Business decisions

When I learned Mercy Tiffin Hospital was closing down its radiation oncology department, I was initially surprised – but after thinking about it further, I have to say I was not.

My mother, Doris Talbot, was a patient there for four years. She was a patient of Dr. William Horvath (before Dr. Joseph Kaminski arrived), and the treatment and care she received was excellent. Dr. Horvath was always very friendly, and more importantly, always straight with her about her condition. The nurses were always very kind, not only to my mother, but to my father and myself, as well.

Unfortunately, she passed away in April 2010, after battling brain tumors for the last seven months or so of her life. Even the doctor and nurses said that she lasted a lot longer than anyone expected her to. (Unfortunately, 11 weeks later, my father, Don Talbot, also passed away, literally and figuratively of a broken heart.)

This is the reason I was initially shocked to hear the center was being closed. But, after reading further, my shock turned to disgust. It was a “business decision.” From various experiences I’ve had with Mercy Hospital, I realize more and more that a lot of what it does anymore involves “business decisions” – and not patient care.

First, Mercy built a hospital that is entirely too big for Tiffin. A hospital that has trouble filling all its rooms (someone in the health care profession once told me it was not unusual for it to have no more than perhaps only nine beds filled on any given day). A hospital that, as several employees have told me over the past few years, did not take the input of the area health care professionals into consideration when planning its design. (From personal experience, I know it’s extremely difficult to even get a bed in and out of the rooms in the intensive care unit, without having to pull the bed out, turn it a little, pull it out some more, turn it more, pull it out some more, then maybe being able to push it out of the room. I heard my share of ICU nurses grumbling about that as they took me in there, and then tried to extract me from the room a couple days later.)

Sure, the patient rooms are nice and roomy, but also poorly designed. Having a big bathroom is nice, but when you’ve just had a total knee replacement, and are using either crutches or a walker, the trek from the toilet to the sink is ridiculously far, difficult and dangerous. Nice design for a hotel (and a beautiful lobby, to be sure), but not the greatest for a hospital. That’s why I generally refer to Mercy Tiffin Hospital as the “Airport Hilton.” But I’m sure that was a “business decision,” so we could boast about having a huge, ornate hospital (with a lot of wasted or poorly utilized space).

So now, considering that the cancer center and its equipment are only a few years old, the powers that be have decided they need more advanced equipment … but because they can’t afford it, they have to close it down. Certainly, the equipment they have right now isn’t that old or outdated. Certainly, they have been helping patients with that equipment. And certainly, the money they get from patients directly, as well as insurance companies, has paid for that equipment very well. The money that, I’m sure, is still coming in would do the same for anything new they think they need. It could be replaced one piece at a time. The rest of the world has to live on a budget … so should our hospital.

Which makes me wonder … do any of the people in the group that made this decision even know what cancer patients have to go through in the course of their treatment? Do they understand the fatigue and physical stress that radiation patients have to endure due to that treatment? Do any of these people have a grip on what a hardship it would be to have to go out of town to receive the same treatment they could receive at home? Have they ever even seen any of the patients who go there, or talked to them?

I’ll bet the people who made this “business decision” have had no interaction with the patients they are affecting, at all. Jim Roberts made this point very clear in his remarks to this newspaper’s report on the situation. I know for a fact that my mother would not have been able to travel out of town on an almost daily basis for the treatment that was meant to save her life. If you can’t make that choice, what do you do – just sit home and die?

There has to be a way to keep this center open … there just has to. Many people have no other option. Hospitals are supposed to be focused on patient care. If you offer quality service and consideration for the people who depend on you, the rest will take care of itself, given time. Personally, I think this is a very selfish and cruel decision for Mercy Tiffin Hospital’s administrators to have made. Close it all up by Feb. 14, and let the chips (and the patients) fall where they may.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Merciless Hospital. I hope you find a heart by then. My heart goes out to the patients who have to live (or die) by your decision. I only hope you can live with it.


Lin Talbot-Koehl,