Support effort to build health care 'close to home'

Sep 26, 2019 Betty Starks Case

A huge ad by SageWest Health Care in the Aug. 30-Sept. 1 Ranger announced SageWest's wish to "make a positive impact on our community in a number of ways."

"The most critical of those," they say, "is our ability to provide high quality care close to home."

Close to whose home?

That's the question asked every day by most of Fremont County.

In this state of many open miles, full medical facilities must be available where the population exists. Census reports and state maps clearly place that population closer to Riverton than any other city in Fremont County.

So how important is a local full-service hospital to we who live in Riverton, the smaller surrounding towns, and the many rural homes of Fremont County?

A good way to clarify that can be found by a look into the past where first-person stories paint an honest picture of our medical needs. I've presented these before, but they still carry an important example.

Some years back, when Riverton had a full-service hospital of its own, my 7-year-old brother suffered life-threatening burns. He was rushed to the Riverton hospita, where his life was saved by very competent local physicians. The fact that he lived is a miracle in itself. Yet he grew to be the handsome, successful, and widely respected man he is today. You'd never know such a tragic injury had taken place.

A head-on auto accident involving my parents at age 79 injured both, but ambulance attendants confided, "We almost felt we shouldn't have tried so hard to save your mother. So many serious injuries, there seemed no way she could live. But we had to try."

Little did they realize the power of our medics and that hospital.

With the care of local physicians, my mother survived six more years to walk, enjoy her family, and set an outstanding example for others.

It pains me to relive my mother's and my brother's injuries. But they prove the miracles that are possible in many "smaller" but wonderfully caring hospitals that presently provide great services to areas including Douglas and Thermopolis, and, through them, Riverton.

Such communities do not feel the need for big "for profit" companies to do business for them.

The SageWest ad continues: "Our region is making great strides in developing a healthcare infrastructure that ensures that all of our residents have access to the quality care they need close to home."

Have you checked the Riverton Hospital lately - the one close to home for most of us?

Here's what I saw in August: The three long halls fanning out from the nurses' station led to former patient rooms with door after door open wide to reveal containing nothing but furniture piled in heaps. Shocked, I walked the long halls again to confirm the scene of desertion.

Where are the patients? I saw only one.

Where is the local full-service we need?

At the nurses' desk I asked for reading materials. "Don't you have the local newspaper?"

"No," came the answer. "We only carry the Lander Journal."

Later, I laid a Ranger I'd brought with me on the counter in case anyone wanted local news.

That newspaper disappeared quickly.

The referenced SageWest ad touts the many additions to the present medical organization.

Those words ring hollow to Riverton, Wind River Reservation, and rural residents of Fremont County.

An emergency room remains, busy, and quite likely profitable, to SageWest.

Just a few years ago, this community had full-service medical facilities where they are needed - in Riverton - literally and honestly "close to home."

The growing Riverton Medical District sees an opportunity.

I'm told of a Riverton baby being born in the back of an ambulance on a race to the closest available obstetric care, now 25 miles away; of a child's one-inch forehead cut that received seven stitches at $1,000 a suture; and reports of obscene charges to Wind River Reservation residents.

The stories continue. What is yours? Do you want a hospital that cares for your whole family? Where and when you need it?

Let's all get out there and support the Riverton Medical District. Share your experience with others. Lend your energy and financial support for a Riverton hospital that will offer its full strength when you need it - in Riverton - where "close to home" rings out its meaning loud and clear.

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