Good Delaware Medical News for Southern Cecil County

October 6, 2008

   For those of us living South of the C&D Canal, especially in the off-the-highway rural areas, there is good news for our health and our lives: the world-renowned Christiana Care Health System of Delaware has purchased a 108-acre site in Middletown, DE to develop a  24/7 state-of-the-art emergency room and medical facility with advanced and specialized health care. This would be the closest advanced medical facility for our southern Cecil communities.

   Right now, the theoretical “closest hospital,” under Emergency Medical Services (i.e., county ambulance)  transport rules, is Union Hospital in Elkton, unless you are living right up against the border to Kent County, MD and its proximity to Chestertown and their University of Maryland Medical System-affiliated hospital.  But for most of us southern Cecil residents, any critical medical situation now usually requires transport to Union Hospital. If you know your rights under Maryland law, to demand transport to a more advanced hospital, you can then insist on transfer, after initial Union Hospital delivery, to the Christiana campus in northern Delaware, where you have access to 24-hour advanced and critical medical care.

   Please, before all the Union Hospital donors and advocates attack us for this reporting of the facts, we realize that Union is a lot better than it used to be and that there are lots of fund-raising efforts on its behalf.

  But my own personal experience, that of friends, and data available with some difficulty from Union, shows that Union is hardly a world class facility. When I fell and broke my leg a few years ago on a Saturday morning, I was told “we don’t have any orthopedist… call us back on Monday.” When I had a life-threatening asthma attack, the nurses were wonderful and literally saved my life. A foreign “doctor” who spoke minimal English stuck her head in after the nurses saved me and said, “you ok?” without ever examining me. Of course, she and Union’s sub-contracted emergency services operation billed me several hundred dollars for that in-passing comment.

  We have received some of the glitzy printed newsletters and directories from Union, extolling the virtues of its services and staff. We were surprised that they glossed over the credentials of some medical folks whom I know were D.O.’s or osteopaths. They were unwilling to admit that many of their staff docs are not M.D.’s. So I called their PR officer and inquired about the credentials of the docs they were touting. I was told they did not disclose the degree– D.O. or M.D.– or educational credentials of their docs.

  Union has added some top caliber folks– like Dr. Ma, a Georgetown University MD, as chief of staff– and Dr. DeMuth, a Dartmouth grad, as a consulting orthopedist and surgery chief. But especially for emergency situations, that caliber of care is lacking at Union. It is the norm at Christiana.

   For us southern Cecil folks, we will have to wait a bit– but probably not for too long– for a top quality Christiana facility in Middletown. The proposed facility would be located at Route 1 and Del. 299, just east of downtown Middletown. The town board and mayor are ecstatic about this positive addition to that growing community and the zoning is in place already.

 “This is something you dream about and it’s been talked about for a long time,” Middletown Mayor Ken Branner told the Middletown Transcript. “Now that it is becoming a reality, it’s really unbelievable.”

   The state legislative delegation is also over-the-moon with support for the Christiana facility.

    Some of us southern Cecil County residents remember that it was just 6 or so years ago that we even got a south-of-the-canal paramedic unit assigned to our area by the county. My community is full of stories about the many people who died while waiting an hour or more for an ambulance in the past. Thankfully, our ambulance service has improved. But it is equally important where you get transported to when your life is at stake.

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