As CEO of the hospital, I am often reaching out to the community and asking what we can do better and the chief complaint and explanation people want is, "Why the wait? Why do I have to wait so long in the Emergency Room.?"
McCurtain Memorial Hospital was built in the 1970's and back then, I doubt anyone would have envisioned that one day, on any given Thursday through Sunday, the population would literally double in this county. Our lakes, rivers, trails and of course one-of-a-kind getaways spark tourism like few other places in the country but with that comes increased trips to the Emergency Room.
I still laugh to this day when I think about a prominent businessman in Hochatown who told me right before the election, "If the residents of this county want a new hospital, residents need to pay for it. Not tourist." I could mention that this same businessman is in on the lawsuit to stop the collection of the lodging tax but what is important is the ignorance in such a statement. Of the 15,000 visits a year to the Emergency Room, by our calculations, over half of those are from out-of-state.
Recreation in McCurtain County often comes at a cost when you're not familiar with our roads, lakes, rivers and trails. Whether its the multi-vehicle car accident that sends 7-12 people to the hospital; the crash into a rock from a boat or jet ski; or a fall from a hiking trail - MMH's Emergency Room is likely to become your destination in any of these instances.
In a perfect world, you are the only person at the Emergency Room when you arrive. You enter Registration and tell the clerk what has happened, she gets you entered into the system and to the back you go. Two minutes later, the Emergency Room doctor and his nurses are in your room, assess what is going on with you on this visit and shortly thereafter, radiology and lab are present to do x-rays and draw blood and no more than 10 minutes later you are all fixed up and out the door. But, for just a second, lets look at reality for a moment...
Your local hospital, built in the 70's, was built to accommodate 8 patients at a time and two trauma's. Sufficient for a county with 21,000 residents at the time? Perhaps. Sufficient for a population of 60,000 on a high-volume weekend? Absolutely not.
I admit I am partial to our team of doctors and nurses because I am the most critical in my evaluation of the type and standard of care we provide and I have seen these men and women in action on many occasions. I was there when a small child was rushed in, unresponsive. Simultaneously, when multiple victims from a multi-car accident arrived - only to be followed by a man who was here visiting and had been stung multiple times by bees and died after every possible effort to save his life. I also recall having to go into the waiting room and ask a woman to calm down who, was here for a bad cough, because she was belligerent that she had now waited two hours to be seen.
When you or your loved one are sick, you are the only one that matters in the moment and we truly understand that. We just want our patients to understand that our Emergency Room gets extremely busy and often times, you may not see what is truly taking place in the back or what EMS may be delivering to us. The Emergency Room is intended for emergencies only but as you can imagine, there are those who use the ER for things they could easily see a primary care physician for in a clinic. In fact, we have three rural health clinics that we would love to see you in located right here in Idabel, Valliant and Hochatown.
We have to assess every patient and prioritize which patients are seen first and often times that decision is made for us when something critical rolls through the door that requires all hands on deck. While you may not see it or realize it, someone who has stopped breathing and requires resuscitation may take as many as 10 or more healthcare professionals to alternate chest compressions, starting IV fluids and medications as well as getting x-rays and lab work. Our ER is constantly moving with very little, if any, downtime. Even when you may see a nurse sitting down at a computer, it is because he/she is required to chart on each and every patient, each and every encounter and each and every aspect of that patients care. Also remember, too, that many departments are a part of the Emergency Room treatment process: you have the ER staff who you see and an entire team of radiologist off site reviewing your images, a team of lab professionals analyzing your blood work and so much more. When we are extremely busy, all of these departments and people can become backed up. Never assume that we have forgotten you or that your care does not matter to us.
"Your ER nurses and doctors are compassionate, caring and competent."
The residents of this county should be extremely proud of their hospital and the medical professionals here. Are we perfect? No. Do we strive to be? Every single day. Your ER nurses and doctors are compassionate, caring and competent. They're smart, hard-working and care about nothing more than getting you better. You are our friends, family, church members, co-workers and so forth. We care. We don't just see you in our ER, we see you at Walmart-Mart, church, at local restaurants and at our kids' softball games. You matter and what you're going through matters, too. We just hope you realize that your broken toe may not receive the immediate attention that a broken leg may. Or, your headache that is driving you crazy may not take priority over the overdose that just arrived by EMS. It does not mean you do not matter - it just mean that something else has taken priority and we need you to believe that the very moment we are able, we will take care of you.
As the administrator, I am able to see real-time who is in the waiting room and who is in the ER. I am able to see the time you walked in, the time you were taken to the back, seen and released. If ever you feel that we have not met your needs in a timely manner, let me know. I will research the situation, look at what else was going on in the ER at the time and take appropriate action. When we are wrong, we will admit it and we will correct it. You have my word on that. But, before you crucify your nurses and doctors on social media about how bad they "suck," or "don't care," give us a chance to explain what was happening that perhaps you did not know.
We are looking forward to a new hospital and our hopes is that we design it in a way that is more efficient and allows for us to handle more volume when needed, efficiently and productively. Tell a nurse or healthcare professional today how much you appreciate them. This is a stressful job, folks. These nurses and doctors truly do care about you and your family.
This is our town, too.
Brian Whitfield, CEO McCurtain Memorial Hospital