Letters to the Editor
April 16, 2020
To the editor,
At a time when emergency hospitals are being brought in to use on both coasts and temporary hospitals and morgues are being set up in our country, it seems unconscionable that we are considering allowing our local hospital to slip out of existence. Our remote community feels safe. No Corona-19 here. What’s the big deal? We not only don’t have an epidemic; we don’t have disasters. No hurricanes, no tornados, no earthquakes, no floods, and no big crime problem in Garfield County. Like the frog sitting in the pan of water on the stove, our blessings may be making us dangerously unaware that we live outside the Garden where bad things do happen to good people.
Garfield County is a safe place. That’s why we chose to raise our kids here, and our grandkids are growing up here. We are blessed. We are safe and free, and we take care of each other. We support our kids, turn out for their games, and are creative in our attempts to honor them. We provide for the hungry with lunches, backpacks, weekend food, a creative food bank, and temporary housing for the homeless. We have community groups that serve at great cost to themselves by meeting needs and providing fun activities at our senior center, and a great county fair that supports kids and agriculture. People who care more about others than themselves provide Easter egg hunts, swim team, and ball parks. We have volunteers who will drop everything and jump in an ambulance or on a fire truck. Our churches know how to worship together, there is a nativity scene on our court house lawn at Christmas, and we have a sheriff who will lead us in an Easter parade.
We are blessed. But we need to stay awake and appreciative. Those blessings do not come without a cost. If we want to have a grocery store, pharmacy, hardware store, a newspaper, quality school, clinic, hospital, nursing home, and emergency room, we will have to invest our money in them.
I love Garfield County. I hear a lot of folks echo that sentiment, but if we want to keep it, it will require more than sentiment. To quote Doug Pollock, a founder of Athletes in Action, “Love is a commitment you make to act in someone else’s best interest. True love can only be known by the actions it prompts.” If we love this community, we will have to put our money where we say our heart is.
To the editor,
The City of Pomeroy and Garfield County share a long, interesting history. I would like to recount a little bit of it here, albeit personally tinged, believe it relevant to the topic. To give you an idea how deep my roots are, great grandfather Charles Adam McCabe was camped along the Pataha Creek, near Laurel Feider’s place, East of what is now Pomeroy, when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.
In the 1940s the people of Garfield County, including my maternal grandparents, Wynne Stallcop and Stella Ruark Stallcop (I mention them because Wynne, who by all accounts was very active and respected in the community and no doubt a strong supporter of the initiative, was tragically killed in a plane crash in 1949, along with the plane’s owner Lewis Whitmore) recognized the need to improve the spectrum of medical care in their Community. Land was donated for the project, the construction of a hospital was approved and, an additional physician, R.J. Weiland, Sr., was recruited to practice here. On June 3, 1951, he brought me into this world, the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck, and I wasn’t responding to the usual stimuli. Fortunately, old Doc Scherffy was in the Hospital, responded to the commotion, advised Weiland to splash me with anesthetic ether and…it worked! (many of you have wondered, now you know). Being appreciative of the treatment received, I’ve supported the Hospital ever since.
In the 1970s, those same people, along with their offspring, recognized the need for a facility to accommodate their long-term care needs, and again, adjoining landowners provided the land and the construction of Memory Manor was approved by the voters. Granddad Charles Alexander McCabe was one of the first to reserve a room and was asked to cut the ribbon at the Grand Opening. Additionally, great grandmother Cora Ruark, soon became a resident. Between the 40s and the 70s, three prior generations, from both sides of my family (McCabe-Mock, Stallcop-Ruark,) received care at the Hospital, then most wrote their final chapter while in Memory Manor. Kim and I, our active three sons, utilized Hospital services (ER, lab, X-ray, physical therapy) on several occasions, undoubtedly will again, and hope it will be available for future use.
