LAWRENCE — Lawrence General Hospital President and CEO Deborah Wilson issued a dire plea to city councilors Tuesday night, letting them know the hospital is on life support and risks closure of vital services if Gov. Charlie Baker does not supply $25 million in COVID relief aid.
Wilson, backed by Mayor Kendrys Vasquez, declared the need for emergency relief to support the hospital by way of a resolution calling for money to preserve critical services used by 87,000 Lawrence residents and 250,000 people across the Merrimack Valley, Wilson said.
“In simple terms, we are burning cash,” Wilson said. “We have not received any COVID relief payments since July 2020. We have lost volume, we have increased expenses, yet we have not received one dollar of COVID relief funding (since that time) from the federal government or the state.”
She said "without a COVID relief payment, we are going to fail our debt covenants, and when that happens, the bond holders will come in and decide which services will go away for this community. "
That is something Wilson just won’t stand for, she said.
“The community deserves maternity, deserves pediatrics, deserves a special care nursery and a trauma program,” she said. “We have one of the busiest emergency centers in the state and this threat is real.”
The money must be secured by Aug. 30, Mayor Vasquez said. In a unanimous vote, councilors declared the issue an emergency and agreed to send a letter to the governor requesting aid as outlined by Wilson and other hospital staff. They also pledged to support Wilson in any way they can, including having meetings with the governor.
Wilson’s desperate plea comes two weeks after she made what she called the “difficult but necessary decision” to make approximately $6 million in staffing cuts to address an expected $20 million budget deficit.
Fifty-seven staff members in non-clinical roles were impacted, according to hospital spokesman Benjamin French.
This is a developing story. A full report will appear in Thursday's Eagle-Tribune and online at eagletribune.com.