Thursday, November 12, 2009

Failed Initiative

Two weeks ago, the Guymon City Council deliberated on whether to approve a proposed ordinance that would have created all sorts of hurdles for anybody planning to start surgical or imaging centers. The move was widely perceived to target and prevent a local radiologist from putting up his own CT scan. The campaign to get the ordinance passed was stealthily conducted and the first time I learned about it was 2 days before the council meeting. Within 48 hours, the radiologist brought a trailer containing a CT scanner and parked it a block away from the hospital, forestalling whatever legal obstacles that were to take effect.

The City Council went ahead and discussed the merits of the ordinance. I later wrote this letter to the editor of the Guymon Daily Herald:

Recently, our hospital administration led an initiative to amend municipal rules regarding the establishment of ancillary medical services. The proposal went down in defeat because it was written in vague language that was a virtual invitation for judicial challenge. To illustrate, anyone contemplating in building a 5 square foot shed to house an ultrasound machine would be required to pay a minimum amount of $10,000 as filing fee and be subject to a “feasibility study” conducted by “a recognized health care industry consulting firm”.

A majority of the City Council members plainly saw the legal nightmare that would ensue without clear and objective parameters in measuring the “impact” that medical technology might bring. They were likewise not swayed by the scary speculation of mass layoffs that a single CT scan would potentially cause.

The administrator tried to portray the playing field as greatly disadvantageous to our hospital. This appeared incongruous however given the strong support of the 200 hospital employees behind him, the top notch legal counsel he was receiving from a prestigious law firm in Oklahoma City, and the singular advantage of not having to pay taxes because of the not for profit status of our hospital.

Among the assumptions in the proposed ordinance completely debunked was that competition would increase medical costs to the citizens of Guymon when it was shown that certain procedures cost 50% less when performed in an outpatient facility.

For close to 15 years, I have cared for patients at the Memorial Hospital of Texas County. I am proud of the people who make our hospital a center of excellence. From nursing to housekeeping, pharmacy, respiratory therapy, laboratory, medical records, home healthcare and other departments, we have deeply committed and exceptionally compassionate employees who faithfully render splendid service to the sick and dying in our community. Tammy Arnold, Christine Kirk, John Jones, Ginger Freeman, Brenda Hussey, Jackie Schupman, Kim Ware, Kim Zigler, Carla Hernandez, Jane Rivera, Audrey Vergara, Kacie Abbott, Rasonya Chadick, Mona Behne, Jill Shaw, Judy Webb, Dondie Rodgers, Marla Gordon, Jenny Carnagey, Brenda Jarrett, Andrea Upshaw, Kim Martinez, Donna Miller, Maria Puebla, Michele Reust, Maria Van Bebber, Sherry Denton, Isabel Calderon, Kim Fuentes, Bobbie Cooper, Deborah Arndt, Adrienne Geisbracht, Michelle Williamson, Megan Furnish, Rosa Reyes, Kristina Pal, Theresa Ross, Chet Oblander, Linda Barker, Kim Blevins, Tommy Romero, Jacob Tuttle, Liz Lim stand out.

To keep our hospital strong and competitive, I am confident that we simply need to continuously promote and tirelessly capitalize on the people and the wonderful work they provide. Dabbling in local politics only diminishes the luster of a polished gem.