The closing of acute care, inpatient services at Homewood Hospital Center will have "a positive effect" on Maryland's health system, saving $20 million in costs a year, says a Maryland Hospital Association vice president.
"The Homewood costs will be gone and that will make the Maryland system more efficient and healthier," Richard H. Wade, the MHA official, said last night.
He said the number of people that ultimately would remain unemployed "will be pretty small because of a demand for all kinds of hospital workers."
Wade said he knows of no other hospital closings either in Baltimore or throughout Maryland that are under consideration.
The closing of HHC's inpatient services, announced yesterday, is expected to result in the loss of 600 jobs, said officials of Johns Hopkins Health System, which operates Homewood.
Citing financial losses over the last few years and changing patient needs, the officials said HHC-South, formerly North Charles General Hospital, would shut down its 213 beds for medical and surgical inpatients and HHC-North, formerly Wyman Park Hospital, would close its 75 beds for psychiatric and addiction patients.
Neither hospital will continue to function as an acute care facility after the next two or three months, the officials said. They stressed that a large clinic run by Wyman Park Medical Associates, a 100-member physician's group, would not be affected by the closing.
The Hopkins officials said they are discussing alternative uses of HHC buildings with local organizations, including health care institutions.
"As hard as it is to eliminate these services, the end result will be a more responsive and responsible hospital system in the state," said Dr. Robert M. Heyssel, president of both Hopkins health system and hospital.
"Our experience shows that there is not a demand in this region for the number of small community hospitals now existing."
Top HHC management will be taking on other positions at Hopkins Hospital or Francis Scott Key Medical Center, the two surviving hospitals in the health system.
Taking the costs of operating HHC out of the Maryland health system, Wade said, "is crucial in our efforts to keep the rate of growth of hospital costs in the state below the national average."
Restraining that growth is the test Maryland must meet, he said, "to keep its federal Medicare waiver, which assures resources for all hospitals to treat all patients regardless of ability to pay."
The closing -- the first of its kind in Maryland -- will result in the loss of about 600 jobs, officials said, but some 400 positions will remain to support the physicians' group and its outpatient practice.
"Every effort will be made to identify available positions and assist employees in finding jobs," Heyssel said.
The affected employees are mostly nurses, social workers and those in support services and administration.
Despite reassurances, some who face the loss of jobs remained bitter and skeptical.
"We're angry, obviously," said Mary Chbostal, a 30-year-old operating room nurse, one of a handful of HHC-South employees who gathered outside the hospital in the 2700 block of N. Charles St. "They have no concerns for the community, no concerns for the staff."
Chbostal said management failed to notify the staff about the hospital's closure enough in advance to allow workers to seek other jobs. Many of the workers are approaching retirement age, she said, and they will have to enter a slim job market.
Larry Wilson, director of public affairs for HHC-South, said management realizes that employees would have preferred being told earlier. "But, in all candor, the decision wasn't made until late last week," he said.
The closure was recommended by the Hunter Group, a Chicago consulting firm, which, after several months of study, concluded that HHC-South could not continue to provide quality care without continued financial losses.
Homewood was formed in 1988 with the merger of the Wyman Park Public Health Services Hospital and North Charles General Hospital.