Coastal Voices: There’s no sugar-coating in-patient bed reduction

By Dale Bohling April 16, 2014 06:16 pm

“Grandma,what big teeth you have!” Why does that childhood  story come to my mind as I read Linda Horn’s latest attempt (“Same services offered under Critical Care,” Coastal Voices, April 3) to assuage community trepidations over Sutter Health Corporation’s decisions to convert Sutter Coast Hospital  to Critical Access and the possibility of moving its governing board hundreds of miles away from the community?

Maybe it was the wolf’s cloaking of his evil intentions as well as his ravenous appetite that sparked the comparison. It may also have been the vulnerability of Little Red Riding Hood as she began to realize that appearances can be deceiving, which is seemingly what emerges within our community with each sugar-coated apologetic  presented to the community by Ms. Horn.

While taking four whole paragraphs to set the stage for her intended splurge, she painted the canvas with images of hospital staff being awarded for their dedication to   their patients and recognition of career tenure by their employer.

Along the way she sprinkled flowers of good will with her sharing of Sutter Health’s magnanimous philanthropy in the community. Altogether a rosy picture emerged of a community and the beneficent corporation that built and maintains the local full service  hospital.

That is,of course an idealized picture of how things should be and seemingly have been; enter the  cloaking.

“It is our commitment and desire to continue being a full service hospital and an active community partner” Ms. Horn wrote. She avoids explaining  how to reconcile that statement with the fact of intent by Sutter Health  to reduce its in-patient beds by almost half. How does dividing something by half allow it to remain the same as before the division?

If the answer to that lies in the simple closing off beds that “are empty every day — and have been for years,” I see little cause for concern there.

But simply closing doors is not what is actually entailed, it is the concomitant eviscerating of the attendant staff, whether highly skilled or ancillary, top to bottom.

People will lose their livelihoods as their training and skills are stripped away from the full service setting owing  to Critical Care designation.

And it is being presented by Ms. Horn as being instantly available in the  time of an extraordinary event involving a mass influx of casualties,  like merely opening doors and dusting off the sheets.

Is she saying that a flood of volunteers will come to the fore to fill in the gaps? Volunteers will do what they are trained to do, but what of medical skills? Does Sutter Health expect us to believe it can muster a fully trained staff with a snap of the fingers?

Equally inexplicable is the concept of being an active (caring?) community partner while simultaneously considering removing any semblance of local governance 300-plus miles distant, where any meaningful input would be negligible.

A good community partner does not cause members of that community additional grief by shipping them off to distant hospitals for care, leaving them devoid of the support of loved ones and the additional financial burden of getting a second mortgage on their homes to finance transportation back home while in a recumbent state.

The cost of an airlift to Rogue Valley Hospital is high, I have been told. Obviously the return trip would be as well. Woe to he who falls ill under the shadow of Critical Care Access.

As a sedative to a concerned community, Linda Horn offers this choice parsing of words: “Remember that a viable full service hospital will sustain real estate values, jobs and services in our community. We are offering the same services  after our CAH designation as we offer today.”

Yes, Ms. Horn, the same services, only halved.

Dale L.Bohling is a Crescent City resident.