southern campus employees would lose their jobs. The remaining 50 are to be transferred to the northern campus.

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