Worcester County is wrong to yank all funding support of Atlantic General Hospital (AGH) from its next budget. I hope the four commissioners who supported the move get ripped by their constituents.
The decision was led by Commissioner Joe Mitrecic, who used a poor experience he had at the hospital to drive his motivation to kill funding for the hospital. Mitrecic was not alone with his opposition to exclude AGH from the budget with Commissioners Chip Bertino, Jim Bunting and Ted Elder believing nonprofits should not receive funding support from the government.
The county’s decision to renege on its capital campaign pledge of $100,000 annually in year four of five is appalling. Those funds are needed to support the projects outlined in the hospital’s capital campaign. I believe the county should provide an annual funding contribution – $75,000 in the current budget — to the county to support health care. However, it’s egregious to think the county would not fulfill its campaign pledge like hundreds of other private citizens and businesses are working through themselves. To make matters worse the county indicated the hospital should go to Sussex County for funding help, pointing to more than 40% of patients stemming from our northern neighbor. This is an embarrassing decision amid a global pandemic.
I admit this is a bit personal to me. I am a member of the board of directors of the AGH Foundation, which raises money for the hospital each year. I volunteer my time because I have first-hand experience of how important the hospital is to the community. In September of 2018, my family had the scare of a lifetime when our then-8-year-old special needs son had an acute dystonic reaction to a new medicine introduced to curb some concerning behavioral changes that had been occurring. It was a beautiful day when suddenly it looked like he was having a stroke. We were worried he was about to have a seizure. He was completely out of it, and we knew we had to get him to the hospital immediately. It was unlike anything either of us had ever witnessed.
Within 10 minutes of noticing his symptoms, we were at AGH and being seen by a nurse named Rachel and doctor (Dr. Greenwood). Having a hospital a mile away reduced our time of pure panic and fear from more than an hour most likely if we had to go to Salisbury to minutes. It was a huge deal. The drive, or ride in an ambulance, to Salisbury would have been torturous as we worried about long-term paralysis or worse. Those negative thoughts were wiped out in short order because AGH was so close, and we were assured they could get our guy back to baseline in short order.
Sure, there are stories of mistakes made by health care practitioners like Mitrecic reported in March after the hospital’s presentation. He himself was misguided evidently during his own health scare. It’s understandable to have concerns about quality health care, but it’s an overreaction to use it as a basis to pull funding support to the tune of $175,000 — $100,000 of which was pledged in a capital campaign. For every bad experience, which can happen at any hospital, there are numerous other positive outcomes. Concerns about Sussex County’s decision to not send funds directly to the hospital should have no bearing on whether the hospital’s home county should financially support.
At a minimum, the commissioners must fulfill their capital campaign pledge. It’s shameful and sets a terrible example for many of us in private industry who have similar ongoing pledges.
In recent weeks, there was hope among Ocean City area restaurants Gov. Larry Hogan’s first recovery phase would allow for outside dining with social distancing. Restaurants were completely left out of Wednesday’s announcement and are listed in the second phase of the governor’s plan with safety restrictions. It’s appearing more likely a gradual phasing of capacity will be part of the plan for reopening restaurants.
In a desperate letter to elected officials, the health department and the Board of License Commissioners, Ocean 13 Restaurant owner Jeremy Brink outlined requests on behalf of himself and other operators. Three main points were highlighted in his letter. First, it was requested the open container ordinance be amended to allow “adults the ability to stop in, order a drink and go relax on the beach or stroll through town … much of our profit is made on alcohol sales and with all phases of re-opening our capacity will be greatly reduced for the entire 2020 season.” The second request was “the use of sidewalk space and parking lots for table service will allow us to follow physical distancing measures while providing an outdoor environment we feel many
customers will be looking for as an option for ‘eating out’ in the ‘new normal.’” The final point was amending noise ordinance restrictions to allow for live music in areas previously prohibited as well as extending the hours permitted.
In the letter, Brink summed up what many operators are feeling right now. “This pandemic has shifted a lot of businesses into survival mode. We are fighting to make it. All of our business models are shattered. These next few phases of recovery require certain restrictions to be eased so that we may make a real attempt at saving our businesses,” he write.