Letters to the Editor - The Millerton news - 12-1-22

Our caring hospital

I am sitting by my wife in a Sharon Hospital room as she gently but inexorably comes to the end of our 72-year love affair, the last sixty enriched among our Litchfield Hills. The afternoon November sunlight streams over our hills through the room’s southwest-facing windows.

She sleeps comfortably, tended lovingly and carefully by Nurse Bobbie Jo and her colleagues, surrounded by family, for we have been given one of the hospital’s generously proportioned rooms on the second floor designed for such occasions. It is only yards from the room where she recovered from giving birth to our fourth daughter 58 years ago.

As I hold her hand, giving thanks for her love, our life together and the family we have made, I add thanks for the warm, personal care we receive from Bob Chase and Kaki Schaefer-Reid, the volunteer ambulance responders to my 4 a.m. call for help, the sympathetic, caring Emergency and ICU nurses, doctors and staff who quickly eased her pain, treated her considerately and explained our options before moving her to the second floor staff and Hospice nurses who do all in their power to succor her and her family through our ordeal.

We are blessed to have a community hospital staffed with such humane, competent people. How very different is our reception here than in the impersonal mega-hospitals of big cities. It is no accident that Sharon Hospital puts personal care of neighbors first. It was created by local leadership, generosity and dedicated medical professionals over generations. It represents who we have been — and I hope — still are.

Recently, our hospital fell into the grasp of Nuvance, a medical industry invasive species which promised to “save” it financially but, once in control, threatens to jettison its tradition of care as wasteful, to scrap its maternity and ICU wards, and convert it into a moneymaking outpatient diagnostic center, with the top floor rumored to be converted from caring service to Nuvance’s executive suite, its officers replacing patients where my wife is now receiving such loving care.

As Dr. Kurish, who has selflessly ministered to my wife, warns us, only we who live here, depend on and love our hospital can be trusted to save its caring, nonprofit mission.

Carr Ferguson



Sharon Hospital is not closing

I am a member of the Sharon community, and a clinical navigator at Sharon Hospital. I am writing in support of Sharon Hospital’s transformation plan, and to remind community members that Sharon Hospital is OPEN and welcoming all patients.

In 1993, I started working at Sharon Hospital on a temporary basis and never left.  Sharon Hospital is an incredible place, and one that should be a part of our community for years to come.

The healthcare system in the United States is changing, and while all hospitals are affected, those in rural areas are particularly impacted. Adapting to these changes to best serve the needs of patients requires a tremendous amount of skill and fortitude by those in leadership.

I have watched this evolution of healthcare at Sharon Hospital over the past 29 years. So many changes over this time have been positive and are seen through clinical advancements — for example, 25 years ago, a hip replacement would keep a patient in the hospital for two weeks. Today, it’s a few days at most. These advancements are seen in so many services, and because of this, we are seeing the role of the hospital change.

We are also seeing rising costs and changing populations, which pose challenges for all hospitals. Despite our proudly held five-star status, Sharon Hospital is not immune to these challenges, and so I urge my community to understand that Sharon Hospital must adapt to survive this difficult time in healthcare.

I understand my community’s feelings around closing our Labor and Delivery unit. However, I have witnessed firsthand the underutilization of this service. At times, many days go by and our Labor and Delivery Unit sees no patients. I have also seen the vulnerability of our aging community and the changing healthcare environment and our system’s commitment to help our hospital meet those needs.

I have great respect for my neighbors who are passionate about making a change in our community. However, our community needs to come together to address misinformation, which can have the unintended effect of hurting the hospital. We need to make it clear that Sharon Hospital is here, providing five-star care to the region 24/7/365.

Words matter. When the staff at Sharon Hospital formed a group in support of the hospital in the 1990s, we called our group “Friends of Sharon Hospital,” words that exude support without raising alarm. I urge my community to be forward-looking and positive as we come together to support the future of Sharon Hospital. This future may include tough choices, but I believe Sharon Hospital leadership is acting in the interests of our community.

Sharon Hospital is not closing. We are here for you.

With respect to all involved.

Jim Hutchison



Invasives need control

We on the Sharon Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission read with interest your recent article, “Why invasive species matter,” and commend The Lakeville Journal for publishing this significant piece.

