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Tag: Community Hospital and Wellness Center

Bryan Hospital Overrun with COVID-19, Nurses Protest Mandatory Vaccinations

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My wife and I live in a rural, one-stop light , two-bars/restaurants, one-convenience store/gas station community of 356 people in Northwest Ohio. We live on Main St, also known as Route 15, the connecting road between nearby Bryan and Defiance.

Ney has a post office, but no door-to-door delivery. Every resident has a PO box for their mail and packages. Every day or so Polly or I go “uptown” and retrieve our mail — mostly magazines, medical bills, and junk mail. Our medications come via mail, as do the Lionel O-gauge train purchases I make on eBay. Sometimes, a package will come through the post office from Amazon or one of the hat companies I do business with: Hats in the Belfry, Village Hat Shop, and American Hats. The post office is very much a part of the rhythm and flow of our lives.

The Ney Post Office is manned by a middle-aged postmistress, a friendly, talkative woman. Polly talks to her every time she goes into the lobby. Polly considers her a casual friend with whom she shares many things in common. Several days ago, she recounted to Polly the following:

A sign on the front door and on the service counter — which is covered with plexiglass — tells patrons that masks are required for entrance. Everyone who enters the small, suffocating building knows this. The “lobby” is 100 square feet or so, the PO box space, separated by a door, is even smaller. Three people in the lobby at the same time is a big crowd.

A male patron walks in the door. Unless he is blind, and he’s not, the man knows he must wear a mask while in the building. He deliberately chooses not to.

Postmistress: Sir, you are required to wear a mask when you enter

Man: I don’t read signs.

Postmistress: But, that’s what’s on the door.

In an act of toddler-like defiance, the man flips the sign off the counter onto the floor.

Man: I don’t read what doesn’t pertain to me.

And with that, the man turns on his heels and walks out of the building.

Polly has seen the same beautician for years, a winsome, talkative woman in her fifties. She always wears a mask when cutting hair, as does Polly. We try to wear masks when coming in close contact with others (though we no longer do so when our children and grandchildren are visiting). As the woman started cutting Polly’s hair, she asked Polly what vitamins she was taking for COVID. WHAT VITAMINS ARE WE TAKING FOR COVID? ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? The woman went on to tell Polly that she was taking Zinc and Vitamin D. That’s right, the woman is not vaccinated. She works up close and personal with the public, and she’s not fucking vaccinated. Polly informed her that both of us were vaccinated and had also received booster shots. This woman will not be cutting Polly’s hair again.

Two of my closest friends — a friendship of 55 years — are presently in the hospital for COVID. Unvaccinated, both have respiratory problems. When admitted, their oxygen levels were in the 70s. The man also has pneumonia. The woman has numerous comorbidities, including diabetes. Her glucose level was almost 800 when she was admitted.

My friends went to ER earlier last week, only to be sent home with oxygen tanks. Why? The Bryan Hospital (Community Hospitals and Wellness Centers) is overrun with COVID patients — literally. There are no beds available, and hospitals in Toledo and Fort Wayne — having their own problems with COVID — are refusing transfers from the hospital. Some COVID patients are stacked up in the ER, waiting hours and hours for rooms to become available. (WTOL-11 news report on Williams County COVID outbreak.)

Last Sunday, Bryan Hospital nurses and their supporters gathered at the Williams County Courthouse to protest the hospital’s vaccination mandate. A hundred or so people showed up for the protest, waving signs sporting messages about FREEDOM and bodily autonomy. Several nurses were interviewed by WTOL News.

Sarah Pettit stated:

To force us to have something that we do not want is not the answer. You’re going to be short-staffed even more in these hospitals. Your communities are going to hurt because they don’t have the appropriate staff to take care of the community.”

When asked how nurses can keep themselves and their patients safe if they aren’t vaccinated, Pettit replied:

I think with diligent hand washing and masking and doing everything that we can to protect our patients, will help our patients and our community get better.

