About Amy Umble:
Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star
What is it about MWH? Why the distrust?
Obviously I exaggerate for effect, but I think it’s fair to ask about Mary Washington’s reputation in this community. I sense a deep vein of dislike toward Mary Washington. I’ve seen it ever since I started covering the health care beat, and I continue to see it in the e-mails that I get and in the online comments posted after many of my stories. I believe it is a minority opinion, but it exists.
The latest example arrived after I did a story about Stafford Hospital and its success at keeping the MRSA bug away from its patients. When the story appeared last week, Stafford had logged 600 consecutive MRSA-free days. Since then the total has grown to 607. An e-mail arrived soon after publication from a reader who said:
“Did Stafford Hospital tell you about ill patients transported from Stafford Hospital to MWH who may have had MRSA or were suspected of having MRSA? Did you inquire of MWH about patient transfers from Stafford Hospital to MWH who may have had MRSA or were suspected of having MRSA? The Stafford Hospital 19 month record is too remarkable to be credible, absent some very tough and unyielding questioning.”
To be honest, it never dawned on me that Stafford might be cooking the numbers. So I asked Dr. Amy Adome about it. She is one of the people I interviewed for the original story. She replied in an e-mail:
“We absolutely do not and have never transferred patients to MWH from SH to keep SH’s record intact. The numbers are real and we take great pride in them. One of our health system’s values is integrity and we would never play that type of game to mislead our community.”
I’m satisfied with Adome’s answer; I’ve seen no evidence that contradicts her. But the other question remains: Why would someone immediately suspect that Stafford’s record is “too remarkable to be credible.” Why the distrust?
Is it because Mary Washington until this year has been the monopoly provider in the region? Like the electric company, the phone company, or the Free Lance-Star, people may resent its position. As the saying goes, nobody loves a monopolist.
Is it because they provide substandard care? Nearly 30,000 people were admitted there last year, so I’m sure there are patients who were unhappy with their care. But I’ve talked with many others who were pleased, and I’ve seen no pattern of incompetence or neglect.
I recall what one of my colleagues said about the people in Warrenton, where he lives. He said his neighbors are always complaining about Fauquier Hospital, even though Fauquier is unmatched among area hospitals in its federal patient-satisfaction scores.
Maybe what we have is never as good as what the other person has. Do the residents of Rochester, Minn., complain about the Mayo Clinic? I’m puzzled and welcome your thoughts.