Urging Nuvance to look at increase in young families

SHARON — Impassioned speeches urging Nuvance Health to retain full services at Sharon Hospital were aired at a community rally on the Sharon Green on Saturday afternoon, Nov. 6.  The event drew about 300 supporters from area towns, including town and state political leaders.

Residents of New York state and Connecticut lined up to sign letters opposing Nuvance’s plans and asking state officials to assist.

The rally was organized by a citizens’ group named Save Sharon Hospital, formed in 2018, when initial plans to reduce services were announced. At issue once again are Nuvance’s planned reductions in services within the labor and delivery department at the hospital as well as other areas, including surgical and ICU.

Founded in 1909, Sharon Hospital now has 78 beds and serves 20 area communities and their 41,000 residents, in Connecticut and New York.

A merger in 2019 transferred ownership of the hospital to nonprofit Nuvance Health, based in New York State, with the new owner pledging to retain all services for a period of at least five years.

Now in the third year of its pledge, Nuvance is seeking to reduce services. Area residents and doctors have been vocal in opposition to the reductions.

State Rep. Maria Horn (D-64) spoke at the rally and recalled that three years before, state regulators had told Nuvance to keep labor and delivery as a condition of approval of the merger.

Horn told the crowd that Nuvance cannot make a change to that promise without the permission of state officials. She noted that a public hearing will be part of that process.

Also pledging support of the effort was Gregg Pulver, chair of the Dutchess County Legislature (R-19), who decried the “degradation of Sharon Hospital.”

“We need to keep this going,” Pulver told the rally supporters.

Remembering his 30 years of experience delivering babies at Sharon Hospital, Dr. Howard Mortman urged that the changes not be allowed to happen. His comments were bolstered by other speakers who evoked emotion as they recounted stories of Mortman’s skill and depth of character, which saw them through some difficult deliveries, remaining by their sides until the outcome was assured.

First Selectman Gordon Ridgway of Cornwall (who is also an ambulance driver for the town) observed that the rally crowd on Nov. 6 was larger than at the rally three years ago. He suggested pivoting the problem toward the positive. He said that he is seeing more baby strollers in the area these days.

“We are just beginning on this,” Ridgway said, noting the region’s efforts to get more young families to move here.

Pointing to increased school enrollment as an indicator of growing demographics, Dr. David Kurish urged residents to contribute to the Save Sharon Hospital fundraising opportunities, to assist with legal fees as they arise.

“The Town of North East will stand with you,” town Supervisor Chris Kennan told the crowd, having described the importance of the hospital to the area. North East is the larger town that includes the village of Millerton.

“We want to be sure that our voices are loud and clear,” Kent First Selectman Jean Speck said, pointing to the young children running about at the rally and calling them the future of Sharon Hospital.

Resident Corey Murphy urged Nuvance to listen to the community and to think creatively.

Kent resident Chris Garrity noted that the area has seen a 40% increase in population. He urged Nuvance to recognize the opportunity represented by those numbers.

Applying his forensic accounting experience to the issue, Victor Germack of Salisbury saw the plans to close the maternity services as impactful to women’s rights.

“They must show us the numbers,” Germack said. He urged Nuvance to “put the mission ahead of the profit margin.”

For more information about Save Sharon Hospital, go to www.savesharonhospital.org. They are also seen on Instagram at Save_Sharon_Hospital or on Facebook at Save Sharon Hospital.

Area residents who had either been born at or delivered their babies in Sharon Hospital’s Labor and Delivery department gathered for a group photo at the Save Sharon Hospital rally on Saturday, Nov. 6. Photo by Leila Hawken

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