Letters to the Editor

Viewpoint: Patients depend on pulmonary program

Rick Castro’s explanation on the closing of the cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation program at Arroyo Grande Community Hospital sounded like a typical “bottom line” corporate decision (“A hospital’s tough decision,” Feb. 7).

When a doctor prescribes a Medicare-approved outpatient rehabilitation program for a patient, there are three places the patient can go. French Hospital in San Luis Obispo, Marian Medical Center in Santa Maria or Arroyo Grande Community Hospital.

Many patients who have had a heart-related event are elderly and may not have the access or ability to make a trip of any length. If they live in the Five Cities, they would prefer to go to Arroyo Grande rather than San Luis Obispo or Santa Maria.

When patients have completed their program, they have the option of continuing that regimen (maintenance) and a choice of where they prefer to do that. There are several gyms and fitness or physical therapy facilities they can choose from, but only one where they can receive a professional, monitored program like the one they have been receiving. They pay a real premium for this as opposed to just a “membership.”

I guess it depends on what the hospital is planning to do with the cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation program area. If it were to extend the physical therapy facility at the hospital, I would not think that would be as critical as heart or breathing rehabilitation. If it would be for other health- and life-related care programs, maybe. If it is for administrative uses, then that would not be the most beneficial option to the community.

The two registered nurses who administer the rehabilitation program have been longtime employees. They are conscientious and caring about their patients. If the people who are using the program for maintenance only are the deciding elements, then ask them to find other places to fulfill their program. But asking people who are dependent on a doctor prescribed treatment to adjust to a new facility does not seem right when everything is operating now.

Maybe it is just the money. But what do I know? I’m just the 80-plus senior in the room!

A.K. Pete Dougall is the former mayor of Arroyo Grande.