Editorial: Health center change a sick idea

February 15, 2013
By

Does anyone seriously believe we need less health care in Jackson Square?

Not even Boston Children’s Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), who are kicking out their 5,000 adult patients at the Martha Eliot Health Center, can possibly believe that. It’s a move deplorable in substance and outrageous in lack of public notice.

Neither hospital is making much sense at the moment, but their spins converge on the goal of filling up BWH’s hip new doctor’s office on S. Huntington.

This sure looks like robbing Jackson to pay S. Huntington. And it’s as silly as the Stop & Shop deciding to only sell baby food.

Children’s is selling this abandonment of Bromley-Heath, the public housing development that founded the center and demanded its 1990s expansion, with the astonishing stat that “only” 300 adult Martha Eliot patients live there. That looks to us like a reason to quadruple health outreach efforts in Bromley-Heath, not a convenient excuse to kick everyone to the curb.

Several prominent public health officials in Boston have made their names and their grant budgets crusading against racial and income-based disparities in health care. Their silence is shameful as Martha Eliot fades away while advertising the sort of disparity it was created to bridge.

BWH is a great partner at JP’s other community health centers. It can do better.

Children’s sensibly wants to focus on children. But the hospital is vague about what services it would continue to offer the 4,000 children treated at Martha Eliot. There is no talk about the value of treating parents and children together, and how many child patients might leave with their parents.

In fact, there was no talk about this ahead of time at all—not with the public, not with the center’s own community advisory board. Silence is the hallmark of a terrible idea.

This is no time to kick patients out of any health center, let alone one connected to public housing. Every political resource and pressure should be used to get Martha Eliot Health Center back on track with a partner willing and able to treat all of its patients.