Enough people have hollered at me about my opinion on the hospital bond that I’ve decided to opine one more time.
Should you, or shouldn’t you, vote for the Pullman hospital bond, Proposition 1? Let me tell you a story.
After writing against the bond the last time, various people both in the paper and out, had opinions about, well, my opinion.
No one in any communitarian sense wants to speak out against more hospital, or schools for that matter. And as near as I could tell, those voices basically said that. Listen to the authority – in this case, the hospital.
That’s not a persuasive argument for me. Authorities can be good, bad, or somewhere in between. I view the hospital folks as somewhere in between. We currently have a luxury facility that makes me pretty happy, but also is inaccessible to the growing number of poor folks who live in apartments and will eat the property tax increase that will happen.
Some of my friends who have dealt with cancer also told me about their experience. Short version – the new oncology facility is very welcome. Nothing is worse than driving to Spokane to get treated for cancer, especially in the winter. I responded, “OK – but that’s a small part of this project.” They agreed, but still voiced their support.
Various old folks hollered at me – some in the paper, like Terence Day. Old folks always benefit from things like a hospital upgrade. Medical records upgrades are nice, though I remain very skeptical that seeing an old file of metaphorical typed scribbles will make much difference for most people in the region. Yeah, once again, it might help me as someone with great health insurance who also travels. Still little concern about the poor folks, who are stuck here.
I read the Proposition 1 brochure over three times. There’s just no information in there that shows the failed proposal has changed at all. Mostly, it’s propaganda instead of details. It reinforces the concept that the hospital is engaged with what a doctor friend of mine has called the “medical arms race.” It assumes that a doctor in this town will only come here if we have more state-of-the-art facilities that are marginally supported by their actual use. Here’s a thought – why not pitch to doctors the opportunity to spend more time with patients, and have a great life? We can never win the medical arms race with larger facilities.
Telling me that we’re going to start a program with the WSU Medical School for rural health is fine. But that kind of program means helping poor people – once again, something a hospital with single-occupancy rooms and ever-increasing technology costs is going to run into trouble with.
What would be a convincing argument to someone like me, for the last hospital bond we’ll see in a while? How about real explanations how we’re going to serve all the people in our community? Why not directly address the class-based distinctions we see in Whitman County?
What about something that shows how we’re going to increase the declining empathy in health care, and have doctors spend more time with patients? How about catering to the community’s intelligence and education level by daylighting the tradeoffs that inherently go into such a proposal? Telling someone like me, who’s so deeply involved with technology, that technology is the answer falls flat. I live in a world where I see the failures of technology on a daily basis. As Einstein said, “ No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”
There IS a little of what I call “the social” in the brochure, to be fair. But nothing has really changed from the last time. Just the pitch.
So I’ll be voting “no” once again. And recommend the hospital really do a listening tour before coming back with a larger building.
Chuck Pezeshki is a professor in mechanical and materials engineering at Washington State University.