Our committee is particularly concerned about the threat invasive plants pose to sensitive wetland and watercourse areas, and how invasive species are negatively impacting water quality, habitat and bank stabilization.

We recently published a brochure detailing best practices for disposal of invasive plants. It is available at the Sharon Town Hall Land Use office as well as all of the local libraries.

James Krissel,

Sharon Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission



Making tough choices at Sharon Hospital

As a member of the Salisbury community, I support Nuvance Health, Sharon Hospital, and their plan to preserve our region’s healthcare access by closing an underutilized and unsustainable service.

I’m in no way affiliated with the hospital. I heard about the proposed changes as a member of the community, and I want to use my decades of experience as a healthcare leader—including leading rural hospitals—to help my neighbors understand the stark financial landscape that all hospitals have faced over the past 20 years.

I am impressed that the plan is comprehensive, forward-looking, and growth based. It didn’t need to be this way – over 100 rural hospitals have closed in the last decade. When faced with the difficult choice between adapting to meet the challenges facing our industry or maintaining the status quo, most of them chose to maintain the status quo, forcing them to close their doors and jeopardize patients’ access to care. With maternity volume nowhere near sustaining the unit, keeping the department open jeopardizes the entire hospital, including services in high-demand. I have yet to see a viable plan to keep Sharon Hospital open in the long-term without service reductions.

Nuvance, like most hospitals in the U.S., is a nonprofit – meaning it has a mission of serving its patients and communities. Unfortunately, nonprofits face most of the same challenges and responsibilities as other businesses.

For example, a grocery store needs to pay its staff, electricity bills, and supply costs. If it does not make enough revenue to cover these costs, it will be forced to close. The same is true for hospitals. To remain open, they need to be able to pay the salary, benefits, and pensions of their workforce; fund necessary repairs and maintenance projects; and buy supplies and equipment. And like all businesses, hospitals grapple with inflation and a tumultuous job market.

So what is the difference between nonprofit hospitals and other businesses?

First, they are funded differently. Most hospital funding comes from government and private insurers by way of patient revenue. In rural markets, much of this revenue comes from Medicaid and Medicare, which pay hospitals less than commercial insurers – well below what it costs hospitals to provide their services. This funding is supported by investments and philanthropy, but given market volatility and the instability of these sources in providing year-over-year revenue, hospitals rely less on these contributions to support operational costs.

The difference that inspired me to spend my career in nonprofit healthcare, though, is the benefit to patients when nonprofits thrive. For-profit entities keep “leftover” revenue, while nonprofits like Sharon Hospital invest it in programs that serve their mission. That is why Sharon Hospital leadership continues saying that by cutting a service that loses millions of dollars each year, they can grow in other areas. This is a reality.

This tough decision will help Sharon Hospital serve our community for years to come. I urge our community to reflect on this and join me in supporting the hospital’s transformation plan.

George Zara



Vote on Webutuck capital project Tuesday

A reminder for our community that on Tuesday, Dec. 6, from noon to 9 p.m., the North East (Webutuck) Central School District is holding an important vote on a Capital Improvement Project in the High School gym.

It is important to know the debt-neutral project will address several health and safety needs for students and staff. The project includes new roofs at all three buildings, an HVAC system that will have a fresh air exchange in our classrooms, an emergency stand-by generator, an age-appropriate playground at the middle school, as well as other site work.

Again, this is a debt-neutral project that will have zero increase in taxes due to expiring debts from previous projects. Please visit www.webutuckschools.org to learn more about the project. Thank you,

Ray Castellani

Superintendent of Schools

North East (Webutuck) Central School District



Library annex article needs clarification

As president of the Board of Trustees of the Amenia Free Library, I want to thank each and every one of the nearly 150 community members who attended the Open House Celebration of our Expanded and renovated library on Saturday, Nov. 19. To correct the article in the 11/24 issue of this newspaper, I wanted to point out that a donation was in Honor of former Librarian, Miriam Devine — definitely not “in memory.”

Our architect was Darlene (not Arlen) Riemer and we were visited by Senator Sue Serino (not Serena). Along with Library Director, Victoria Herow, I’d like to invite everyone who missed out on the opportunity to tour our wonderful new facility, to stop in and check out our new home with its comfortable seating and workspaces, expanded program opportunities, and cheerful, knowledgeable staff.

Alan Gamble


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