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Letters for the week of May 01, 2020

Take this seriously

The novel coronavirus does not discriminate based on age. It doesn’t see borders. It doesn’t differentiate who it targets. It is a serious threat to the elderly with chronic, preexisting medical conditions, but people of all ages can be infected with COVID-19.
An estimated 60 percent of Americans have at least one chronic health condition, and 40 percent have more than one. Heart disease, cancer and diabetes are primary conditions (among others) that exacerbate coronavirus infection, increasing the odds of severe disease and even death.
We’ve been implored to practice frequent hand-washing, social-distancing, self-isolating at home and avoiding crowds, but it is imperative for all ages to take this pandemic seriously. No matter what your age, you are not immune.
When you protect yourself, you protect all of us. Frontline medical providers urge everyone to do personal mitigation because when you do, you help keep doctors, nurses, and other caregivers healthy, too. If this moment teaches us anything, it is that we are all connected. To fight this pandemic we must come together and do our part.
Our small, all-volunteer team presents the Realities of Advanced Medical Interventions, which supports good decision-making in preparation to complete a health care advance directive. We also offer advance care planning (ACP) workshops as follow-up to our Realities program. Our in-person presentations have been canceled for the foreseeable future. For now, you can view Dr. Bill Lombard’s Realities talk at: https://tinyurl.com/r5k6q37
The intersection of COVID-19 and necessity for ACP for everyone 18 years old and up is an ideal time to take stock, self-reflect and take action—please complete your advance directive. If you have any questions about Dr. Lombard’s presentation before you get started, contact Micki Jackson, micki98226@aol.com

—Rebecca Rech Cutler, RN, BSN, Bellingham

It can happen here

Sinclair Lewis authored, It Can’t Happen Here in 1935. Lewis’s novel was propelled to popularity by a sense of urgency that the United States, as some countries of Western Europe, might unleash unimaginable dark forces. Fast forward to COVID-19. While the issues are different, there are parallels between Lewis’ terrifying certainty that “it” could happen here, to what is happening in Italy as it attempts to tame COVID-19.
Italy has a good medical system. The overwhelming catastrophe unfolding in Italy’s wealthy Lombardy region could happen anywhere, even here in Whatcom County.
Italy is learning that hospitals might be the main COVID-19 carriers. Infected patients pass the contagion to uninfected patients. Ambulances and personnel become vectors. Health workers are asymptomatic carriers. There must be rigorous hospital and population surveillance. Test hospital workers first. Use mobile testing units. Surveil the community—every corner of our county. Family Care Network was quick to utilize more telemedicine, as one step, to keep staff and patients out of harm’s way. FCN also quickly implemented parking lot temperature and symptom checking before patients enter their clinics.
For the mildly ill, deliver early oxygen therapy, pulse oximeters and nutrition to where they live. Hospitalization would be limited to the severely ill. We’re in a humanitarian and public health crisis. It is not just an intensive care crisis.
In hospitals, protection of medical personnel must be prioritized. As one local emergency department physician stated, citing his concerns about provider safety going unaddressed, “We don’t need more donuts and pizza, we need protective equipment.” That sentiment is repeated around the country. How did the world’s wealthiest nation get caught so flat-footed?
Let’s all do our part to help frontline providers stay safe—and then, when this current pandemic is over, let’s prepare better. Because it can happen here and there will be a next, and a next time.

—Micki Jackson, Bellingham

On the firing of Dr. Lin

As a former hospitalist at St. Joseph’s and colleague of Dr. Ming Lin’s, I was saddened, but not surprised, to read of his recent dismissal. Dr. Lin’s departure was clearly due to his outspoken advocacy for a more thoughtful investment in the safety of our health care workers and, ultimately, our community.
In the setting of the COVID-19 pandemic, PeaceHealth’s actions are arrogant, myopic and potentially deadly.
We need caring, experienced physicians now more than ever, and healthy criticism that offers the potential to save lives should never be silenced.

—Chris Hawk, MD, Bellingham

Wrong way action

Dr. Ming Lin, a doctor of 17 years was fired this last Friday from PeaceHealth St. Joseph hospital for making pleas for more PPE equipment for staff and for St. Joseph to do a better job at COVID-19 testing and keeping staff and patients safe. This story has now gone viral. TeamHealth, who supposedly was in charge of the hiring and firing for PeaceHealth, is now trying to say he wasn’t fired, that they are looking for another place for him to work. Dr. Lin states he was fired and does not want to go to another hospital. Neither do we.
Firing anyone for raising concerns about safety is chilling. The hardworking doctors, nurses and all of the medical staff at St. Joseph’s and all of their satellite offices deserve better and so do the citizens of Whatcom County.
To PeaceHealth administrators: Get Dr. Lin working again at St. Joe’s without any restrictions or retaliatory actions. Work with him and other health care providers and if appropriate, utilize local resources to find solutions to the problems presented. Please do the right thing for our community. Lives depend on it.

—Marty Weber, Bellingham

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