This letter to the editor appeared in the Johnson City Press on Tuesday, November 20, 2006. My comments will follow.

Over the last seven months my husband, a cancer patient, has been in Johnson City Medical Center a total of five times. Each time he was admitted through the Emergency Department. While we have no complaints about the doctors and nurses, we do have issues about the waiting time involved after the doctor decides you need to be admitted. In June, we were in the ER for 19 hours because there were no rooms available. On Oct. 2, we had to wait 12 hours for a room.

On these occasions, family members have gone to different floors of the hospital and seen empty rooms. They were told that there are not enough nurses to cover these rooms.

We have four schools within a 50-mile radius of Johnson City that have nursing programs – East Tennessee State University, Milligan College, Walters State Community College, and Northeast State Technical Community College. If money and working conditions were good I don’t think there would be a problem in getting good employees to staff these empty rooms so very sick people do not have to spend a day or even two days waiting for a room.

Mountain States Health Alliance has prevented Wellmont Health System from obtaining a certificate of need to build a new hospital in Johnson City. I think it is time that patients and families speak out and let our voice be heard about the shortage of nurses and aides and how the ones who are here are overworked.

Instead of beautification of the grounds at JCMC, give nurses more money and maybe they will stay here in Johnson City instead of seeking employment elsewhere.

Barbara Hughes Young
Johnson City

There is no question that there is a problem at the Medical Center. Time and again I hear complaints from those who have had some wretched experience but don’t know exactly what to do about it. As Mrs. Young stated in her letter, [most] times the problem is not with the quality of doctors and nurses; rather the problem lies elsewhere. Is the issue a lack of nurses as Mrs. Young asserts? Maybe. I have to say, however, that ultimate responsibility lies with the administration. When charged with running any sort of organization – be it a hospital, business, or government body – the buck stops at the top.

There are excellent doctors and nurses (and I’m sure other types of staff as well!) affiliated with MSHA. The sad fact is that I have pause going to these doctors for fear that I will end up in the Medical Center. I’m sure that’s not the kind of reputation that MSHA wants for its “star” hospital. I adore my general practitioner – who is MSHA affiliated – but I still hesitate to take my child to a certain pediatrician who is a MSHA doctor because of the problems we’ve had with the Med Center.

I’ll be interested to find out how my birthing experience goes at another MSHA hospital…is the problem MSHA-wide, or is the Med Center just overburdened? We shall see.

For the record, we will be pursuing the investigation that Mr. Herbert suggested in his emails to me (previously posted), and I hope that Mrs. Young will do the same. The administration can do nothing to fix the problem if they don’t know about it, so the least we can do is make sure that they are aware of the situations any of us as patients have faced.