City, News

Tufts announces closure of children’s hospital

Tufts pediatric center closing
The teddy bear statue in front of Tufts Children’s Hospital. Tufts Children’s Hospital will close its inpatient pediatric unit by July 1. and transfer all patients to Boston Children’s Hospital after the two hospitals signed a letter of intent to work together. ISABELLE MEGOSH/DFP STAFF

When Tufts Children’s Hospital announced it would shut down its pediatric unit, Heather Lino felt sick to her stomach. The mother of five-year-old James, a patient at the hospital, thought it was “false news,” but soon realized it wasn’t.

“It’s nerve-racking,” Lino said. “I’m concerned…he’s literally in every single department in that hospital for one thing or another. So it’s a lot to try to coordinate and I just don’t understand how it’s gonna happen seamlessly.”

Tufts Children’s Hospital will close its pediatric unit on July 1., pending regulatory approval, with patients being transferred to Boston Children’s Hospital after the two hospital’s signed a letter of intent to work together. 

“The collaboration comes at a time when the Boston-area health care market is rapidly changing,” Tufts Children’s Hospital announced on its website.

Pediatrician-in-Chief Dr. Geoffrey Binney stated the board came to an “important but difficult decision” in a press release to Tufts Children’s Hospital community members.

“Please know that this change will have no immediate impact on your child’s care,” Binney said. “And we will work closely with you and your child’s primary care provider to ensure seamless care as this collaboration develops over the coming months.”

Wellforce Health System, which runs the children’s hospital, said it made the decision to close the pediatric unit to increase “its capacity to care for critically ill adults at its Tufts Medical Center campus” after receiving a higher number of adult patients in recent months. It also hopes to increase Tufts’ adult beds by 20% following the closure of the hospital’s pediatric unit. 

“It’s hard to believe they could say that publicly,” said Tim O’Connell, founder of Tommy’s Place, a non-profit vacation home in Falmouth for children with cancer. “We just went through a pandemic … and we never had a problem with beds for adults.”

O’Connell created a Change.org petition to “Save Tufts Children’s Hospital in Boston!” the day after the closure went public. As of Jan. 27, over 27,000 people have signed the petition.

“From the second that I put that petition up there, I’ve had moms and strangers talking all day and all night every day reaching out to me, asking for help,” O’Connell said. “My whole life is consumed now every day with families reaching out to me and moms scared asking me what to do. That’s not right.”

For O’Connell, the closure of the children’s hospital puts the community in a “vulnerable position.”

“You don’t disrupt sick kids,” O’Connell said. “And if you do, you better have a 10-year plan in place, not four months.”

Lino was one of the first parents to learn about the closure.

“We were in the clinic and his primary care doctor came running in and was like ‘Listen, I gotta tell you something before it goes public,’” Lino said.

Mary Havlicek Cornacchia, who has worked as a registered nurse at Tufts Medical Center for 34 years, voiced concerns over the children receiving treatment at Tufts Children’s Hospital not being eligible for care at Boston Children’s Hospital. 

“Boston Children’s Hospital has been notorious for being more selective [economically] about who they treat,” Havlicek Cornacchia said. “And all of us here are just so very concerned that none of those [lower income] kids get lost in the cracks.”

Havlicek Cornacchia also noted how the closure could impact job security for her and other nurses.

“We have 100 nurses that are being directly impacted by this decision,” she said. “We do actually have well over 100 positions posted, but they’re mostly adult positions. And pediatric nurses don’t want to be adult nurses.” 

Lino added that she emailed the president and chief executive officer of Wellforce Health System, Dr. Michael Dandorph, shortly after learning about the closure. 

“How are you going to sleep at night knowing that [you] are kicking children out of a facility that they need?” she wrote. 

O’Connell said the issue isn’t getting as much attention as it should be.

“Where’s the media? Where are the politicians?” O’Connell said. “We have a new mayor, and she’s out every day announcing new initiatives for affordable housing … where is she on that issue?”

Rhonda Mann, vice president of marketing and communications at Tufts Medical Center, was not available for comment. 

 

One Comment

  1. Please get Mayor Wu”s input!!! Especially because Tufts is situated in Chinatown and the Asian community feels very comfortable bringing their children here. This will not be the case if they have to go to BCH! Many children will go untreated until it becomes an emergency!