Taking DCH for granted


We have always been grateful that we live in a town where people care for and about one another, but this March our family was given a wake up call.

My father in law had a routine procedure and was found to have cancer, then went through major surgery all within two weeks. The medical care that was provided by our local hospital system and its doctors was in no way unusual or extraordinary.

People simply did their jobs but they did them very well and the results could not have been better. My father in law is an amazing 83 year old and he deserves some of the credit for the good results, but it looks like a miracle to his family.

I work in the hospital every day and I have always known that we have a good hospital: I now realize that I was taking DCH for granted.

This experience, considering the ongoing crisis and reform of our national health care system, has forced me to wake up and put things in perspective.

First, I was wondering if our local hospital made any money while providing this ordinary, but life saving care.

Did Medicare pay enough to cover the cost of this care?

Was this part of the $2.3 million annual loss that DCH shows because of underpayment by Medicare?

Then I started thinking of all the families like mine that depend on our local hospital. It became apparent that The Daily News coverage of DCH does not include some of the most important stories about what goes on in our hospital.

Reporting the details of individual patient’s hospital stories cannot be done for confidentiality reasons but there are publicly available statistics that tell a story about how many lives are affected by our hospital every month.

Here is a summary of the care that was provided during the same month that our loved one was in the hospital.

During March of this year 46 babies took their first breath inside our hospital; 6 people took their last breath; 242 people were admitted to the hospital; and 229 had surgery.

Of the 242 people admitted to the hospital only 13 were transferred to another hospital. Of the 229 who had surgery 171 were outpatient surgeries and 58 were larger surgeries done on patients who stayed more than a day.

My father in law was one of those 58.

Of the 1,256 people seen in the emergency department only 31 were sent to a larger hospital for care that could not be provided here.

Of the patients seen in the E.R., 284 were not required to pay for the care that was provided because they did not have insurance or other financial resources to pay for their care.

DCH sent bills for over $285,000 for that care and no money was ever collected.

These losses are for just one month and just for the Emergency Department.

The unpaid bills for in-hospital care are even larger for that month.

Remember, that each of these numbers represents another family that is hoping for a miracle.

If you think about it, you will realize that some of the worst months for the finances of our hospital are the months that it is doing the most for the people that it is here to serve. This kind of service cannot be provided to the people of our community by the larger hospitals that are two hours drive from home.

These numbers prove that our hospital not only does its job well, but also quietly plays an important role in the community.

It is not just another business trying to survive The Great Recession.

DCH is part of the way our community cares about and for one another. Using and supporting our local hospital is the best way we as individuals contribute to making our community strong.

If The Daily News could publish this kind of data along side the hospital financial report it would serve as a reminder that we should not take our hospital for granted.

Dr. Douglas Henke, M.D.

Iron Mountain