The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

June 3, 2013

Small town hospitals often get bum rap


PRINCEVILLE — By and large, I think small town hospitals get a bum rap.

I know everyone has a horror story to tell about their hospital experience, and I’ve heard my share since arriving in Tarboro, but it’s not just the hospital up the street that sometimes experience problems.

There are the stories about the big, university teaching hospitals where instruments or sponges were discovered to have been left inside the patient after surgery and my line of thought is that if the big boys — with all their so-called checks and balances — can have a tumble, then so can their little cousins.

In Big Spring, Texas, the hospital was called Scenic Mountain Medical Center, but the locals called it “Suicide Mountain” for the inference that if you went, you were, in effect, committing suicide.

There were stories, of course, but most were third or fourth-hand and two or three times removed and were almost always prefaced by “I knew someone who knew ...”

When I had cancer in 2004, Stephanie and I talked a long time about treatment and many people thought we were crazy when I made the decision to be treated at Thomasville Medical Center and not the big guys in the Triangle.

It would up being a pretty easy decision, though, because we knew all of my caregivers personally ... even many of the nurses ... and I slept in my own bed every night.

Had I been elsewhere, we would have had limited support, but staying at home, my ENT, Frank Burton, actually managed the care provided by the radiation oncologist and the hematologist. When I was sick, I could go see our family doc.

When Frank did the partial resection of my neck to remove the lymph node, he did it at Thomasville Medical Center and late that night, when a seepage began, the nurse called both Frank and Stephanie, who had been a nurse in the ED there and, while I didn’t ask her to be called, he knew she would want to know.

Yes, I have a couple of hospital horror stories, but not from one of the little guys.

The little guys have done very well by Stephanie and me ... Thomasville, Franklinton, La. and Tarboro.

My wife and I have both been on the receiving end of the care of Dr. Weathers and staff in the ED and, in the words of one of the signs that hung in the OR on M-A-S-H, it was “the best care anywhere.”

Rinson Weathers, in my opinion, could write the manual on bedside etiquette for ED docs ... even, easy, matter-of-fact and always on his game.

He and his staff, after the EMTs delivered me to their capable hands, gave me the care I needed to allow me to write this clumn today.

And they do it — to one extent or another — 26,000 times a year.

 To me, that’s why the expansion of the emergency department at the hospital is so vital.

A community’s access to quality healthcare is one of the first things people look at when considering a new community —just ask Stephanie, our healthcare researcher!

The completion of the expansion is a key step in the fiscal well-being of our community in that there are others, like me, who want to stay at home at a time like that.

Because we have the services we do at our hospital, we have a leg up on other communities. It’s an important part of the mix ... of the “return” of Tarboro ... that will be unveiled Tuesday.

(John H. Walker is editor and publisher of The Daily Southerner. He can be reached at 823-3106 or editor