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FRAMINGHAM – The MetroWest Medical Center’s Governing Board unanimously voted not to support Tenet Healthcare’s decision to close the oncology departments at the Framingham-based hospital.

The Tuesday April 26 vote was unanimous.

The motion was made by board member Michael Herbert, according to multiple board members. Herbert is also the Town Manager in Ashland.

On April 13, SOURCE broke the news that Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare planned to close the oncology departments at MetroWest Medical Center, and recommend its cancer care center patients go to its sister hospital in Worcester – Saint Vincent Hospital.

The governing board held its first meeting since that announcement on Tuesday.

The MetroWest Medical Center’s “Governing Board provides local guidance to advance healthcare quality and services at MetroWest Medical Center.”

The board is comprised of representatives from local organizations as well as physicians.

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The chair of the governing board was Lisa Sotir M.D.

Other members of the board are Katherine Hein, M.D., Prashant Kulkami, (former Framingham Assistant Superintendent of schools) Joseph Corazzini, Bowditch & Dewey attorney Katherine Garrahan, Tammy Harris, M.D. and Steven Spiegel, M.D.

Ex officio members are Anatoly (Tony) Sukharsky, M.D. and Basava Vallabaneni, M.D.

MetroWest Medical Center CEO Ava Collins attended the governing board meeting.

After the announcement of the closure of the oncology departments, Collins announced her resignation. SOURCE was the first media outlet to break the news.

MetroWest Medical Center/Tenet Healthcare has filed with the state to close the oncology departments.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health will need to hold a hearing on the closure.

The state can not force the hospital to stay open but it can put some restrictions on the hospital based on need and mitigating factors.

The Framingham Union Hospital/MetroWest Medical Center’s Medical Executive Committee also voted against the the decision by Tenet Healthcare to close outpatient Medical Oncology and Radiation Oncology at MetroWest Medical Center.  

Senate President Karen Spilka and City of Framingham Mayor Charlie Sisitsky has been very strong against the closure.

So has State Rep. Danielle Gregoire been vocal.

“I am disappointed to hear of Tenet’s plan to close their cancer outpatient treatment facility at MetroWest Medical Center.  This decision, which may ultimately provide the ability to keep the remainder of hospital services open at that location, will have a negative impact on area residents going through something that most of us cannot even begin to imagine,” said Rep. Gregoire, who will represent a portion of Framingham under redistricting.

 “I have contacted the Department of Public Health to inquire as to whether an appeal from the staff, patients or community is feasible but have been told that is not the case.  I am proud of efforts taken in November by the MA House of Representatives in passing legislation to ensure that privately owned hospitals are subject to vastly increased oversight so that closures like this will not happen in the future,” said Rep. Gregoire, who represents the 4th Middlesex District.

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On Monday, April 25 Senate President Spilka, Mayor Sisitsky and Rep. Jack Patrick Lewis were on a private call with Tenet CEO of Massachusetts Carolyn Jackson.

Mayor Sisitsky said Jackson insisted the closure of the oncology departments was not a “cost-cutting” measure.

The Mayor said Jackson told the group there are plenty of places in proximity to Framingham when cancer patients can get treatments.

MetroWest Medical Center issued its own press release on the issue, which SOURCE published in its entirety.

Mayor Sisitsky told SOURCE he was not satisfied with those answers.

Mayor Sisitsky said there are cancer patients in Framingham who do not have transportation to Worcester or other locations for treatment. And he added that some can not afford transportation to treatments outside of Framingham.

The hearing date on the oncology department closures has not yet been set by the state.

Senate President Spilka’s office released this statement after Monday’s meeting “It was a productive meeting in which they discussed many issues of importance to MetroWest residents.”

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Mayor Sisitsky said he stressed the need for the hospital to once again have a community liaison to the City and to the community.

Last week, for three consecutive days, MetroWest Medical Center was diverting ambulances away from the hospital for multiple hours, and at one point for as long as 10 hours, due to a “cyber attack” hospital staff told local fire departments, and due to “IT” and “software” issues they told the Mayor and the Senate President.

The “code black” ambulance diversion of patients was against the state rules, and the Commonwealth told MetroWest Medical Center last week it needed to stop the diversion of ambulances to its emergency room and accept patients, said the Mayor.

This afternoon, April 28 at 2 p.m. Rep Lewis posted his first public statement on the closure of the oncology departments.

SOURCE posted on April 13 that the oncology department were closing and asked for a statement on April 13. The state representative did not respond.

Today he posted: “The Framingham legislative delegation has heard concerns expressed by many residents that Tenet’s proposed closure of the Framingham Union Hospital medical and radiation oncology programs would negatively impact residents, including those who are unable to access vital care outside of our region. We share that concern. As a private, for-profit hospital, there is unfortunately no appeal process on Tenet’s decision, but the state offers a formal process to review the proposed closure plan and explore possible mitigation strategies. This will give residents an opportunity to have their voices heard, and we strongly encourage you to be part of this process.While the formal hearing and review process has not yet begun, we urge you to send your concerns in the form of written testimony to today.Please use “Proposed Oncology Closure at MetroWest Medical Center” in your subject line, so that your emails can be more easily identified.”

School Committee Chair and 6th Middlesex District State Representative candidate Priscila Sousa wrote an opinion piece opposing the closure and the decision to eliminate in-person interpreters.

She wrote “I am outraged by their decision to eliminate in-person interpretation services at the hospital. In a community where 40% of residents, including 50.5% of our students, do not speak English as a first language, not having this service is unconscionable. Our immigrant community, which includes our taxpayers, business owners, and neighbors, is growing and has a continuous need of health care services. Health care services that require being able to speak freely with their health care professionals like so many of us do. They deserve the same level of care. Imagine facing a health crisis and not being able to communicate clearly with your doctors and nurses. Instead of having an in-person interpreter, you are given a phone to talk to someone in another city to relay your concerns. A phone call where facial expressions, pointing to a part of the body that hurts and nuances may be lost. How scary. How impersonal. How potentially dangerous.”

Closing the oncology center and moving patients to St. Vincent’s Hospital in Worcester may make sense to a company based in Texas, but it greatly affects those who seek cancer care at Framingham Union. For those who do not have access to a car or drive long distances, getting care at our local hospital is a lifesafer. We are talking about the lives of our neighbors – not simply some numbers in a budget. These are our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandparents, uncles and aunts, friends and co-workers. It is you and me,” wrote Sousa. 

By editor

Susan Petroni is the former editor for SOURCE. She is the founder of the former news site, which as of May 1, 2023, is now a self-publishing community bulletin board. The website no longer has a journalist but a webmaster.