A new building that will transform the main entrance of the University of Maryland Medical Center and the downtown Baltimore skyline was already slated to house cancer care. Officials said Friday it will also house trauma rehabilitation services.
The rehab services will move in the next three years from University of Maryland Rehabilitation & Orthopaedic Institute, formerly known as Kernan Hospital, near Woodlawn. That facility will close.
The move to the building, which is being constructed directly in front of the existing Greene Street building, is pitched as a way to get trauma rehab closer to the Shock Trauma Center housed in the flagship University of Maryland Medical Center.
“Many patients who are cared for at UMMC and throughout our system also require additional rehabilitative care before they are ready to be discharged to their homes,” said Dr. Mohan Suntha, president and CEO of the 13-hospital University of Maryland Medical System, in a statement.
“Moving to a new state-of-the-art building, conveniently located close to the most important trauma center in the world, will be a huge benefit for people in need of rehabilitative services not only at UMMS hospitals but throughout Maryland,” he said. “We are eager to invest in these world-class services.”
The move is another piece of the medical system’s service puzzle, which has seen other facilities from the Washington suburbs to the Eastern Shore shuttered or repurposed and care consolidated in other places. Most recently, the system opened an urgent care and outpatient facility in Laurel to replace an aging hospital next door.
While some communities have gained access to care or more modern facilities, the moves have not gone without pains to local residents and workers. Some protested the changes to the Laurel facility and other facilities in Prince George’s County.
In this case, hospital officials said 60% of the rehab patients are referred from the downtown medical center, so services will be closer to where they receive care.
But the move will require current workers to transition downtown or elsewhere in the medical system, and it’s not clear how many would be interested years down the road. There currently are 660 workers in the Woodlawn facility, and Austin Rodgers, a system spokesman, said they have all been made aware of the plan.
“Any move would be three years from now,” he said. “We plan to work with all teams on this transition, but it’s not appropriate to expect any individual to commit to a work location at this point in the process.”
The rehab facility also offers more than trauma care, including services for those recovering from strokes or needing neurological care. It’s not immediately known where those services will go. Officials said they would look for other spots in Baltimore County. They also said they would work with local and state officials on new uses for the current campus not far from the Baltimore Beltway.
The plan may already be unsettling workers, many of whom are stressed by years working in a health care facility through a pandemic and labor shortage, said Patrick Moran, president of AFSCME Maryland Council 3, which represents food workers through a contract with the rehab hospital.
Moran said many workers will still be on the job in three years, and are left wondering where their position will be moved and what the changes will mean. Many were given pay boosts as hospitals instituted wage minimums to keep workers on the job, but Moran said the increases haven’t been enough.
“This will be a life-altering thing for some people, and it’s going to be difficult,” he said. “Are they going to pay for transportation, will there be compensation for the cost and time?”
Moran said the major point may be how all of the changes to the system will upend multiple communities.
“Obviously, they haven’t shown much consideration for these folks and the communities they serve with all these moves, much of it using public money,” he said.
The University of Maryland Medical System acquired the century-old rehab hospital in 1986 and renamed it in 2013.
In Baltimore, the new building called the Roslyn and Leonard Stoler Center for Advanced Medicine will rise in front of the downtown Baltimore hospital, at 22 S. Greene St., using millions in donated, system and public funds.
It’s scheduled to open in 2026.