Yes, we will do everything we can EXCEPT be vaccinated. I am of the opinion unvaccinated hospital employees should be fired. However, this would cause a worker shortage for the hospital, so it is unlikely this will happen. Those who need the services of the Bryan Hospital will be left to wonder if the nurses and technicians caring for us are vaccinated, whether we will survive our surgeries only to be killed by a COVID infection we got from employees who only care about their personal freedoms. (Cue Mel Gibson and Braveheart.)

Another nurse, Brooke Gordon, the founder of Northwest Ohio Medical Freedom — which is only on Telegram — ignorantly said:

The word ‘safe’ around it I believe has been used as a shield to further push it, even though the evidence is not showing that it is providing safer environments or lesser transmission.

According to a West Bend News article, the “concerns” of the Northwest Ohio Medical Freedom group are as follows:

• The ads for the COVID-19 vaccine claim it is “safe and effective” but many are seeing the reality in their friends and neighbors that it is neither. VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System) numbers have climbed since the release of the vaccine.  

• Local Board Certified Naturopathic Doctor RoseAnna Hollo of Deep Roots Wellness in Defiance, says, “I have seen an increase of adults presenting with severe symptoms following Covid-19 injections. I am concerned about the short and long term effects of this jab. I have been educating those affected on reporting to VAERS. I am of the opinion that this vaccine is not worth the risk in most circumstances and mandates are endangering the health of many.”

• Many healthcare providers, military, airline, and nearly every other industry are standing up to these mandates in the forms of walk outs, resignations, and lawsuits.

• Mandated vaccines are un-American. 

• Many have natural immunity, which has been shown to be robust and complete in the medical literature. 

To receive updates from the NWO Medical Freedom group, you will need to have the Telegram app on your mobile device. The link is https://t.me/medfreedomnwo 

NWOMFG consists of medical choice-loving people of all political leanings, gathering monthly to share how they can combat COVID-19 mandates locally and statewide, exemptions available, alternative treatments, and other helpful resources.  

Let this group’s stated “concerns” be a reminder that just because someone is a nurse doesn’t mean that they have a comprehensive understanding of science, medicine, reason, or common sense. And don’t even get me started on “Local Board Certified” Naturopathic Doctor RoseAnna Hollo:

Rose Hollo, a Certified Master Herbalist and Naturopathic Doctor-in-training holds a B.A. in Liberal Arts/Holistic Health from Union Institute & University, an M.BA. in Digital and Social Media, and a Yoga Teacher Level 1 Certification from Aura Wellness Institute and is an Usui Shiki Ryoho Reiki Master. Her previous background is in the animal healthcare and rescue field, and was a certified PetMassage practitioner and Veterinary Technician. She saw how well natural treatments worked for animals and decided to research alternative therapies for herself after experiencing some severe health issues. 

I know her personally — a nice, friendly woman — but she peddles all sorts of pseudoscientific nonsense. And now she’s an anti-vaxxer, who just so happens to be a registered Democrat. Board-certified means she took online classes and got a certificate. Hollo is not a doctor, nor is she a nurse. Hollo is a promoter of woo, appealing to the fears of (primarily) local women. And her “advice” is helping fuel the spread of COVID.

Currently, Northwest Ohio has the highest COVID-19 infection rate in the state of Ohio. Williams County, where the Bryan Hospital is located, has the highest county infection rates in the state, and nearby Defiance, Henry, and Fulton counties are not far behind. COVID is everywhere. People are getting sick and dying. Yet, local residents, businesses, and schools pretend the pandemic is a myth or nothing to be worried about. No matter how many people get sick and die, all that matters to an overwhelmingly Trumpist, libertarian, Evangelical populace is personal FREEDOM (people like Rose Hollo are the black swans in the midst of a flock of white swans). Most of these freedom-lovers profess to be Christians, followers of Jesus Christ, yet they show no regard for their neighbors. You know, the people Jesus told them to love.

