To the North Country Hospital trustees

To the Editor:

"A single event -- in a ripple effect -- sets the entire staff at North Country Hospital into action."

I state:

"A single event -- in a ripple effect -- sets the entire community into action."

A statement substantiated by the fact that more than 250 people attended the open forum meeting scheduled by your hospital. A statement substantiated by patients compelled to write letters to the editors of various local newspapers. A statement substantiated by editors themselves.

The firing of Dr Lockridge is an event spreading beyond the Oncology department. It is a ripple affecting the reputation of the entire hospital.

I was born at North Country Hospital, grew up in the area, and am currently living in the area. I know that Vermonters are tight lipped, that they are accustomed to taking what is given to them with little complaint. That for them to be compelled to open up on such a personal level is extremely rare and speaks volumes about how passionately they feel about this issue. I also know how seriously you should take their response to this issue. That the image, trust in and reputation of the hospital is at stake. That how you as a board handle this issue will determine the future success of the hospital.

In your annual report you state:

"At North Country Hospital, quality patient care is our greatest commitment, employees are our greatest asset, excellent patient experience is our great accomplishment, and the health of the community is our greatest responsibility."

I ask, are you living up to the above statement? Do you remember when the community was reluctant to go to NCH because they felt the quality of care at NCH was poor? I do. It took a long time to reverse that thinking didn't it? You did a great job turning your reputation around. Part of that turnaround was because you were willing to spend the money necessary to provide quality care. What changed? Do you honestly think firing a well thought of doctor simply for monetary reasons will resonate well with the community? That forcing patients back in time will be an advantage? We didn't like it then and we won't like it now. We deserve care given by doctors who are committed to the hospital, their patients and the Northeast Kingdom and if we can't get it at NCH we will go elsewhere! Your employees are your greatest assets do everything you can to keep them. It's better to walk on the CEO's toes than the whole communities toes, because without us, your patients/community the hospital is nothing. Keep the doctor people trust and believe in. The doctor held in high esteem by both patients and colleges. The doctor who will put in the extra time, do the extra research needed to solve a problem. The doctor who doesn't believe he has all the answers, who is willing to confer with sources outside the immediate area. The doctor who's opinion is sought from places near and far.

Dr. Lockridge is willing to work out a plan with the hospital that will be adventitious for all. Work with him.

The community has spoken very loudly, I implore you to listen, reverse the CEO's action.

Gail Hayden

Westmore, Vt.

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