OMC: serve Orcas | Letter

The Orcas Medical Center and Orcas Medical Foundation Board have the opportunity right now to make substantive changes – and have the moral responsibility to do so. Island Hospital is canceling its contractual arrangement with OMC, and there is talk of UW Neighborhood Clinics assuming a role. This change mirrors a deeper problem. If there is a constant at OMC, it has been instability: the loss of some of its finest physicians, six or more in 10 years.

Now is the time for those who want better medical care to exhort the OMF to fulfill its mission to serve the medical needs of all Orcas residents. Dr. David Shinstrom recently did just that. He proposed to the board what seems to make medical and economic sense: that OMC invite interested Orcas physicians to move their medical practices to OMC. Doing so would end the Balkanization and make OMC a genuine “center” worthy of its mission and the island. The board rejected Dr. Shinstrom’s proposal. (See Ken Speck’s recent letter to the editor.)

I have lived on Orcas since 1998 and used the OMC throughout until just over a year ago when Dr. Camille Fleming left. She practiced here under two years yet acquired a large cohort of grateful patients. They regarded her as exceptionally gifted and wrote to urge the board and Island Hospital to retain her. She is now at Swedish and commuting – an incalculable loss to Orcas.

Of all one’s associations beyond family, friends, and associates at work, we may most value the stability of contact with our physician. Instead of providing that, the OMC, with each doctor’s departure, has allowed that physician’s patients to be stranded. Older patients may suffer particularly. They have a variety of medical conditions and so find a continuing association with their physician to be not just reassuring but possibly vital to their wise treatment. This is the moment for us to speak out for a healthier OMC. Consider writing the Board:

Richard Fadem

Orcas Island