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Summit Medical Center staff addresses misconceptions

The Summit Medical Center Emergency Department (ED) nurses and technicians would like to clear up a few misconceptions that are the result of comments made by the county commissioners and the county attorney.

This letter is not specifically addressed to the commissioners, but as citizens and potential users of our services at Summit Medical Center, we hope they read this and walk away with a better understanding of who we are and what we are about.

We certainly don’t want to play some kind of game where there is a war of words in our local paper. Having said that, the intent of this letter is to educate you with information from the people who are actually doing the teaching and providing the health-care



services.

Many residents and visitors of the county have recently been made aware that Summit Medical Center is owned and operated by Centura St. Anthony’s Hospital out of Denver, which is a Catholic faith-based organization.



That does not mean Centura will only hire people within the Catholic faith. At Summit, we have Protestants, Catholics, Jews, atheists and members of other faiths on staff. Clearly, many of these people have views that differ from those of the Catholic Church, but we have never been pressured, in any way, to change our views, and we have never been told what to teach or how to treat our patients.

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Hospital services not performed

It is common in the health care industry not to provide all possible services at every hospital. For example, Denver Health Medical Center does not have a cardiac catheterization lab, so even if patients are being seen there for a heart attack, they will be transferred to University Hospita, which does provide the service.

The elective procedures not performed at any of the St. Anthony’s facilities include abortions, tubal ligations and vasectomies.

It important to note these services, with the exception of tubal ligations, are not performed in hospital settings. In fact, Vail Valley Medical Center confirmed it does not terminate pregnancies (abortion) or perform vasectomies. It refers people to Colorado Mountain Medical or Vail Valley OB/Gyn. If a patient came to us in search of those services, we would refer them, just as Vail does.

However, if patients arrive following an abortion at our Emergency Department with a complaint of vaginal bleeding, not only would we take care of them, but if there were tissue remaining in the uterus, we would take them to the operating room for a definitive surgical procedure.

Furthermore, it is not our job to judge our patients or the decisions they make in any way. It is our job to take care of them in order to get them back to a normal, healthy state of being.

We most certainly teach about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) if a patient presents with one or asks about it. We absolutely educate them about wearing condoms. In fact, our lengthy, three-page instruction sheets for the various STDs state many things that are contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church, but are essential for appropriate care.

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Religious issues not new

Religious issues are not new to the health-care industry. Health care providers sometimes make tough decisions when it comes to religious beliefs and caring for patients.

For example, we sometimes have to obtain a court order to initiate life-saving interventions on a child because of the religious beliefs of the parents. While adults, 18 or over, are able to make these religious decision for themselves, it is difficult, if not impossible, for us to watch a child die when we can easily correct the problem that brought them to the ED to begin with.

If we are willing to break someone else’s religious beliefs in the name of “what’s best” in an emergency situation, then we better be willing to break those of the Catholic faith when it comes to patient teaching.

Summit Medical Center also is a very large part of a coalition in Summit County that obtains forensic evidence and treats victims of sexual assault. The Catholic Church is pretty well known for its views on birth control. However, we prescribe “Plan B,” which is commonly known as the morning after pill, in addition to prophylaxis treatment for STDs for these patients.

Concerns raised that Summit Medical Center will not honor the county’s same-sex benefits seem to say we would treat homosexual couples differently than heterosexual couples. If the reference of “benefits” is to health insurance, Summit Medical Center sees anyone for any reason without regard to their ability to pay. That means insured or not, we take care of anyone without demanding any type of payment at the time services are rendered.

If we are presented with an insurance card, we file the claim as a courtesy, even if we are not contracted with the insurance company. It is not customary to inquire about an individual’s sexual orientation. To question whether we would refuse care to homosexual people is ridiculous. We treat everyone with respect and dignity, regardless of ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, etc. We are not on a mission to convert our patients to the Catholic faith; we are on a mission to take care of them.

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Level 3 trauma designation desired

It is interesting to us that Jeff Huntley, county attorney, stated in the Feb. 4 Summit Daily News that, “We’re thinking more like Vail (Valley Medical Center) and less like Summit Medical Center” in reference to trauma center designations.

We never received a call from Mr. Huntley asking what our intentions are in relation to our trauma designation when we become a hospital.

Our position is for the Summit Medical Center to pursue aggressively a Level 3 designation from the state of Colorado.

At our last review for our Level 4 designation in November, we were told by the state surveyors that we are already performing closer to Level 3 criteria than Level 4. We just need the physical hospital and the committed physician groups, such as trauma surgeons, to make that happen, and that the transition would be easy for us because of the level of care we are already providing.

The community should be aware that despite our designated levels, both Summit Medical Center and Breckenridge Medical Center (also Level 4) receive high-acuity, Level 1-type trauma patients on a regular basis.

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No takeover of clinic envisioned

We would like to reassure the community that we have no intention of taking over, or operating in any way, the Community Care Clinic or Public Health Nursing.

We also would like to pose the question of why the family planning budget for Public Health Nursing has been cut by the same commissioners who are now apparently very concerned about women’s health issues.

We feel these services are vital to the community, and we will continue to support them by providing services (-rays, etc.) that are either donated or offered at reduced rates and through volunteer work.

In essence, the only elective procedure service we will not provide to the women of Summit County is a tubal ligation.

This has been made a Catholic issue, when it really is not. To say we should not have a hospital run by an organization that has been providing outstanding health care in this community for more than 20 years, based on this one procedure, is outrageous.

Abortion services are not offered through any county-operated facilities, either, so currently, and probably in the future, women will need to travel to Denver or possibly a clinic in Vail (not the hospital) for those services.

The Community Care Clinic and Public Health Nursing are county-operated, and are better places to provide the types of services the commissioners and many of us desire for our community. Perhaps the commissioners should be looking at that as an option.

In closing, if you have any questions or concerns from the statements made by the commissioners or in this text, we invite you to call us at Summit Medical Center and ask us your questions instead of relying on the opinions or innuendos of persons not directly involved in health care, and who don’t have a clear understanding of what we do or where we are headed in the future.

And rest assured, we neither have crosses on our trash cans, nor plans to change that in the future.

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Julie Zangari is the Emergency Department supervisor at the Summit Medical Center.


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