Bon Secours Health System has shut down a piece of Baltimore history.
The Roman Catholic system late last month shuttered its 95-bed Liberty Medical Center, a historically black hospital in Baltimore that is more than a century old.
Liberty's closing is the latest in a pattern of exits made by the Marriottsville, Md.-based system.
* Last month, Bon Secours filed a certificate-of-need application to move a hospital it owns in Richmond, Va., to a growing and affluent suburb (July 12, p. 18). The system has moved two other hospitals-one in Virginia and one in South Carolina-to new suburban digs since 1996.
* In June, Bon Secours and Virginia's Sentara Health System announced they would scrap their mutual Medicare HMO by year-end (June 7, p. 2).
Liberty was one of two hospitals in Bon Secours' regional Baltimore Health System.
The remaining Baltimore facility, 142-bed Bon Secours Hospital, is about three miles from the former Liberty site.
The decision to close Liberty came after a year of deliberation, said Victor Ribaudo, chief operating officer of Bon Secours Baltimore Health System.
Ribaudo said after Liberty merged with Bon Secours in 1996, the system recognized that having two small urban hospitals in such close proximity wasn't an efficient use of resources.
"If we did not make this difficult decision, it's likely that both hospitals would close in the near future," he said.
Ribaudo said Liberty needed a $20 million investment if hospital operations were to continue there. Improvements at Bon Secours Hospital would cost only about $2.5 million.
Liberty lost $200,000 on total revenues of $57 million for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 1998, said Phyllis Reese, a spokeswoman for Bon Secours Baltimore Health System.
The regional system has undergone other changes. Jane Durney Crowley, its former president and chief executive officer, resigned earlier this year, Ribaudo said. He said Crowley stepped aside during some affiliation talks the system had been having.
Last year, MODERN HEALTHCARE recognized Crowley as one of a dozen promising young healthcare executives (Sept. 14, 1998, p. 42).
Although Liberty Medical Center is now closed, its 17-acre campus continues to house an assortment of ambulatory services. It also has 85 new apartments for low- and middle-income senior citizens.
The possibility of building a freestanding surgery center on the campus also is being studied, Ribaudo said.
Liberty's closing shouldn't have a detrimental effect on the community, said Peter Beilenson, M.D., commissioner of health for the Baltimore City Health Department.
But the hospital's closing has provoked sadness in the city over the historical significance that's lost.
Liberty was the successor to Provident Hospital, founded in 1894. It was at one time the only hospital to train black doctors and nurses in Baltimore and one of the few hospitals to treat black patients, according to a Baltimore Sun story.
"It was awful for the black race to lose that institution," Maggie Quille, a nurse who trained there, told the Sun. "After all we put into it-the love and respect and money."