Guest Column: Prior to Schapper, Tahoe Forest was the right size
August 14, 2014
In an open letter to the TFHD's community of patients, signed by many of the community physicians, they state, "Tahoe Forest Hospital was a small hospital providing adequate care to our community."
The hospital was far from just adequate prior to Mr Schapper's arrival. Mr. Long and his staff accomplished much to be proud of, as did other prior administrations. Tahoe Forest Hospital was an excellent hospital with dedicated, knowledgeable, professional, caring staff.
The majority of doctors who signed the letter were not practicing here prior to Mr. Schapper's arrival. What do they know about our community and the prior quality of our hospital? We've had excellent physicians and staff for many years. I remember Dr. Boone and Dr. Orozco receiving national recognition when a local carpenter accidentally shot himself in the heart with a nail gun.
TFH did not do cardiac surgery and did not have the right instruments for a cardiac procedure. With not enough time to transfer the patient, Howard and Butch took the man to surgery and saved his life. I am told that their case was not the only emergency heart repair at TFH. I could give example after example of difficult cases that were successful because of our physicians and staff. We were not transferring patients out all the time as the letter implied.
Tahoe Forest Hospital is accredited as a Critical Access Hospital. The hospital is not meant to be Stanford or UC Davis. Sometimes a patient needs to go where an illness is seen, a test, or procedure is done routinely. We make a mistake thinking TFH needs to be all things to all patients.
The US Dept. of Health and Human Services defines Critical Access Hospitals as, "No more than 25 inpatient beds; maintaining an annual average length of stay of no more than 96 hours for acute inpatient care … a focus on providing care for common conditions and outpatient care, while referring other conditions to larger hospitals."
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This definition leaves me questioning the hospital's staffing. Prior to Mr. Schapper's arrival, the hospital was the size it needed to be. The hospital provided excellent essential care. I am in favor of and glad that we now have cancer care; however, cancer treatment for us does not require having a huge excessively costly building, a team of oncologists, or radiotherapy. The building is beautiful, but not what is needed.
Let's get our hospital back on track. Let's focus on essential care for our residents. The hospital should utilize the new building with additional services. Why was the diabetes program dropped? I'm told that most hospitals now have a program to help diabetic patients maintain their health. Why do we have community members who have to go elsewhere for dialysis?
Paying the CEO a salary that is appropriate for a facility with 25 inpatient beds should free some money for needed services. The second story of the cancer center is it is empty now that Mrs. Schapper is no longer a hospital employee. Let's fill the cancer center with the services our community needs.
I applaud the physicians who did not feel pressured into signing the community letter. They seem to better understand our community.
It is necessary that the TFHD board of directors take charge in managing the hospital. It is time for the board to commit to lowering costs. I stand with community members who are concerned about what has been going on at Tahoe Forest Hospital. Vote for excellent essential care by voting for change.
Jamie Cole is a Truckee resident.