A community of health-conscious cardiac survivors here on Cape Ann was deeply saddened by Northeast Health Systems’ decision to shutter the Cardio-Pulmonary Rehabilitation Clinic at Addison Gilbert Hospital. We have all benefited from this program and it is a further degradation of our community hospital that it is being closed. We are writing to put a public face on its impact, as it comes upon us like a death in our collective family.
We have been grateful patients at this Clinic for months and years, based on referral from a primary care physician or cardiologist. Some members of the Clinic have been regularly attending for ten, twelve and more years, forming lasting bonds with medical staff and other patients. The resource that the clinic at AGH has provided, with a qualified exercise physiologist overlooking our exercise regimens, checking blood pressure and heart rates, is a safe, structured environment for us to recover under supervision from heart procedures and other challenging medical issues, rebuilding strength and health. Ages at the Clinic group range from Forties right through Nineties, some needing oxygen while exercising, and others having blood sugar monitored due to diabetes.
Most of us at the Cardiac Rehab Clinic come at the same time of day, with a group of eight to ten others, three times a week for an hour or more of safe, structured, healthy workout. Good diet, reduction of stress, and weight control are all regular goals and topics. Sometime the supervising exercise physiologist will send one of us back home, to the doctor, or right downstairs to the Emergency Room because we haven’t taken our prescribed medications, or our blood pressure, heart rate, or blood sugar level is not on par. Occasionally one in the group has suffered a cardiac event while on the exercise bike or treadmill – Code Red ! – and fortunately the AGH hospital ER staff was close at hand, in the exercise room within minutes.
This clinic truly has been a health community, especially for those living alone or struggling with fading health and aging bodies. It occupies one small room at the hospital, with a dozen pieces of equipment, placed so that we face each other so we can talk as we exercise. An important, life-supporting element of the Clinic has been the friendships, lively conversation about art, music, travel and current events, social activities and performances in the local community, and the personal support, sharing home garden produce and fresh eggs, favorite recipes, and family news, as well as concerns about health care, doctors, flu and coumadin clinics. Such conversations make the treadmill miles fly by more quickly than any TV station.
Why is this beneficial health maintenance program in our community hospital being closed? If only it was because we were all so healthy as we age that we did not need it any longer – but no, it is because of needed "financial efficiencies", and because the doctors and medical professionals don’t have incentives to actively refer candidate patients to the Rehab program, keeping the enrollment up. The hospital consequentially doesn’t make enough money with it, like they do with medical procedures such as coronary bypass surgeries, angioplasty and defibrillator implants. Paradoxically, we live in an isolated cape community where the Cape Ann Medical Center physicians are employees of one health care provider, Partners Community Healthcare, that financially competes against Addison Gilbert Hospital’s parent Northeast Health Systems corporation, undermining financial incentives to promote and maintain our local Cardiac Rehab program.
There was an article in the Boston Globe in January, "The Beat Goes On" by reporter Kay Lazar, documenting how programs like our Cardiac Rehab at AGH really work, significantly increasing patients’ health and survival rates, but are being closed down nonetheless. We posted this article on the wall in our clinic, and discussed it as we exercised. Our staying healthy with this program is an investment in preventative medicine that saves the "system" money in the big picture, but the hospital, health insurance companies, and politics of state and federal government subsidies don’t, apparently, see enough profits to keep us and such health programs alive. It’s a shame to lose it.
Scott Memhard, 9 Graystone Road, Gloucester
Angela Libro, 16 Commonweath Avenue, Gloucester
Adele Q Ervin, Manchester, MA
Stanley Feener, 16 Macomber Road, Gloucester
Seraphina Cranston, 9 Brightside Avenue, Gloucester
Norman Hersey, Normand Ave, Manchester
Nancy Rossi, Thatcher Road, Rockport
Lucy Russo, Gloucester
Charlotte U. Smith, Rockport
Oliver Balf, Cove Hill Lane, Rockport
Adam Pool, 16 Story Street, Rockport
Robert A. Walters, Jr, Rockport
Frederick H. Brigham, Essex
Clif Hayes, Rockport
Muriel A Lovasco, 8 High Popplies, Gloucester
Catherine Talty, Gloucester
Bill Chapin, Gloucester
follow up contact:
Scott Memhard, President
Cape Pond Ice Company
aka Bresnahan Ice Company, Lawrence & Peabody Icehouse
104 Commercial Street, PO Box 440, Gloucester MA 01930