The Impact of the Closing of Three Massachusetts Public Chronic Disease Hospitals: A Multidimensional Perspective

Research paper by Francis G. Caro, Lillian L. Glickman, Dominique Ingegneri, Frank Porell, Amy Leventhal Stern, Kiran Verma

Indexed on: 01 Jun '97Published on: 01 Jun '97Published in: Journal of Community Health


The closing of three public chronic disease hospitals in Massachusetts in 1991 as a cost-cutting measure sparked renewed attention to the consequences of relocation. Massachusetts officials faithfully carried out a series of measures to assure that patients would be transferred to facilities providing high quality care and that the relocation process would be highly sensitive to patient needs. A survey of family representatives revealed that both the relocation process and the outcome tended to be perceived positively. Quasi-experimental studies of health and survival outcomes, however, provided less favorable results. On two of three measures of health change, relocation was found to have no effect. However, relocation was found to increase the likelihood of incontinence. For patients at the hospital with the greatest concentration of older patients, relocation lead to heightened mortality rates. Also disappointing for State officials was the fact that the anticipated cost savings were less than anticipated. The findings point to the need for renewed efforts to understand the circumstances when relocation places institutionalized older people at serious risk, more careful cost estimates of the savings to be achieved through proposed cost-saving policy changes, and more carefully formulated policy guidelines for relocation of the institutionalized elderly that balance the risks associated with relocation against other public policy objectives.