“I am so sorry,” I said. I was sorry for many more things than I could say. This is one moment I wish could be erased from my memory and done again, though differently. Ideally, I would greet the mother and child with a warm smile, take an extensive history, perform a thorough physical exam, discuss a list of possible diagnoses with mom, and send blood tests accordingly. I would reassure this mother we would properly evaluate her concerns.
While childhood injuries will continue to be a rite of passage, pediatricians have the opportunity to reduce those with long-term consequences, such as skull fractures and intracranial bleeds. Educating parents will go a long way toward ensuring the next generation grows up to make their own mark on the world in the future.
The single most critical issue facing your tenure will be improving access to healthcare for the population of Bremerton. On May 1, 2017, the state Department of Health granted Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI) a long awaited Certificate of Need to transfer all of the available hospital beds outside of the city and complete a $600 million dollar hospital expansion project in Silverdale, at the expense of healthcare access.
May 1st, the Washington State Department of Health will rule on the Certificate of Need (CON); whether or not CHI closes hospital operations in Bremerton and moves all services to Silverdale. CHI will invest $680 million to expand campus size and build a state-of-the-art facility; they will save $9 million annually in improved efficiency. It will take just 75.5 years to recoup the cost.
An article published in Health Affairs found seven of the nation’s 10 most profitable hospitals were of the non-profit variety, each earning more than $163 million from patient care services. Revoking their property tax-exempt status for not functioning as a charitable entity could return billions in healthcare dollars to local government, communities, and citizens, struggling to afford quality health care.
As an independent physician in private practice, I care a great deal about our people, our patients, and healthcare delivery in Kitsap County. The fact hospital consolidations do not economically benefit patients is backed by a mountain of scientific evidence. While those in charge may decide merging is ultimately the best course of action, it will be imperative we stand up as a unified community and hold CHI accountable for ensuring the cost savings they have promised materialize.
Studies continually show small clinics provide better quality care for lower cost, have fewer hospital admissions, and keep patients healthier than the hospital-based clinics. We must eliminate the onerous facility fee to level the playing field, eliminate the incentive for hospitals to create monopolies, and save Americans 100s of billions of dollars per year.
Every year when this child comes in for an annual check-up, I think back to the moments when I seemed like both hero and villain. This fragile infant recovered and has grown into a young man. It is important that physicians be intelligent, caring, empathetic, and work hard, but sometimes timing can make all the difference. While I do hope my future holds more days as a hero than a villain, this young man is a constant reminder for me to be grateful to those parents who place their precious children in my loving hands.
Extending an olive branch is never easy, but it is necessary. Commit to do just #OneKindAct. Make it extraordinary. Make it compassionate. Make it a statement that we do not tolerate hate, bigotry, racism, violence or discrimination of any kind.