Letters to the Editor

Viewpoint: A hospital’s tough decision

Change is never easy. Especially when it comes to helping patients stay healthy in a rehabilitation program. Arroyo Grande Community Hospital constantly evaluates its resources to ensure we are doing the best possible job for as many patients as possible in our community.

Most of the patients we treat in our outpatient cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation program are referred to us by physicians who treated patients at our sister Catholic Healthcare West hospitals, Marian Medical Center and French Hospital Medical Center. Our rehab program was originally opened for the convenience of those patients who lived in the Five Cities area. Now, years later, most of our patients who have completed their physician-referred rehabilitation program are on a “maintenance” program where they regularly exercise in our center with close monitoring from our highly trained staff. Some of these wonderful people have been on the maintenance program for years.

Because Arroyo Grande Community Hospital is trying to meet the needs of our South County community, we have come to the very difficult decision that the hospital needs to concentrate on using our resources for a larger population of those patients, such as patients who need physical therapy after surgical procedures that are performed at our facility. We also now fund other community service-related programs, such as our free flu shot clinics and free health screenings and health education for the general population and underserved in our area. We also use our resources to help support our community health partners with grants and services.

We are closing our outpatient cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation program effective Feb. 19. We gave written notice of this closure to all of our patients as well as referring physicians in mid-January. We are making every effort to complete the rehabilitation program of patients who have been referred by a physician (usually a six- or eight-week program) before closing.

Fortunately, Arroyo Grande Community Hospital is a member of Catholic Healthcare West, who are now asking physicians to refer their cardiac and pulmonary patients who need outpatient rehabilitation to the excellent programs available at our sister Catholic Healthcare West hospitals.

These include Marian Medical Center in Santa Maria, the only accredited pulmonary rehabilitation program on the Central Coast and one of the few in California, and French Hospital Medical Center in San Luis Obispo.

Both of these hospitals have award-winning cardiac and pulmonary care departments and are well-equipped to deal with recently diagnosed patients. We are also recommending that our patients who are on maintenance exercise programs and who still require close clinical monitoring join the maintenance rehabilitation program at Marian Medical Center.

Additionally, for patients who need a maintenance exercise program, local gyms in the Five Cities area have offered our patients excellent, affordable exercise programs to fit their continuing rehabilitation needs. Each one of these gyms has cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) trained staff and automated external defibrillator equipment on site.

We understand that for our long-term “maintenance” rehabilitation patients, making this transition is very difficult, especially because the staff in our cardiac pulmonary rehabilitation department is of the highest caliber and has built a close bond with these patients. Because we do care about the welfare of these patients who are affected by this closure, this decision was not done in haste.

Also, please be assured that we are working closely with these excellent employees from our outpatient cardiac pulmonary department to help them find employment within the Catholic Healthcare West Central Coast hospital service area.

If you or anyone you know has questions, do not hesitate to talk to us. We can be reached by phone at 489-7600 or AGCH Rehab Services, 345 S. Halcyon Road, Arroyo Grande, CA 93420.

Rick Castro is the president of Arroyo Grande Community Hospital.