Hospital's closing `a done deal,' official says

Crowd at forum upset about Church's shutdown

October 19, 1999|By Kurt Streeter | Kurt Streeter,SUN STAFF

A top official of MedStar Health, the company that owns Chuch Hospital in East Baltimore, said last night that the 142-year-old institution will definitely begin to shut its doors next month and will not listen to community efforts to keep it open.

"The hospital is closing, that is a done deal. There's nothing that can be done," said John L. Green, vice president of planning for Columbia-based MedStar Health.

Green's message sent a wave of anger through a crowd of about 200 people who attended an informational meeting in a cramped auditorium at the hospital.

Elected officials, physicians, patients and nurses peppered Green and Ann Failing, president of Church Home, with questions about why the hospital was closing and what can be done to save it.

"I've been coming here since 1966, my husband died here, and this place saved my life when I had medical problems this year," shouted Delores Bernhart, 62, whose close relationship with Church Hospital was echoed by many. "Don't they realize what they are doing to people like me and my community? It's terrible!"

Last month, MedStar announced the hospital, Baltimore's second oldest and the site where Edgar Allan Poe died, will close.

The hospital recently disclosed that Nov. 1 would be the final day for its acute care facility, according to Dr. Ahsan S. Kahn, who has organized a group of about 80 practitioners at Church to fight the closing. The hospital's nursing home -- the permanent residence of 72 elderly patients -- and adult day care facility will cease operation by early next year.

Green said MedStar was working to find homes for the residents and new jobs for employees.

He added the hospital has been steadily losing money the past few years and cited a loss of $3 million last year and a projected loss of $6 million this year. He also claimed Baltimore has too many hospital beds, which is forcing small hospitals out of business.

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