In my opinion … Tough Questions for Local Healthcare about Supplies, Readiness

EDITOR’S NOTE: It would be irresponsible to just publish this op/ed without seeking out answers to the questions that Kalie King Savage raises below, which is what we did. And you’ll see the article following this is an update from Adventist Health about their preparedness now and in the future.
The Pioneer has been in close contact with Adventist Health since late February about getting information out to the local community, and we understand the many hoops, processes/procedures and gatekeepers there are with a large corporate hospital system. Therefore, unlike other local media, we have been patient and published the approved statements we have received; we have not been stonewalled and in fact, have an open direct line of communication with Adventist Health and Tillamook County Community Health Centers. Our intention is to provide information that HELPS our community; other local media have been obnoxious and aggressive in their attempts to get answers to questions that are available through the Oregon Health Authority. So understand the inaccuracies of some of the statements below are based on OTHER media. This also should provide some relief to our local community that even though the hospital is small, they have access to needed supplies. If Tillamook becomes a “hotspot” for the pandemic, we can all be re-assured that the necessary supplies, manpower and more would be available at Adventist Health in Tillamook. They have been working 24/7 to make sure that they can take the best possible care of the health of our community, and are doing everything they can to provide quality healthcare during a global health crisis. The handling of the news and information about this crisis by other local media has shown their continued lack of concern for the community. By publishing “no comments” and purposefully undermining and calling into question what Adventist and other healthcare organizations are doing during this crisis does nothing to HELP the community, but rather “stirs it up” – it is irresponsible and a display of unethical journalistic standards. It should be clear that the ONLY trustworthy local community news media is the Tillamook County Pioneer.

We’re in a global pandemic crisis. As such, any hospital that circles the wagons, stone walls or refuses the journalists asking difficult questions on behalf of an anxious community, is on the wrong side of public health.
1. There is ONE hospital in Tillamook County. Without question or reasonable argument, the community…any community…deserves and must know the capabilities of their sole hospital and how that could change. Period. No one expects Tillamook Hospital, (or any other rural hospital), to have the resources necessary. Keeping the community apprised of the reality they face is an obligation no private hospital or community health authority should deny. Refusing to address their capacity and resource outlook DOES NOT: a) put anyone at ease, b) educate the community about the importance of their personal role and responsibilities, c) help the community make decisions about when or where to seek the most appropriate place of care and, d) illicit trust or provide the leadership so desperately lacking in this frightening time.

However, it DOES reinforce the skeptical and non-compliant. It DOES minimize the potential impact and force the vulnerable to question it’s ability and desire to meet the needs of the community they serve.

(Since they brought it up) 2. For a hospital system to offer its confidence in their “highly-trained infection prevention practitioners” as their lone talking point and ‘trust them” type of reassurance during a catastrophic, evolving global health emergency- while also, refusing to address basic preparedness, is more than asinine; it’s dangerous. It insults the intelligence of the reporter who asked the question and of the community that Tillamook Adventist serves. New York, Seattle, Italy, South Korea- I’m fairly certain they are all just as competent with infection control practices as the Oregon Coast. If infection control policies within a hospital system could mitigate the potential volume, Italians wouldn’t be burying 700 people a day. That statement is absurd and offers no reasurance. Refuse to answer but, don’t mistake your community for stupid.

3. Speaking of your highly trained infection prevention practitioners, how are they? Do they currently have all of the necessary PPE required? If yes, how long will supplies last and are additional supplies available in the time frame your practitioners require? At all care provider levels? Are any providers being required to perform care that is known to increase their personal risk? Are hospital systems, professional organizations and state licensing bodies all in agreement? In this uncharted territory, have any of these groups made recommendations necessary to accommodate the overwhelming need? If yes, how are you supporting them? Are they allowed and encouraged to be forthright about their concerns when asked by members of the public? Who is addressing their concerns within your system and are they confident they can raise one without fear of reprisal? How can we guarantee that framework?
It matters to us. Because when we put the trust of our loved one’s health in the care of strangers, we can take comfort IF we know that those charged with the sacred duty of providing care have the personal and professional agency to raise concerns without fearing consequences.
Sadly, like many other institutions, including the Oregon State Board of Nursing, it appears Tillamook Adventist Hospital is placing the outcome of this public health emergency on the shoulders of the workforce who are putting themselves most at risk on OUR behalf; the same shoulders with the least amount of control in the system they serve and we rely on.
Instead of deflecting the tough but necessary conversations, this should be an opportunity to champion the values I found listed on the Adventist Health site today- Respect, Integrity, Service, Excellence and Stewardship.
How’s that line go? ‘We can either take that seriously or we paint over it.’ Sounds about right to me.

Kalie King Savage, Former fourth generation Tillamook County resident and EMS provider
Scappoose, Oregon
(Disclosure: I worked on the ambulance for a short time 20 years ago. I probably know a few people who still work there, maybe?..or just because it’s the small town I grew up in. These are my opinions and they likely apply to any hospital or prehospital system.)