About Amy Umble:
Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

RSS feed of this blog

She asked, ‘How are you feeling about all this?’

A page from Spotsylvania Regional's mailer.

After interviewing Jeanne Burkett on the phone the other day, she said, “Let me as you a question, if you don’t mind.”

“Sure,” I replied.

“You have a connection to this group. How are you feeling about all this?” she said. “What are your thoughts?”

Burkett, spokeswoman for the Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center, was referring to the direct mail campaign by her hospital to get ambulance crews in Fredericksburg to offer stable patients a choice of emergency rooms. City fire and rescue officials have instructed their crews to take all patients to Mary Washington Hospital. Spotsylvania Regional has tried without success to get that decision changed.

Burkett was right. I did have a connection to one of the groups involved, the Fredericksburg Volunteer Rescue Squad. I was a member of the squad for three years, and an ambulance driver for part of that time. I never had any patients ask to go to Spotsylvania Regional or Stafford Hospital, but other squad members did. To my knowledge, they always told them, “Sorry, we have to go to Mary Washington.”

So how do I feel about the policy? Reporters are supposed to keep their opinions to themselves. But Burkett and others at Spotsylvania Regional have been helpful to me, so I took a deep breath and answered her.

I told her that I agreed with the city on this one. To me, it made a lot of sense for the volunteer rescue squad and the Fredericksburg Fire Department to take all patients to Mary Washington. When I was on the ambulance and we did this, we got patients the care they needed, and we were back on the street quickly to answer the next call.

Often, we were the only crew on duty, and there were several times when we were dispatched to a new call while still in Mary Washington’s parking lot. If we had gone to Stafford Hospital or Spotsylvania Regional in those cases, the dispatcher would have had to ask a Stafford County crew for help.

Mary Washington is the closest appropriate hospital for maybe 95 percent of city residents. (Some neighborhoods on Lafayette Boulevard, near the county line, may be closer to the Freestanding Emergency Department at Lee’s Hill.) I always thought that was the standard we were supposed to use.

(Earlier posts on this topic can be found here and here.)