Health, News

Overnight stays go away in Medford hospital

MEDFORD — For the first in more than 100 years no patient will be able to get overnight inpatient hospital care in either Malden or Medford.

Lawrence Memorial Hospital in Medford on Monday formally discontinued all inpatient medical and surgical care and beds and its top official announced that all care would be consolidated with inpatient service provided at Melrose-Wakefield Hospital in Melrose.

Hallmark Health operates both the LMH and MWH facilities and Chief Executive Officer Alan Macdonald said Tuesday the change is being made in concert with the major changes in the healthcare industry overall.

“Healthcare is changing to better serve patient needs,” Macdonald said in a statement. “Advances in technology and medications, combined with improved health screenings and better health management, have dramatically changed the way healthcare is delivered. Growing outpatient procedures, advances in day surgery, and the availability of telemedicine, have greatly decreased the need for overnight hospital stays that were once the norm.”

Founded more than a half century ago, LMH has cut its inpatient beds for the past several years. Five years ago, LMH had 134 inpatient and intensive care beds. In early 2015, that number fell to 90, then 60 inpatient beds by the end of the year and the latest count stood at 40 beds.

Macdonald said more than 60 percent of the service provided at LMH and Melrose-Wakefield, also a Hallmark hospital, is now outpatient care. He said that percentage reflects a healthcare trend spreading regionally and nationwide.

“There is growing demand for outpatient care. (It is) a dramatic change from just a few years ago, and entirely consistent with other hospitals in the Commonwealth,” Macdonald said in a statement. “Our inpatient beds are now underutilized as inpatient stays have decreased. At Lawrence Memorial Hospital the average daily census of our medical/surgical inpatient beds is 17 patients — less than one third of the licensed capacity.”

Even those with chronic ailments or low-risk general surgical procedures like biopsies no longer require overnight stays, Macdonald said.

“Today, our goal is to help keep our patients out of the hospital; to manage chronic conditions and to advance outpatient services that better meet patient-care needs,” he said. “It is better for our patients and represents a fundamental shift in health care, in how we care for our patients, and how care will be reimbursed.”

LMH is not closing entirely in the near future, Hallmark stated. The healthcare provider plans to maintain full, 24-hour emergency care at the Medford facility. All other specialty, outpatient and community services will remain at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, Macdonald said, including urgent care center; inpatient behavioral health; radiology, mammography, advanced diagnostic imaging services; pharmacy and laboratory services; as well as many community health programs.

“We want to build the right types of services for the future, and invest in the areas of healthcare where there will be the greatest need,” he said. “The future for Lawrence Memorial Hospital is to provide the right type of care in the right setting that our patients want and need.”

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