I, and as Brad Gingerich conveyed in his editorial, have also been able to view it from a different perspective. I joined the Fire Dept. in 1967, became an EMT in 1976 and in 1978 began coordinating the Fire District ambulance service for close to 30 years. We responded to thousands of aid calls, fortunately most not true emergencies, and would deliver our patients to the ER where they would be treated and released or, admitted to our Hospital to continue treatment. When we were confronted with actual medical or traumatic emergencies it was reassuring, to both the responders and patients, to know that advanced intervention was nearby. Were it not, more than likely some of my patients would have expired on the way to a hospital in the Valley. During that time, we could depend on a number of dedicated volunteers to staff the ambulances 24/7. Since we had local facilities, most calls took them away from their jobs, their family, their sleep, for less than an hour. Conversely, if it was necessary to go to St. Joe’s or, at times, Spokane, it was 2-6 hours. I recently had a discussion with the Fire District’s current EMS coordinator, Deanna Weymouth, and she indicated that now it’s an ongoing struggle to recruit volunteers for the ambulance. If every call was 2+ hours, it might become impossible. The probable solution is a full time, paid staff funded by voter approved annual EMS levies. We will be taxed, one way or the other.
Based on the forgoing, my preference is a GCHD levy, which translates into continued access to an ER, MDs, PAs, ARNPs, RNs, and a bed to be put in, monitored, treated and released. Or, if it’s a true emergency, receive advanced interventional treatment, stabilized, then be transferred to the proper facility. The alternative is a white-knuckled, wild ride in the back of an ambulance with the odds of survival diminishing with each minute and bump in the road. As indicated, been there many times before as the caregiver and don’t relish the idea of having to participate as a patient.
It’s been 40+ years since the original, major expansion of our medical facilities, over which time GCHD has experienced good times, trying times and multiple challenges, all affecting how people view it, such is human nature. What concerns me about human nature is, how entrenched an unfavorable view can become due to an occurrence three, six, nine years ago. During that interval the members of the Board, providers, administration, staff, policies and procedures, have undergone many changes, recent ones showing promise.
The history of modern medicine in Garfield County began in the 1940s and, as with every genesis, there follows its evolution. We are at the point in that process where we need to visualize, as did our forbearers, what is necessary for the health, growth and prosperity of our Community. GCHD has a new MD now accepting patients at the Clinic and, it’s my understanding, two new mid-level providers are coming on board to stabilize ER staffing, positive steps by the HD. Those providers need and deserve a functioning facility to practice in and that’s up to us.
History is relative and how it’s viewed, a matter of perspective. For me, it began in 1951 and, thanks to the citizens of Garfield County, the Hospital was there for me. Over the subsequent 69 years, personally and anecdotally, I’ve heard a number of similar, life-sustaining-occurrence stories, and during my years with the ambulance, witnessed many, all of which are part of the Hospital’s book of history.
Finally, I realize individual circumstances dictate the impact taxes have on each of us. After receiving this year’s tax statement, I took a closer look at which entity got what and I encourage you to do the same. To me, it was astonishing. Considering the cost associated with medical providers, staff, and the maintenance and operation of the hospital complex, it obviously had to be a big part of our tax bills. The Hospital District receives 3.5% of the taxes collected?! If you pay $1,000 in taxes the Hospital gets $35, if $10,000, just $350. It doesn’t appear that the Hospital has been a major tax burden on any of us, nor would it be for year 2021 if the levy is approved at the projected $1.56 per $1,000 of assessed value. Homes valued at $100K amounts to $13/mo., farms valued at $600K would be $78/mo. Please take a close look at the actual cost to you. As always, happy to discuss it with you.
To the editor,
I strongly support the hospital levy. A number of my family members have been helped medically and maybe even a life or two saved by having emergency services here locally. I and other family members have used the clinic for primary care services when needed. How do you put a price on such services, most especially when it is life and death!! Medical services are an integral part of any viable community and given the fact that it is one of the major employers in the community we would be in a steep decline economically as a community to lose this employer base. The economic impact isn’t just on the employees who lose jobs but it ripples through the community with loss of consumers for local businesses, loss of renters for local housing or detrimental housing values as the number of homes go up for sale by those forced to leave the community to find new employment, and potential loss of students in our local schools. If you value living in Pomeroy and value the benefits of a small community supporting our medical system and our schools is the only way to keep it a viable place to live and work. If anyone thinks that the medial system will survive if the levy is voted down with the notion that it has survived in the past you are choosing to play Russian roulette with the hope that the “bullet that kills” doesn’t come up this time. That day will come if we keep playing this silly game and then what do we do!!