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FRAMINGHAM – On Wednesday, July 6, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health will hold a public hearing on Tenet Healthcare’s plan to close the cancer center at MetroWest Medical Center in Framingham.

The public is invited to attend and provide testimony at Nevins Hall in the Memorial Building, 150 Concord Street at 6 p.m.

Tenet, in a memo, listed a target closure dates of August 9 for infusion oncology and October 31 for radiation oncology.

This week, on June 29, City of Framingham Mayor Charlie Sisitsky sent a letter to Massachusetts Health Commissioner Margret R. Cook with his strong objection to the closure and asked for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to put restrictions on Tenet’s plans due to mitigating factors.

The essential service closure process provides a mechanism for the Commonwealth to review a proposed closure or reduction in services and to ensure that measures have been put in place to minimize the impact on the community and address concerns that have been brought to the state’s attention. However, the state cannot legally require a hospital to keep a service open.​

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Mayor Sisitsky wrote “We continue to want a healthy and viable community hospital and remain willing partners, because it is warranted and can be financially viable. As you review their closure plan and explore possible mitigation to it, we ask that you consider the following:

1) MWMC maintaining the Cancer Care Center in Framingham for a minimum of two more years to further review data, engage medical staff and community leaders on a strategic plan for these services;

2) Explore with MWMC options for medical staff or another healthcare provider to assume the operations of the Cancer Center in Framingham;

3) Secure a commitment from MWMC to consistent and meaningful engagement with local leaders on current and future services to strengthen trust, create partnerships, share data, and prevent unnecessary closures.”

Since SOURCE broke the news that Tenet Healthcare planned to close the oncology department at the hospital in April 2022, Mayor Sisitsky has been strong in his statements that the cancer center is needed in the City of Framingham.

He has been joined by Senate President Karen Spilka, State Representatives Maria Robinson & Danielle Gregoire, the Framingham City Council and the MetroWest Medical center’s advisory board.

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This week, Senators Elizabeth Warren & Ed Markey, and Congressman Katherine Clark joined their voices urging Tenet to keep the cancer center open in Framingham.

“The City of Framingham is united in our support for a high-quality community hospital in Framingham.
The residents, businesses, and leaders of Framingham have consistently supported, patronized, and staffed our hospital to treat and care for the residents and visitors of this area since 1925. You will hear – as we hear every day – powerful, personal stories first hand on July 6 of this vital role in our community,” wrote Mayor Sisitsky.

“We are troubled by the lack of consistent, accountable leadership at the MetroWest Medical Center
(MWMC). The lack of leadership has caused chaos, frustration and decisions that have resulted in
ambulance diversions, closure of the Blood Bank and the proposed closure of the oncology and radiation oncology departments. The absence of timely communication or meaningful engagement with medical staff and community leaders about the future of many critical services has exacerbated the situation,” wrote Mayor Sisitsky.

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“Unfortunately, years of a strong partnership have been chiseled away by a lack of communication and
turnover in leadership. Framingham residents depend on the care, from emergency services to cancer treatment, provided by the MetroWest Medical Center. We all know a family member, a friend or a neighbor who sought treatment at the Cancer Care Center. While it is easy to point out that Massachusetts is home to outstanding cancer treatment centers in Worcester and Boston, Framingham’s Cancer Center has been a beacon of hope, treatment and care for residents whose ability to travel to major cities is not practical or possible. Closing this center would cut off a lifeline to many, including our seniors and those in a lower socioeconomic demographic,” wrote Mayor Sisitsky.

“As you know, all hospital departments and services have an inter-dependency, and if one is closed, there is a cascading effect. The Cancer Care Center is a feeder source to other departments and services. If a patient is determined to have cancer discovered by biopsies, often a radiologist, blood and lab work, and referral to a surgeon is required. Surgery performed as an inpatient, results in a hospital stay, outpatient care, and perhaps home care. Many other services and departments are involved with the patient resulting in volume and revenue,” wrote the Mayor in the June 29 letter.

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“Healthy organizations have solid infrastructures in place and strategies to respond to changing needs and communicate their plans to the greater community. Strong partnerships and open communication decrease unsettling rumors. I understand that the MWMC and its owner, Tenet, is a business and, as such, has to periodically reevaluate its services as it deems necessary. Their recent decisions, including ending onsite interpreters, puts our community at a disadvantage. Comparing our hospital and community to the needs of surrounding communities is not acting in the best interest of anyone. Given Framingham’s diverse population, where a significant number of residents do not speak English as a first language, MWMC needs to care about the community’s reactions and better explain what it was doing. MWMC needs to recommit to the communities it serves. The layoff of interpreters is not the same impact as the closing of the Cancer Care Center, but a recent symptom of what ails our facility,” wrote Mayor Sisitsky.

“We respectfully ask you to utilize your authority and resources to facilitate the implementation of these
and other options. The Framingham Council unanimously voted to share their support of this letter,” wrote the Mayor who shared the letter with Governor Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito. Massachusetts Health Secretary Marylou Sudders, Senate President Spilka, and the legislative delegation.

The letter was also cc’d to the MetroWest Medical Center Board chair and the President of the Metrowest Medical Staff President, and Carolyn Jackson, CEO of Tenet Healthcare in Massachusetts

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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.