There was a time when local residents — Democrats and Republicans — understood the social contract we have we each other; that matters of public health and safety rise above partisan divides. Those days are over. Trumpism now has a firm, authoritarian grip on rural Northwest Ohio. Almost 7 out of 10 locals voted for Donald Trump in the last election, ditto 2016. Every state and local government is controlled by Republicans. Ohio, a one-time blue state, has been taken over by red-meat Republicans — lovers of Donald Trump, guns, and the Evangelical God. Current attempts to further gerrymander Ohio, if successful, will likely make 12 of Ohio’s 15 districts solidly Republican. JD Vance (a Catholic who talks like an Evangelical) and Josh Mandel (a Jew who talks like an Evangelical) — both of whom are anti-maskers, anti-vaxxers — are the leading Republican candidates to replace Rob Portman in 2022. Need I say more? Both of these men are running on Trump’s coattails, each trying to out-Trump the other. If elected, neither of them will represent the diverse people of Ohio. They are partisan hacks, religious extremists with theocratic tendencies. It’s hard to believe that there was a time when Ohio was a Democratic-leaning union state, a state that gave us august statesmen such as Howard Metzenbaum and John Glenn (and even Republican George Voinovich, for that matter).

Sadly, there’s no hope on the horizon for rural Northwest Ohio. Extremism rules the roost, and now Trumpists are intent on taking over local school boards and election offices. Quite honestly, if it weren’t for the fact that our six children and thirteen grandchildren live here, we would pack up our belongings and move away. Outside of having a few liberal/progressive friends, we have little, if anything, in common with the people around us. Good people, kind people, but people who have bought into all sorts of political extremism and conspiracy theories. Polly and I have to live here and get along with our neighbors, but since less than half of them are vaccinated, it’s hard not to think that they are out to infect us with COVID and kill us. And if they don’t infect or kill us, they hope to deliver us from our atheistic, communistic, socialist beliefs — by the barrel of a gun, if necessary. Theocratic tendencies and militia sentiments waft through the air, leaving us to wonder what will happen to us if these folks ever gain absolute control.

Maybe it is time for me to buy a gun . . .

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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An Example of Our Broken, Costly Healthcare System

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Last January, my wife was admitted to the hospital and later diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. In July, she was told she had bladder cancer and a fistula that had created a path between the colon and bladder (resulting in feces in the urine). A urologist and colorectal doctor planned to do surgery sometime in August. On August 1, I rushed Polly to the emergency room. Her catheter had come out — more precisely, blown out — and she was, to put it bluntly, shitting all over herself and the floor. After six days at the Community Hospital and Wellness Center (Bryan Hospital), the surgeons decided Polly’s surgery would have to be done at Parkview Regional Medical Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Late on August 6, Polly was transferred by Williams County EMS — the only ambulance service in the county —  to Parkview. Polly would later have successful bladder and colon surgery. All told, she spent eighteen days in the hospital. Total cost for the January and August hospitalizations? $200,000. And that’s what our insurance paid, not what the various service providers billed. The sheer amount of the billings and various providers is mind-boggling, even to a man who spent most of his adult life handling church and secular business finances.

Our annual insurance deductible is $3,400. Our maximum out of pocket is $6,750. On top of that, we pay $84 a week for family medical coverage. Polly’s employer pays another $19,000 a year to provide our family insurance.  This means that we personally paid $11,118 this year for medical expenses. Add what Polly’s employer pays to this amount, and our total medical costs exceed $30,000. And, all praise be to the God of American Capitalism, this starts all over again come January 1. Well, with one change: our insurance premiums go up again, as they have most years over the past two decades! (Some years, premiums remained the same, and deductible and out of pocket maximums were increased. Over the past two decades, our deductible has increased 1,000% and our family maximum out of pocket has increased over 500%)

Polly’s surgeries were a success. Last Friday, she had a colonoscopy to determine whether her colectomy could be reversed. The surgeon reported that her colon was free of inflammation and that the colectomy could be reversed. Surgery is planned for March 2020. The bladder cancer? The pathologist made a “mistake.” Polly doesn’t have cancer. The pathologist’s negligence caused untold grief for us. His error triggered a hospital-level tumor board review. The urologist who resected Polly’s bladder sent tissue samples to the University of Michigan for examination. The samples were cancer-free.

