Letters to the Editor

Ethically obligated to set the record straight | Letters


One of a registered nurse’s responsibilities is to educate and inform the community with honesty and accuracy. We follow a code of ethics that guides our professional conscience in maintaining the integrity of our practice.

Therefore, it is necessary to clarify some misleading statements in the Whidbey News-Times’ Sept. 30 guest commentary, “Cause of hospital’s deficit has nothing to do with patient count,” written by Whidbey General Hospital Chief Nurse Linda Gipson.

The Washington Charity Care Law was established in 1989. Every hospital, including for-profit hospitals, is required to comply. Charity care is not just for nonprofit hospitals.

If a private entity bought WGH, charity care would continue to be available under Washington state law.

The 1986 Federal EMTALA/COBRA law was enacted to assure that anyone coming to an emergency department be stabilized and treated, regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay. Every patient who presents to an Emergency Department will receive a Medical Screening Examination, or MSE, in order to determine whether or not a medical emergency condition exists. An MSE may include diagnostics such as labs and X-rays, as well as medication(s) and other appropriate stabilizing interventions.

It is a violation of EMTALA to provide a “minimal screening and be sent elsewhere” based on a patient’s ability to pay.

Washington State Department of Health recognizes hospitals that meet specific criteria with a Level I Cardiac Care designation.

According to the Health Department, a “Level I cardiac care facility should have the equipment and staff necessary to provide intensive care, open-heart surgery, cardiac catheterization, coronary angiography, coronary angioplasty, and emergency coronary angioplasty/stenting for STEMI patients — around-the-clock...”

Although WGH does not qualify for a Level I cardiac care center designation, the hospital does have the equipment and trained Emergency Department and CCU staff to provide resuscitation and stabilization of cardiac patients, as well the capability to administer “clot busters.” Additionally, it is my observation that their Life Care Center/Cardiac Rehab is one of the best in rural health care.

It is important that the Whidbey Island community be informed, not threatened, when deciding on the upcoming hospital bond.

Patricia Nathan-Ulloa, BSN, RN



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