New San Juan medical center deserves support | Letters to the Editor

Support integrated medical center

For those of you who missed the meeting regarding the new integrated medical center on May 28, it was a wonderful presentation and made me more personally aware of how expanded services would benefit all of us on the island.

The opportunity to partner with the Peace Health organization to provide a new level of integrated health services is “just what the doctor ordered.”

Another meeting will be held today at 5:30 p.m. in Mullis Center. More details regarding the proposal will be provided. I urge everyone to attend the meeting and become an informed supporter.

Dave Tietjen
San Juan Island

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I am a newcomer to San Juan Island, having waded ashore in February 2007.

My wife and I purchased property on the island in 2002 and embarked on homebuilding beginning the summer of 2006. We had a commitment to house-sit an island home and pets beginning Jan. 1, 2007 while our piece of paradise was being completed.

Sadly, as a result of an infection complicating my third hip replacement surgery, I had a requirement for six weeks of intravenous antibiotics. By phone, I found there was nursing expertise and pharmacy capability here in Friday Harbor to meet my required needs.

However, because there was not an accredited inpatient facility on the island, my Medicare insurance would not fund such care locally. I therefore spent the next six weeks in Eugene, Ore., apart from my wife, receiving three hours of daily intravenous antibiotics.

If such an inpatient facility had been available here, it would have greatly eased my situation and provided the opportunity to avoid a stumbling transition to becoming an island resident. I would predict that I am not alone in telling my story as other islanders may have had similar scenarios, be it with antibiotics, chemotherapy for cancer, or other short term medical situations.

I strongly support the concept of an integrated medical facility with inpatient capabilities that can provide for the future needs of local islanders.

George L. Foster, M.D.
San Juan Island

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I would like to add my voice in favor of the proposed integrated medical facility.

Last fall, my mother, who lived on the island for 25 years, was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer. During her last months of life, she needed to leave the island three times for procedures that the proposed facility will be able to accommodate easily.

Instead of being dragged onto the ferry, oxygen bottles in tow, we could have had her electrolytes balanced right here and watched overnight. Instead of sitting five hours in a car and another in a straight-back chair in the waiting room in pain, knowing she had three hours more to go to get back home, all for a MRI, she only would have had to endure seven minutes of travel time for the MRI at an island facility.

I feel for those folks who must go off regularly for chemo or dialysis, feeling nauseous and in pain. I can understand that these thoughts would not be uppermost in your mind, unless you have had the experience of watching someone you love suffer needlessly.

I am also a volunteer EMT. Many times — many, many times — we transport patients off the island, put them on a helicopter or fixed-wing flight, when all they need is to be watched overnight or have a CT scan, or any one of the other options that just a little larger facility would be able to offer.

Some folks think that transporting patients off-island by helicopter is a good system. I must admit, as an EMT, I do love giving a critical patient to the helicopter crew. However, there are quite a few times a year when the helicopters can’t fly due to weather or being busy somewhere else.

Sending patients in any kind of flying machine or boat puts them and the crew in danger. Schlepping patients to the mainland when they feel bad, using a system that should only be used for critical care, seems irresponsible to me, especially when we have the means to create a center that would answer so many more of our island’s medical needs.

Let’s make decisions about medical services, like your loved one is sick and needs the best compassionate care possible. Let’s be proactive, practical and a little more self-sufficient.

Cady Chapman Davies
San Juan Island

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I write to encourage all members of our community to attend the forthcoming meeting of the hospital district to ask questions and give their input in the discussion regarding the proposed new medical center.

The meeting will be held today, 5:30 p.m., at Mullis Center.

 I speak from experience when I state that this new medical center is what we really need at this time.

I was a part-time resident of San Juan Island beginning in 2001 and became full-time in 2004.

Between 2003-04, I had to be flown off the island twice by Northwest Air Ambulance to the mainland for what were then classified as medical emergencies. Had the proposed center been in existence at the time, I doubt that either of these trips would have been necessary as the diagnostic and emergency services would have been available here and I could have left the island on a non-emergency basis to get the ultimate treatment that I eventually needed.

In the first instance, I was  severely dehydrated and showing signs of kidney failure, which was quickly diagnosed at the emergency room at St. Joseph’s. I was hospitalized and given every test imaginable along with massive doses of fluids and antibiotics, all of which could have been administered here on island by our very competent caregivers if there was a licensed bed available at the time.

In the second evacuation, I had broken my shoulder due to a fall and it was easily diagnosed here on the island, but I was flown off to Island Hospital so an orthopedist could treat me. She eventually did, following five hospital days waiting for my blood thinner levels to diminish so I could be operated on to set the shoulder. Thus, I spent these five days in the hospital receiving pain medications and fluids.

All of that pre-op treatment could have been done at my home and I could have been driven off the island to receive the ultimate non-invasive treatment that was used to set my shoulder.

Needless to say, the expense to insurance carriers — not me — was  in excess of $75,000. Additionally, there was the expense and inconvenience for my family to have to live in motels for all this time as well.

I provide this information  to give testimony to the value of having this proposed integrated medical center on our island. The opportunity to  have modern quality medical care to islanders can only improve life in the San Juans.

Michael Roger
Friday Harbor

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We have overheard some negative comments  voiced by islanders regarding the possibility of a expanded 24/7 primary care medical center on San Juan Island, and we wonder if these people have read the recent Journal’s comprehensive reporting on the process, which has been ongoing since 2006.

We see this project as having a sound financial and medical basis for making our life more secure here as islanders with medical needs never known but always on the horizon regardless of our age.

Is it pleasant to prepare for a colonoscopy in a Bellingham hotel room? Is it stressful for family members to ferry to the mainland when a loved one has been airlifted to a mainland hospital? Is a full day of travel to Seattle or Bellingham for a two-hour chemotherapy session restful?  

We have been presented with options to these scenarios and we believe an informed public, advising and supporting our hospital district commissioners, will collectively make the best decisions. Don’t parrot someone else’s ideas: Seek out your own information and make your voice heard.

Phyllis and David Adelman
San Juan Island