Polly having surgery in March 2020 means, of course, that we will have to meet our annual insurance deductible and maximum out of pocket again. This means that, once again, we will spend $11,118 for medical costs. Of course, this has been the norm more years than not for us over the past decade. The only difference this year is that it is Polly’s medical bills, and not mine, that are running up the tab.

And, that’s not all . . . (think of Billy Mays doing a late-night OxiClean infomercial).

We have almost $3,000 of medical bills that the insurance company didn’t pay. I spent several hours on the phone today, trying to figure out why these bills weren’t paid. Right now, my emotions run the range of going postal and weeping, wondering when we will get out from under the weight of medical costs. The EMS bill balance of $965 is ours to pay (the total billed amount for transport was almost $1,900). Polly’s transport was medically necessary and Williams County EMS was the only provider in the county. What were we to do, right? I asked both the hospitalist and nurse to make sure that the transport was covered by our insurance. They assured me that it was. And it was, with one big fuck you. Williams County EMS accepts our insurance, BUT they do not accept insurance adjustments and assignments. Polly’s insurance company paid what Medicare customarily pays, leaving us with a substantial balance. I am also dealing with pathology and radiology bills that were rejected by the insurance company due to incomplete paperwork, lack of reports, etc. Trying to find someone who could actually “fix” these problems for me proved futile. It’s up to me to contact the various players and make sure proper documents are submitted to the insurance company.

The American healthcare system is broken. And it will remain this way until our government leaders are willing to overhaul the system and take the profit out of medical care.  As long as insurance companies and large “non-profit” health care providers are in the driver’s seat, we shouldn’t expect change. In the meantime, all I know to do is send out monthly checks of $25, $50, and $100 to service providers as payment for our outstanding balances. One provider, Parkview Hospital and Physicians Group, refuses to accept payments for more than a twelve-month period. Owe them $2,400? Your monthly minimum payment is $200. Yes, they offer bill reduction if you are poor, but unfortunately, we are just over income line they use to determine eligibility. Our local hospital, thankfully, did provide us a partial bill reduction (and was, overall, substantially cheaper than Parkview). They also don’t demand exorbitant monthly payments. We have been paying them $100 a month for, it seems, forever.

I know our story is not any different from those of other Americans facing serious medical problems. We are held captive by a system that prioritizes profit over care; a system that is almost impossible to navigate. Until government leaders put the healthcare needs of their constituents first, we shouldn’t expect things to change. While the Affordable Care Act was a step in the right direction, Congress, along with the Federal Courts, are going out of their way to burn “Obamacare” to the ground. President Trump and Republicans promised Americans awesome health insurance if the Affordable Care Act is invalidated. I can safely say that no such “awesomeness” is forthcoming. For the Gerencsers, 2020 will be yet another year of mounting healthcare costs; just as it will be for millions of Americans. We are all dying, one medical bill at a time.

On October 2, 2019, Michael Hicks. professor of economics and the director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University, wrote an editorial in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette castigating Parkview and other Indiana Hospitals for their excessive medical care costs. (We live in rural northwest Ohio. Toledo and Fort Wayne are our “big” cities, 40 miles or so in either direction.) Here’s what Hicks had to say:

Several weeks ago, a concerned citizen sent me a financial summary of Indiana’s not-for-profit hospitals. He asked that I look into the issue of excessive profits by these systems.

I was skeptical that the issue would be relevant. Profits are critical to an economy; they serve as a guide to pricing and investment decisions and reward the men and women who create value. The demonization of profits is a sure sign of unformed thought. Moreover, not-for-profit hospitals have explicitly chosen to forgo profits as part of their operations, so I doubted the financial summary would reveal anything important.

I was mistaken.

What I discovered will deeply anger every Hoosier and should embarrass most hospital administrators and board members. I also expect it to cause significant changes to state policy with respect to these hospitals. This is likely to change the way we tax them, regulate their competitors and enforce antitrust laws. It will surely lead to civil litigation involving billions of dollars of excess profits.

