2020 was an incredibly challenging year for health care organizations nationwide, and University of Maryland Shore Regional Health was no exception. In mid-March, the arrival of COVID-19 marked the beginning of dramatic new demands in every aspect of inpatient and outpatient care — demands that, of course, continue in this New Year. I am profoundly grateful to our Shore Regional Health team members at all levels and in all locations for their caring, compassionate and ongoing response to the pandemic. Led by our Chief Medical Officer and Incident Command Structure Chief Dr. William Huffner, with guidance from our UMMS’ Incident Command Structure and collaboration our many community partners, the Shore team wasted no time in creating new protocols for the health and safety of our patients, our team members and the community at large. Their amazing work in this regard continues to this day, saving lives and protecting the health of our community.
For all its challenges, 2020 also saw many exciting and promising developments at UM Shore Regional Health. To name just a few:
We expanded access to telemedicine throughout our provider network, UM Shore Medical Group, as a model of safe and convenient care and also a means of providing education and support for patients managing chronic or serious conditions such as diabetes, cancer and stroke recovery. This month, we passed a major milestone – 25,000 telemedicine appointments since mid-March when the pandemic began.
We welcomed more than 500 new team members to our health care family, many in our hospitals but also in UM Shore Medical Group, in our diverse outpatient diagnostic and rehabilitation services, and our emergency and urgent care facilities. As part of UMMS, we also assumed full ownership and management of the former “Choice One” Urgent Care Centers in Denton and Easton, and welcomed their providers and staff to the Shore team.
We began construction on our UM Shore Medical Campus at Cambridge and celebrate its steady progress. As this new, freestanding medical facility rises in Cambridge Marketplace on Route 50 and remains on schedule for opening in the fall of this year, we look forward to the transformation of health care in Dorchester County.
An integral part of our Cambridge health care transformation is the relocation of inpatients beds from UM Shore Medical Center at Dorchester to Easton. The renovation of UM Shore Medical Center at Easton has begun and when complete later this summer, a total of 17 medical/surgical inpatient beds and 13 behavioral health inpatient beds will be added. These beds also are included in our plans for a new regional medical center in Easton.
In Kent County, we continue to strive toward the establishment of a new model of health care that would designate UM Shore Medical Center at Chestertown as a rural, critical access hospital, including a complementary Aging and Wellness Center of Excellence. This designation will help ensure that Kent and northern Queen Anne’s county have the healthcare resources needed to thrive.
We celebrated the 10th anniversary of our outstanding UM Shore Emergency Center in Queenstown –one of the first freestanding medical facilities in Maryland. The Emergency Center serves an average of 16,000 patients each year and now serves as the model of care planned for implementation in at least two additional locations on the western shore as well as in Cambridge.
We continue to strengthen our partnership with University of Maryland Medical System and the UM School of Medicine to advance access to the highest quality care, close to home, for Eastern Shore residents. One important service for the Shore, our Cancer Program, now benefits from a stronger affiliation with the University of Maryland Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center, making participation in cancer treatment trials more accessible to patients on the Shore, and also bringing an extra level of support and expertise to our Requard Radiation Oncology Center in Easton.
2020 brought excellent recognition for Shore in the arena of cardiac and stroke care. Our Cardiac Intervention Center (CIC) at UM Shore Medical Center at Easton, opened just two years ago to provide life-saving care for cardiac patients, was awarded the American Heart Association’s Mission: Lifeline® Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award for implementing specific quality improvement measures for the treatment of patients suffering severe heart attacks. For the third year in a row, our Primary Stroke Center at UM Shore Medical Center at Easton was recognized by the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association with top awards for achievement in providing the most effective stroke treatment according to nationally recognized, research-based guidelines.
Also in the arena of recognition is the recent “A” rating earned by UM Shore Medical Centers at Chestertown, Dorchester and Easton from The Leapfrog Hospital Group. The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade is a single letter grade representing a hospital’s overall performance in keeping patients safe from errors, injuries, accidents and infections. Founded in 2000, The Leapfrog Group is a national nonprofit organization that advances the quality and safety of American health care. The three Shore Regional Health hospitals are among only 34 percent of hospitals nationwide to earn their highest “A” designation.
Throughout 2020, our hospital foundations continued to support the advancement of health care in their respective communities. The Chester River Health Foundation raised funds to support the purchase of a new telemetry system for our Chestertown hospital, and support received through the Dorchester General Hospital Foundation’s appeal will help purchase state-of-the-art mammogram technology for installation in UM Shore Medical Campus at Cambridge. UM Memorial Hospital Foundation events and appeals benefited the Clark Comprehensive Breast Center, UM Shore Emergency Center at Queenstown and Surgical Services in UM Shore Medical Center at Easton. We are infinitely grateful to all donors and volunteers who support our Foundations and their role in making quality health care possible, now and in the future, for our five-county region.
Lastly, 2020 was a truly remarkable year in terms of the outpouring of generosity and good will our health care network received from scores of individuals, groups and community organizations as the pandemic took hold. Our entire team was touched by the thoughtfulness of those who provided food, supplies, masks and messages of support for health care workers, first responders and essential personnel. These gifts and gestures have meant so much to all of us and helped strengthen our commitment to advancing UM Shore Regional Health and achieving our mission, Creating Healthier Communities Together.
As we move forward into this New Year, our Shore Healthcare Heroes, along with our community partnerships, will remain an integral part of our success. We look forward to continued progress in 2021 and to enhancing our role as an anchor institution serving the people of Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties.
Ken Kozel is President and CEO of UM Shore Regional Health