Letters to the Editor

Inter Island Medical Center staff is stretched too thin

I appreciate the article that was written about the Medical Center ("Talk of cuts, furloughs bred fear and suspicion at IIMC," page 1, Oct. 27 Journal).

As a patient who has been there way too many times in the last couple of years, I have a view that might be different from the emphasis in the paper. I too have seen problems internally. But what I have seen is an overworked staff in all areas. If the patient count is down for 2010, the waits were sure not less, and doctors and nurses being pushed to their limits was more the norm than the odd event.

I remember evenings when I had to be there after hours for one thing or another, when nurses had been there from early morning and exhausted. I remember doctors on 24-hour call, working from early morning to end of day, so tired that when called by me because I felt it necessary to be seen after hours, I heard language that made me feel like no one cared, but realized it was more signals of just being stretched too thin.

The piece I don’t know for sure, but can only say how it feels, is that all the staff at the center is expected to work longer and see clients for ever-shorter appointments, which makes for some of those horrible errors that were eluded to in the article. It just isn’t possible to be there for a patient in the way necessary to minimize errors if they are pushed into taking appointments every 15 minutes.

I had a test in Anacortes a few years ago, and that test was negative. However, the person reading that test found something that was critical for me to know and listed it in bold. That entry was never noticed by the doctor. Would this doctor have seen that entry if he wasn’t being pressed into those tight appointments? I believe so.

The rest of the story I don’t think has been told is that those who have been pressuring staff at all levels are also stressed over financial issues. They are trying to keep the place open. Does that mean there are no villains? It might. But what could be happening are things that would build the morale of all who work at the center. Maybe there could be an appreciation dinner at the home of one of the board members. Or a great lunch brought in once a month for everyone. Something that says, “We know you are stretched to your limit and we really appreciate you."

And as far as patients are concerned, it is one thing to have to wait for over an hour more often than not. What could be done is to have administration ask the desk staff let people know that there may be a long wait and to offer a cup of tea or a suggestion that someone could go out and run an errand for 15 minutes.

There is a sign attached to the desk that says: “Our Mission is You.” In order to show that to staff and patients alike, it doesn’t require being perfect, or having an endless amount of time to do things, or even have everything be stress free, but it sure has to do with making sure people feel appreciated. I believe that would go a long way for everybody.

And even though I believe that a good part of the problems at the center are from the top down, I am aware that they too are feeling overwhelmed and in need of appreciation.

It is from that place of understanding each other’s position there that the best solutions would come.

Andrea Simmons
San Juan Island

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