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Quality care when it counted

A nuanced perspective on PeaceHealth's services

By Dianne Foster, Guest Writer

I know there are many varied experiences with PeaceHealth, but as a patient whose life has been saved multiple times by their quick action, I would like to present one.

I had worked there as an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner for many years, and was never restricted from prescribing any form of contraception, whether the pill or an IUD placement. (It should be noted that we were an all-comer clinic, whether the patient could pay or not.)

When one day in 2016 I realized I was quite sick, and a non-PeaceHealth dermatologist refused to order labs, I ordered my own. The result was an indicator of acute leukemia, and the lab called the emergency room, which was waiting for me with blood and platelet transfusions.

After a bone marrow procedure, I was reserved a spot at the University of Washington for a transplant. Eight months later, I was discharged back to PeaceHealth, where I’ve received ongoing care for GVH (graft versus host) disease, the autoimmune response expected from an unrelated donor, and brilliantly understood by the PeaceHealth Cancer Center staff.  

There was a period of a couple of years where my new bone marrow, for some reason, was not producing red cells, and I needed weekly transfusions, but eventually, Aranesp shots would work. Those are $10,000 a pop, and for whatever reason, insurance wasn’t paying, and PeaceHealth picked up the tab every eight weeks for about six months.  

I have had many more interactions with the emergency department, given some toxic drugs I need to take, one of which gave me a heart attack two years ago. The speedy first responders took an EKG, and called PeaceHealth ahead, where they were prepping the cardio surgery suite, and a stent was inserted within 2 hours. (I can’t thank Dr. Jimmy Yee enough for being there on a Saturday afternoon.)

At a recent dinner with a friend who was a palliative care doctor, she said she has no resentment about being laid off, as she understands they don’t have the money to continue. When I see the many explanations of benefits from my insurance, which pays about 10% of the costs from PeaceHealth (and from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, I might add), I can understand why they need to resort to fundraising to survive. I donate to both whenever possible.  

I have long been a proponent of single-payer, Medicare-for-All, (HR 676), which would more adequately reimburse providers. I feel it is sadly misunderstood by many providers, as they believe it would underpay them as it currently does. We need to get the message out that it would be a much fairer system for all. 

I’m aware that PeaceHealth made a terrible decision to cut the Recovery Program some years ago, when my husband, (who was a director at the time), warned them that an opiate epidemic was coming. They felt it was costing too much, yet the patients whose lives had been saved by that program had shown up in large numbers to Bellingham City Council to protest a tax on them.  

The next time the same issue came up (after the program was terminated), those same people didn’t give a hoot, and the tax was passed. Bad judgment on the part of one of the previous CEOs who was just passing through and wanted to impress her superiors about cost-saving. In fact, it has had the opposite effect.

Dianne Foster of Bellingham is a retired Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner.

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