FRAMINGHAM - A group of local residents are coming together and calling for the reopening of the therapy pools at the MetroWest Wellness Center along Route 9.
The aquatic resource has featured classes and regimens aimed at providing seniors, those with disabilities, as well as other residents recovering from injuries and surgeries with physical therapy.
Two of those users have been C. Patrick Dunne, Ph. D—a former biochemist and a current member of the Framingham Council on Aging who has needed physical therapy for about a decade following major spinal and hip ailments—and Steve Kiviat—a resident of the city who recently began working at the pools after his doctor prescribed water therapy to help his knees. These men contend that Tenet Healthcare Corp., the Texas-based company that operates MetroWest Medical Center along with over 600 hospitals and medical facilities nationwide, is “working against” both the senior population and the disabled population across the region, in the words of Dunne. The Wellness Center is a part of MetroWest Medical Center’s operations.
“I can understand rationale sometimes, but not at my expense and not at the expense of the people who rely on the pool,” Kiviat added.
Dunne stressed that the closure of the pools was an informal one, as he claimed that he and other users were never officially notified. He explained that the closure has been marked by a repair issue due to a broken pump within the smaller of the two pools. Dunne said that pool had been hosting a handful of classes with roughly a dozen people in each session prior to that closure. Kiviat described the idea that the pause was out of caution due to a safety hazard “nonsense,” reiterating multiple times that he and other community members have volunteered to pay for the pump’s replacement in order to resume sessions. Kiviat pegged the cost of the repair at $6,000.
Dating back to at least the last week of October, the MetroWest Wellness Center’s website featured information on the benefits of aquatic therapy.
“Water-based therapy offers a range of benefits for improving your strength and range of motion,” the website read, before listing off benefits such as decreasing joint stress and reducing swelling on lower extremities. The following screenshots were taken on the afternoon of Friday, October 27, when the aquatic therapy information was still available on their website.
As of the time of initial publication for this story, MetroWest Medical Center’s physical therapy webpage does not feature any section specifically dedicated to aquatic therapy. The prior URL used for that aquatic therapy page has redirected visitors to their general rehabilitation page.
In a statement given to The Frame, MetroWest Medicial Center officials said,
"After careful consideration and thorough review, MetroWest Medical Center decided to pause the Aquatic Therapy Program. This is to ensure appropriate access to resources for high quality, critical healthcare services that the hospital provides to the community. We are supporting the transition to nearby aquatic therapy options for our patients."
Still, residents like Dunne and Kiviat are left looking for alternatives.
“People like me really depend on it, to stay physically active to the best of your degree,” Dunne continued.
“You can lose and decompensate very fast when it’s cut off.”
Dunne does not believe this was a matter of the MetroWest Wellness Center losing money, adding that he believes that Tenet is making a “short-sighted” budget decision by halting these services. Dunne and fellow supporters of the cause are urging Tenet to consider the needs of the community.
“Right now, there’s a big sign out there on Route 9 that says ‘MetroWest Wellness Center.’ Well, they need to change the name on the sign if they don’t want to provide this service to help people stay healthy and well…There’s a certain benefit that’s intangible, but you can put dollars to how much community support for the hospital [sic] is going to decrease with this exercise,” Dunne said.
While the local therapy pools were being phased out at the end of October, Tenet Healthcare published their financial results from 2023’s third quarter. In that report, MetroWest Medical Center’s parent company reported net operating revenues of just over $5 billion, a 5.5% improvement from the same quarter year-over-year. Tenet’s third-quarter adjusted earnings per share was reported at $1.44, beating Zacks Investment Research’s estimates by 20%.
“There’s a time where you don’t have to make money to supply healthcare,” Kiviat said.
“You can’t do it at [sic] people’s lives.”
Kiviat explained that he’s contacted U.S. Representative for the 5th Massachusetts District Katherine Clark’s office and U.S. Senator for Massachusetts Ed Markey’s office to solicit their help. Locally, Dunne has appeared before the City Council while also contacting Mayor Charlie Sisitsky’s office. According to Dunne, Sisitsky met with John Whitlock—the CEO of MetroWest Medical Center—to discuss the situation. State Senator for the 2nd Middlesex and Norfolk District Karen Spilka has also been contacted for assistance, according to Dunne, who also mentioned that both former Massachusetts State Senator and Representative David Magnani as well as former State Representative John Stasik have endorsed calls for the pools’ reopening following their use of it.
“If using my name is a strong advocate for keeping open the facility, and as a satisfied former user for several injuries over the past few years, I’d definitely consider it a big loss to our community,” Magnani wrote in a statement provided to Dunne.
On Tuesday, November 14, the Framingham Council on Aging officially requested that Whitlock attend a City Council meeting as soon as possible in order to hear public comments on the “degradation of services” at the local healthcare facilities.
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