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UM Medical System plans to close West Baltimore rehab center and move some services downtown

Nov 19, 2023Nov 19, 2023

The University of Maryland Medical System is planning to close its West Baltimore rehabilitation center and move some of the services offered there to its downtown campus, where they’ll be closer to the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center, system President and CEO Dr. Mohan Suntha said in an interview Thursday.

Trauma-related rehabilitation services now offered at the University of Maryland Rehabilitation and Orthopedic Institute — previously the Kernan Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation Hospital — will be moved to the Roslyn and Leonard Stoler Center for Advanced Medicine, which is being built at the University of Maryland Medical Center in downtown Baltimore. Construction crews broke ground last May on the future site of the center, which is planned to open in 2026.

The transition represents a further investment in rehabilitation services by the system, Suntha said.

"The key message is that this is the continued evolution and demonstration of our commitment as a medical system to rehabilitation medicine," he said. "We’ll partner with the rate-setting system, we’ll partner with the advocates for the trauma program in the state of Maryland to ensure that we continue to be a differential resource in the health care delivery model of the state."

Suntha said that none of the 660 positions at the institute are expected to be eliminated because of the transition. Employees will be encouraged to transition to the downtown University of Maryland Medical Center campus or move to another system facility.

"That's another very important part of our communication messaging to all of our team members," he said. "This is a growth strategy for the medical system. This is a preservation of employment, this is a continued commitment to rehabilitation services."

There are nearly 30,000 people employed across the medical system, Suntha said.

The estimated capital cost of the Stoler Center project, including construction, technology, medical equipment, infrastructure and renovations to other sections of the hospital affected by the expansion, is about $475 million, said Tiffani Washington, a spokeswoman for the University of Maryland Medical Center, in an email. When complete, the center also will be the new home of the Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Because of the system's renowned shock trauma program, many of its patients who require rehabilitation care are recovering from traumatic medical conditions, Suntha said. Having rehabilitation care provided in the same building as the system's trauma center will mean better patient care and smoother transitions between acute and post-acute treatment settings, he added.

The University of Maryland Rehabilitation & Orthopaedic Institute, formerly known as the Kernan hospital, in West Baltimore near Woodlawn. (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun)

About 1,400 patients are admitted each year to the rehabilitation facility near Dickeyville in West Baltimore, Washington said. About 500 of those patients have spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries, including 300 patients who are referred from Shock Trauma in Baltimore.

Julie Nemens, chief administrative officer and senior vice president for the rehabilitation institute, explained the need for the move in a news release the system sent to The Baltimore Sun on Thursday.

"Our current campus has been providing incredible health care for a century, but we must make significant capital investments in our facility in order to continue delivering the kind of care Marylanders deserve," she said. "We look forward to expanding our inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation services in a modern location so that we can continue to provide the same advanced therapies and remarkable outcomes for our patients."

Suntha said UMMS is searching for a new site for non-trauma-related rehabilitation services currently provided at that facility, which include assistance to patients recovering from strokes, organ transplants and cancer treatment. Since those patients come to the center from all over the region, the system wants to find a location that works best for them and their families, he said.

Signage in front of the University of Maryland Rehabilitation & Orthopaedic Institute near Woodlawn. (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun)

System leaders also are determining what to do with the 65-acre facility near Woodlawn after the Stoler Center opens in about three years, Suntha said. They’ll work with state and local leaders to make that decision, according to the news release.

The University of Maryland Rehabilitation and Orthopedic Institute will continue caring for patients until the transition is complete, Suntha said.

The transition will help the system increase its capacity for providing rehabilitation care to patients, Suntha said, though he wasn't able to provide specifics about the extent of the expansion.

"The idea is to continue to be a growing resource for not just our health system," he said, "but the state of Maryland and the region."