It turns out the not-for-profit hospital industry and its network of clinics is the single most profitable industry in Indiana. These profits are so large that, when accumulated, they account for roughly 9% of the state’s total economy. As of 2017, this industry had accrued more than $27 billion – yes, billion. Yet, the not-for-profit industry in Indiana pays virtually no taxes and invests almost none of those profits locally. That money is invested in Wall Street, not Main Street.

However, they do charge Hoosiers a premium to access health care.

Earlier this year, a Rand Corporation study found that hospitals in Indiana were charging among the highest prices in the nation. While the hospital association has been fighting this excellent study, it is surely correct. I am confident the Rand study is right because I mapped these hospitals and compared the Rand price data with the lack of competition in each health care market.

In places where there is little competition, such as Fort Wayne, consumers pay more than twice the cost for a typical medical treatment as they do in places with the most competition. This is how these hospitals accrued excess profits that are roughly 12 times larger than the entire state of Indiana’s Rainy Day Fund.

This windfall of profits has happened fairly recently. In 1998, the typical Hoosier spent $330 less than the average American for health care. We now pay $819 more per person than does the average American. The only factor that can explain this is growing monopoly power among our not-for-profit hospitals.

If you are not shocked by this, nothing can shock you. In a typical post-recession year, these excess profits were so large that they shaved almost 30% off economic growth in the state. Let me highlight some particularly egregious examples.

Parkview Hospital is the most blatant example. In one recent year, Parkview Hospital in Wabash earned a 48% profit rate. By comparison, Walmart, which also has a store in Wabash, had a profit rate of 3.12% that year. Parkview Hospital’s profit absorbed a full 4.1% of the county’s gross domestic product.

Using data from a ProPublica investigative website, I found IU Ball Memorial Hospital enjoyed a lavish 23.8% profit in that year. This was more than $100 million, or a full 2.5% of the county’s GDP. Despite this, the president of Ball Memorial recently begged the city of Muncie to subsidize new luxury apartments so his doctors could live downtown.

That subsidy will cost Muncie Community Schools more than $2 million, which just so happens to be about two days of profits at the not-for-profit IU Ball Memorial Hospital.

There are literally dozens of other outrageous examples reflecting an appalling lack of governance at not-for-profit hospitals.

To be fair, there are a few hospitals that choose not to participate in this plunder of their patients and communities. These good actors, along with the not-for-profit community as a whole, are hapless victims of this outrageous monopolization of health care in our state. I feel especially sorry for the faith-based community which will surely be linked unfairly to some of these institutions. They should be among the first to call for legislative intervention and governance change in these hospitals.

Local governments are also victims. The most profitable industry in our state pays no property tax and no income tax, but overcharges schools, and city and county governments for health care. There is almost certainly a tax reckoning coming for not-for-profit hospitals, which will add much to the coffers of local government.

Maybe the only good news in all of this is that this situation is a plaintiff attorney’s dreamscape. There is a $27 billion settlement pool alongside the most abundant evidence of anti-competitive behavior I have ever seen. If you lead a school, business or municipal government that has paid health care expenses in Indiana, find a good trial lawyer, or better yet a class-action specialist.

This news about Indiana is now attracting national attention as an example of a health care system run amok. This is the most shocking thing I have seen in more than two decades of public policy research.

Monopoly pricing at hospitals is likely a contributor to our state’s nearly 10-place decline in health rankings over the past two decades.

The most similar modern phenomenon I have witnessed is the effect of strip-mining on many Appalachian communities.

To place this in historical context, the profit rates at Indiana’s not-for-profit hospitals are larger than anything the Gilded Age robber barons were able to secure. In this observation is a final lesson.

In the process of vetting this study with several colleagues, I shared it with one lifetime Republican and veteran of two GOP administrations. His response was simply that this is the single best argument for Warren/Sanders-style health care reform he had ever seen. He is not wrong, and that alone should prompt quick legislative, regulatory and legal action.

Hicks’ editorial, along with my plight, demonstrate some of the greatest reasons for a major overhaul of our nation’s healthcare system. But let us not hold our collective breaths waiting for that to happen. It seems the health of constituents is not a priority in Congress.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Bruce Gerencser