We are gratified when our readers take the time to comment on the stories we work hard to bring you. Our last issue’s cover story, “Tales from the ER” generated a high level of feedback, and we appreciated every letter. We were, however, concerned by some comments in which readers took issue with the focus of our story.

Let me be clear; we believe the staff at Salem Hospital go above and beyond to provide health services under very trying conditions. Our intention in writing this article was not to denigrate Salem Hospital’s overworked staff, but to start a conversation about how ER services might be improved. The negative experiences we described were, in our opinion, created by the combination of an overworked staff scheduled too thin by administrators focused on an inappropriate “bottom line” even though the institution is called nonprofit, and a health care system that forces millions of people to use the ER for their care because they cannot afford or access anything else. When life is on the line, front line staff should never be overworked or under-resourced.

Over the years, we’ve heard many complaints about Salem Hospital’s ER, so many that we knew a story would one day be printed on our pages. After Kelly Williams Brown’s experience earlier this year, we knew the time had come.

In putting the story together, we were struck by two things; by how many people in Salem and Keizer have had negative experiences at Salem Hospital ER, and at how frightened people were to share their stories with us when they knew their names would be used. These things highlight, we believe, an important problem with Salem Hospital, which is that it holds a huge market share in Salem, (over 90%), This near monopoly deprives ordinary citizens of other options and, arguably, allows hospital administrators to let patients suffer long wait times because there is nowhere else for them to go.

I’ve been approached these past weeks with more stories, including from two highly respected community members who were forced to go to Salem Hospital’s ER on a weekend because no other option existed. The man in the couple, in his 80s and with a face injury that would not stop bleeding – waited 8 hours for treatment.

When administrators keep their costs low by creating schedules that mean that employees and staff simply don’t have time to keep up with patients, and when a health care system leaves the majority with no alternative on nights and weekends, or many numbers of disadvantaged people with no alternative at any time – except to use a hospital’s ER – then stories like the ones Salem Weekly shared in our last issue will continue to be told.

You can count on us to continue to tell them.



Here is a link to the Story:

Tales from the ER

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