A community group upset that St. Andrews Hospital in Boothbay Harbor will be closing its emergency room on Tuesday plans to hold a vigil that night in the hospital parking lot — against the wishes of the St. Andrews administration.
James Donovan, CEO of Lincoln County Health Care, the parent company of St. Andrews, wrote in an email to Patty Seybold, president of the Boothbay Region Health and Wellness Foundation, that the group was not permitted to assemble in the parking lot for the “flashlight” vigil.
Seybold said she plans to ignore Donovan’s order and host the vigil anyway, starting at 7 p.m. at the town hall and moving to the hospital’s parking lot after 8 p.m. That’s when St. Andrews, which by losing its ER status will now be considered an urgent care center, will be closed for the business day.
“We’ve had this hospital for 107 years, and now the hospital doors will be closed,” Seybold said.
Seybold said she doesn’t understand why the hospital would try to prohibit the parking lot vigil, as it will commemorate St. Andrews’ service to the community and not be a protest against the decision to close the ER.
“The purpose of the vigil is simply to say goodbye,” Seybold said. “It’s really been the heart of the community.”
Donovan wrote in a Sept. 24 email to Seybold that it would not be appropriate for the group to host a vigil.
“The ‘old friend,’ as you call St. Andrews, is not leaving. It is changing as is everything in life and a clear constant in healthcare today. I’m sure you can appreciate this. There is no reason to say goodbye and certainly no reason to provoke a protest,” Donovan wrote.
In an interview with the Press Herald in July, Donovan said there isn’t enough demand to justify keeping the ER open. Emergency patients in Boothbay Harbor will be transported to Miles Memorial Hospital in Damariscotta.
“For many years now, the 24/7 St. Andrews emergency department hasn’t been busy enough to sustain itself from a quality and patient care perspective and secondarily from a financial perspective,” Donovan said in July. “There are better ways to take care of the truly emergent cases than what we are doing now.”
The hospital’s ER visits declined from 4,692 in 2007 to 3,770 in 2012.
Seybold and proponents of keeping the hospital open say that the rural community needs an ER, especially for its elderly residents.
As for the vigil, hospital spokesman Scott Shott told the Press Herald on Friday that St. Andrews is also concerned about the safety of participants, especially without knowing how many people would show up. Shott said the vigil could also be “misleading and confusing to people” as many erroneously believe that the entire health care facility is closing.
But Seybold said it’s safer to congregate in the parking lot rather than the sidewalk, so that “90-year-olds in walkers” wouldn’t have to stand next to traffic. She said she consulted with police, and she doesn’t believe any vigil-goers will be arrested.
As for what would happen if security tried to usher them out, Seybold said she wasn’t sure.
“We have a lot of pretty feisty 90-year-olds,” Seybold said. “We think it’s pretty childish of them to try to stop us, and we’re offended by it.”
Joe Lawlor can be contacted at 791-6376 or at: