Harford Memorial Hospital will permanently close on Feb. 6 next year, UM Upper Chesapeake Health CEO Elizabeth Wise announced Tuesday night during a presentation at the Harford County Council meeting.
In its place, a medical center in Aberdeen will open the same day, as will a pavilion at the UM Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air that will have the same 72-bed capacity as Harford Memorial.
UM Upper Chesapeake Health has been preparing for years for the eventual closure of the hospital in Havre de Grace. Earlier this year, representatives said the hospital would be closed by spring 2024, but this is the first time an official date has been given.
Harford Memorial is one of only two hospitals in Harford County, and it serves residents in the northern part of the county as well as from neighboring Cecil County just across the Susquehanna River.
The hospital is also the designated treatment center for victims of sexual abuse and is the county’s primary stroke center. Both of those capabilities will move to the Aberdeen Medical Center.
With Harford Memorial’s closure, UM Upper Chesapeake Medical Center will become the only full-service hospital in the county.
UM Upper Chesapeake Health at Aberdeen will include the medical center, a Behaviorial Health Pavilion that will also open on Feb. 6, and a Health and Wellness Center that is already open.
The Health and Wellness Center offers primary care, endocrinology and diabetes care, wound care, cardiology, hematology and oncology, orthopedics and rehabilitation. Imaging and lab services will open in February.
The campus also will have a helipad to transport critical care patients by helicopter to the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. Currently, the medevac has to land in a park a couple of blocks away from Harford Memorial Hospital.
The medical center will offer state-of-the-art technology that is not currently available at Harford Memorial. It will include a 130,000-square-foot emergency department and capability for short-term stays.
Residents and council members, however, have expressed concerns that there will be no intensive care unit, no inpatient surgical center and no inpatient beds at the Aberdeen campus. That level of care will only be available at the hospital in Bel Air.
The Aberdeen Medical Center will have capacity for short-term stays, but any patient that requires hospitalization beyond 48 hours will need to be transferred to a hospital, Wise said.
Also, several departments already have moved from the hospital in Havre de Grace, including obstetrics and gynecology.
While UM Upper Chesapeake Health is expanding its facilities by the addition of the Aberdeen campus, County Council members expressed their concern about emergency medical services for residents who live closer to Harford Memorial Hospital and the need for more medical facilities in a county with a growing population.
Although Wise said the health system will be providing a free shuttle bus from Havre de Grace to Aberdeen, District F council member Jacob Bennett is concerned about how residents in his district will get to the Aberdeen Medical Center, especially in an emergency. Bennett, who lives within walking distance of Harford Memorial, said residents living near the hospital often walk there for outpatient care while residents in the northern part of the county have just a short drive.
“February 6, I think, is a scary day for a lot of those people in my community,” Bennett said during the meeting. “It is a huge loss to our community to be able to walk to services.”
Bennett also asked Wise how UM Upper Chesapeake Health is communicating to the public about the hospital’s impending closure and advocated for a mailing campaign to residents in his district to inform them about the closure and the services available at the Aberdeen campus.
“I’m just concerned that someone is going to attempt to go to Harford Memorial in an emergency and they’re going to pull up to an empty building, not knowing that the hospital has been closed,” he said.