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Eastern Shore hospital to convert to medical center

A concept sketch of the new University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Cambridge, expected to be completed by 2021. (Image from filing)

A concept sketch of the new University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Cambridge, expected to be completed by 2021. (Image from filing)

Dorchester County’s only hospital plans to close and convert to a medical center while moving some beds and treatment options to an affiliated hospital in Talbot County, according to regulatory filings.

The combined $50 million project will see the University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Dorchester convert to a freestanding medical facility, a medical center that includes an emergency department with behavioral health services and patient observation rooms.

The new medical center, to be known as University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Cambridge, is expected to be completed by summer 2021. That is when the beds slated for Easton will move and the old hospital will close down.

The Dorchester hospital, part of the University of Maryland Shore Regional Health system, an affiliate of the University of Maryland Medical System, will send 29 beds to the University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Easton, leaving the new facility with 13 beds.

The move follows a trend in Maryland of aging hospitals looking to strip down a lot of their in-patient services to just the emergency department. The in-patient services then move to a more modern affiliated hospital while outpatient services move into nearby buildings, creating a medical campus.

Laurel Regional Hospital in Prince George’s County and Havre de Grace’s Harford Memorial Hospital have filed to undergo similar changes.

In Dorchester County, the new, 42,000-square-foot facility will be at Cambridge Marketplace along US Route 50, about a mile from the old location. Plans include an emergency department with 23 patient rooms, space for behavioral health services and a range of lab, imaging and other support services.

Building the new facility is expected to cost more than $42 million, while the price tag of renovating the Easton hospital to include the new beds will be more than $8 million.

“Renovation of the facility is not cost-effective and the approximately 11-acre site on the waterfront in Cambridge is more suitable today for redevelopment benefitting the City of Cambridge and Dorchester County, and their economic development and job creation efforts,” a filing with the Maryland Health Care Commission states.

Moving to Easton will be 17 medical/surgical/critical care beds and 12 psychiatric beds. The Easton hospital is about 15 miles away from Cambridge.

In its filing with the health care commission, Shore Regional Health anticipates the emergency department at the new facility will be able to replicate nearly everything the hospital is able to do. The only exception will be limited non-stroke EMS priority 1 patients or patients requiring inpatient medical/surgical, psychiatric or surgical capabilities. But depending on the severity of those cases, they could be triaged at Cambridge before being transferred to Easton or another acute care facility.

The site of the new emergency facility will also include a separate medical office building, called the University of Maryland Shore Medical Pavilion at Cambridge. The 51,000-square-foot building will have two floors including pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, among other specialties, along with lab, imaging physical therapy and outpatient services. The pavilion will also include an outpatient surgery center with one operating room.

The changes come as officials had to decide what to do with the aging Cambridge hospital. The facility was built in phases between 1906 and 1960, according to the filing, and has undergone more revisions and updates since. But the hospital’s physical plant has outlived its usefulness.

Building a new hospital at another site was considered, but the health system decided it would not be cost effective or consistent with state planning. Instead, the medical center option was considered most efficient.

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