Handling of ER disappointing

The decision by St. Joseph Hospital to change its emergency room at Milford Medical Center to an urgent care center has been fraught with problems from the start.

Last year, the hospital told the town it might make the change. Then its former CFO told the state’s Executive Council that the emergency room would stay. The Council’s approval of more than $5 million in financing for the Nashua Street facility’s new building seemed to hinge on that promise that the emergency room stay open.

But last summer, the hospital decided the emergency room had to go, and the change would happen in the fall.

On Sunday, the change took place – five days after the hospital sent out a notice to this newspaper and to local ambulance services, who are directly affected.

In the long run, the urgent care facility is probably a good thing for the hospital and for the public.

We are, however, disappointed in the way the hospital handled its decision to change, especially the way it neglected to make a good faith effort to keep the public, and the ambulance services, fully informed as the process moved along.

What happened last week? That we don’t understand.

The hospital had two options to obviate this element of surprise:

It could have found some way to keep ambulance services and the public in the loop through press releases, as well as a public meeting.

Barring that, the hospital could have gotten its state approval but delayed making the change for, say, two weeks, giving ambulance directors and the public 19 days instead of five to learn about and get used to the new reality.

Neither of those things was done and that is too bad. Part of the job, we believe, of any business, especially a nonprofit business that is vital to a community’s well-being, is to communicate with the public.

This time, the hospital dropped the ball.