Sunday, July 9

Deplorable State of the Practice of Medicine in the Electric City

I am a consumer of medical care. I am not involved in the industry in any way other than occasionally purchasing services from doctors, clinics, hospitals and pharmacies. I say this because the providers of those services have been involved in a very public and acrimonious argument. They need to stop arguing and find ways to work together.

The Clinic and the Hospital don't like one another. I get that. The argument is all about money and control. I get that too. However, the consumers of these services are caught in the crossfire, and I suspect that the end result is that the quality of care in Northcentral Montana is suffering. That I don't get.

In the past decades, there has always been some bad blood between the Clinic and the Hospitals. That situation only worsened in 1996, when the Deaconess and the Columbus merged to create Benefis.

However, I have never seen the situation as bad as this. I have never seen a situation where doctors are leaving town because of what some are calling a poisoned work environment.

Some doctors I know are telling stories of cleanliness and stock conditions at the hospital that are just plain scary. Today we read that next month, our community of about 60,000 people will be without the services of ANY ear, nose and throat specialists. Double up on those zinc pills, because you certainly don't want to get a serious cold for the next few months.

Great Falls medicine needs to get its house in order. The stakeholders at the Clinic and Benefis management have to work through their petty turf war and find a way to work together. Both parties need to learn to compromise. One possible solution; allow the Clinic's MontanaCare HMO to cover Benefis procedures in return for guaranteed hospital privileges for Clinic doctors. Maybe that is just naive, but it seems that such a solution answers many of the criticisms that each party have for one another.

In any case, a solution must be found. Otherwise, it is the health-care consumers in our town that suffer.

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