CHESTERTOWN, Md.- On the upper mid-shore of Maryland, the Chestertown Hospital will not be closed, at least for now. People are breathing a sigh of relief after state lawmakers stepped in to save the medical facility. Concerned citizens contacted their representatives in Annapolis, and now it will be illegal for the hospital there to close until 2020.
Dr. Gerard O'Connor is breathing a bit easier these days.
"Sen. Middleton has initiated legislation which has since been passed that protects us from becoming a free standing medical center," said O'Connor.
That means the hospital's inpatient services will remain intact, at least until 2020.
"They are not allowed to reduce any more services here like they have been," he said.
The hospital is run by the University of Maryland Shore Regional Health System. At the Kent and Queen Anne's Rescue Squad, they were concerned of the effects if inpatient services were lost.
"We run 1,600 calls a year. At least 60 percent of those if they were taken to a standalone ER would have to be transferred somewhere else," said Deputy Chief Allan Shauber.
And a transfer isn't a 10 minute trip down the road. A round-trip to Easton would take EMTs over two hours for a round trip, and possibly risk a patient's life according to Shauber.
Chestertown Mayor Chris Cerino says the work isn't over yet.
"This hospital is absolutely essential for the community. I think everyone understands that while it is a short term victory of sorts, we're in this for the long haul," said Cerino.
In the meantime, a statewide study begins to develop a plan for how rural hospitals in Maryland should operate.