Letters to the Editor

LETTER TO THE EDITOR | A gem in our midst

Many people think small, rural county hospitals like Whidbey General just don’t measure up. Bigger is better. After all, that’s the American way, right? Perhaps.

This is not the usual letter saying how grateful I was to walk away whole after my recent visit to the emergency room. It’s not just about how well I was treated, because once drugs kick in everything seems rosy. Once we’re home we tend to forget the pain and move on. If we’re happy with the service we just figure that’s normal. If we’re not happy, we tell our friends. That’s how it usually goes.

So, why am I writing this? And who am I writing it to? I’m writing to those of us who are indifferent to this gem in our midst. Those who feel strongly about Whidbey General Hospital in either direction will probably not find anything new in what I have written here. But I suggest everyone think about what I’m sharing anyway.

When it comes to hospitals and emergency rooms in general, we often don’t know what we have until we need them. That’s the good news and the bad news. Most of us think we won’t need them and happily live in a bubble of magical thinking. Until the day we wake up at 3:30 a.m. and need help, urgent help.

One recent Friday morning I found myself in the Whidbey General emergency room. While I had spent many hours there on prior occasions with friends and family members, this time it was my body on the line. It was me lying on the gurney with lines attached, in great pain and worried about what might be happening.

So, to be clear, kidney stones are nowhere near as much fun as they sound. The emergency room nurses were not only professional and efficient, they managed to maintain a light hearted attitude throughout. CT scan. Blood work. Meds. More meds. Finally the diagnosis.

Throughout this ordeal, though, one moment stands out. That’s when Linda Gipson, Ph.D., WGH’s new chief nursing officer, dropped by to see how everything was going. I had worked with senior military officers for years, and I knew when she walked in the room that she had command experience. She was very gracious and answered questions we had about the situation at hand. It was obvious, too, that the nurses I met were very pleased she was in charge.

I should mention here that such visits to patient rooms are not normal. In large medical centers patients just don’t see the administrative decision makers — instead they are typically treated like numbers, in and out the door. But this visit highlighted the very strength of a small, community hospital — it can focus on quality personal care. The fact that Whidbey General has been able to hire someone with Gipson’s skill set, as well as her desire to maintain a clinical focus, is truly amazing. It makes me very interested to see the direction our hospital will take in the future.

I’m a speech-language pathologist by profession. What you may not know is that speech and language professionals often work in medical centers and with patients having multiple severe medical problems. I retired recently after 25 years, having served on the staff of six major medical centers — private, public and military — in the Bay Area and Europe.

After arriving on Whidbey Island, I decided to work at Whidbey General on a part-time basis. Like most people, I figured a small county hospital was going to be just a step behind the times. But after the two-day staff orientation, I walked away stunned. This was without a doubt the best introduction to a hospital I had ever received. I was intrigued. Later, I was equally impressed by the staff members I met who, although highly trained and experienced, had chosen to come to Whidbey — sometimes accepting a cut in pay — for the same reason so many of us did. It’s a great place to live and raise a family.

While I fell into the indifferent category until that recent Friday morning, I now plan to aggressively support our quality-driven medical center. My message to you: Don’t wait to support our community hospital until you need to use it. If you do, this wonderful facility could very easily disappear or get swallowed up by the large profit-driven corporations waiting for it to fail. Step up and help make a great place even better.

Sue Keblusek, MA, CCC-SLP



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