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Health Care: Vital to Maryland’s Eastern Shore Economy

Discover Maryland's Eastern Shore's medical network and the several outstanding health-care organizations providing innovative services to residents.

By Dava Stewart on May 16, 2016

Maryland Hospital
Easton / Courtesy of University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Easton

A well-functioning, high-quality health care network contributes to the economic development of any community, and the Eastern Shore is no exception. The region is home to several specialty and primary health-care providers that offer critical care and innovative services to meet the needs of a growing patient population. The University of Maryland Shore Regional Health system operates three hospitals and employs 2,500 people, making it a top economic driver for the area. Along with supporting jobs, the system works hard to ensure that residents have access to services to stay healthy and receive treatment when necessary.

One of the organization’s key goals is to make sure that residents can access the care they need, says Trena Williamson, regional director of communications and marketing.“Our service area is a good hour and a half from the top to the bottom,” she says. New facilities such as the UM Shore Medical Pavilion at Dorchester, the UM Shore Medical Center at Chestertown and the new UM Shore Surgery Center at Queenstown are all part of the effort to provide specialty care where it’s needed in an efficient manner. The various centers allow specialists to work between them and reach more people.

“There’s not necessarily a need for a full-time cardiologist in each county, but it makes sense to have a cardiologist spend a day or two a week in a county,” Williamson says. Another effort to provide outstanding service and convenience is the $6.5 million renovation of the system’s diagnostic and imaging center in Easton. “The current imaging facilities are being renovated, but in conjunction with that, we will be relocating our breast cancer center,” says communications and marketing specialist Christina Wingate-Spence. The project will bring the imaging center, breast center and cancer care center together in one location, making it easier for patients to get the care they need. A local organization, the Clark Charitable Foundation, made a $5 million gift toward the renovation, and the breast center will take the name of the Clark Comprehensive Breast Center in honor of that generous gift.

Meeting Community Needs

Union Hospital in Cecil County, which employs 1,200 people, is also working to meet the needs of the community by adding to its services. “Union Hospital is an important contributor to the economic vitality of our community,” says Kenneth Lewis, MD, JD, Union Hospital president and CEO. “In non-urban areas, hospitals are often one of the largest employers. The multiplier effect of hospital spending on local business and suppliers is very significant. Accessible health care is an important measure of local quality of life.”

Adding urgent care centers is one way the hospital is making health care more accessible for residents. The centers are designed to help reduce wait times for the hospital’s emergency room by bringing patients with minor ailments there first. The first of two planned urgent care centers recently opened in Perryville. “I feel we’ve definitely had an impact in providing service to that community,” says Mark Smith, director of ambulatory services. “We are seeing an average of about 20 patients a day.” The center is also helping reduce insurance copays for patients. “We were getting feedback from patients that insurance companies are charging very high copay for ER visits,” Smith says. “At our urgent care centers, patients save money.”

In addition to the UM Shore Regional Health system and Union Hospital, the region is home to Perry Point VA Medical Center, the largest inpatient facility in Maryland’s VA health- care system, as well as the nonprofit Choptank Community Health System, which provides primary care through a network of clinics in Caroline, Dorchester and Talbot counties. Maryland’s Eastern Shore is also just an hour’s drive from John Hopkins Hospital, one of the world’s top medical centers.

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