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Woman disputes hospital’s version

John Colson

A woman who endured a three-hour delay of a Caesarian section while Aspen Valley Hospital found her a bed has disputed the hospital’s version of the incident, saying she was “very upset.”June Waterman, 37, who was scheduled for the procedure at 6 a.m. on March 15, got to the hospital on time but “we were told there was no room for us,” said her husband, John Waterman, 49.”I was very upset,” June Waterman said. “I’m a gracious individual, so I don’t lash out.”Her husband seconded this assessment of the situation at the hospital, explaining, “We were putting the best face on it, though, because we didn’t want to be whiners. We thought we’d get better care by putting the best face on it.”He said that the hospital’s head nurse, Barrie Harms, was “playing it a little casual” when she claimed, as a March 21 article in The Aspen Times reported, that Waterman was not upset by the delay in being admitted. AVH, which was designated a Critical Access Hospital two years ago under state and federal guidelines, is limited to 25 inpatient beds and receives a higher per-patient reimbursement from Medicare as a result of that designation, according to hospital CEO David Ressler.The hospital originally was a 40-bed facility, but some rooms have been converted to other uses in its three decades of operation, leaving AVH with an actual complement of 32 beds, seven of which are not currently being used.Responding to accusations that he was putting patients at risk, Ressler said last week that the CAH designation didn’t affect the emergency room operations, which recently were expanded and updated, and that patients are not placed in jeopardy.He conceded that during high-season periods the hospital sometimes hits its 25-bed maximum and must turn patients away, transfer them to other facilities or delay their admission until a bed opens , which is what happened with the Watermans.As for the case involving the Watermans, Ressler declined to comment, saying, “That’s not fair for me to have a discussion with a patient through the papers.” He said Harms was merely reporting her understanding of the situation.The Watermans, meanwhile, were not happy when they read in the newspaper about the CAH designation, the artificial 25-bed restriction, and Harms’ remark about June’s reaction to the delay.”We were told we could go home and wait,” June Waterman recalled, adding that a nurse told her it was known at midnight the night before that there would be no room for June. She said she also was told that the delivery was scheduled at 6 a.m. Wednesday to avoid potential scheduling conflicts with ski injuries.”They get precedence,” she quipped.”I would have appreciated a call,” John Waterman said, adding that perhaps he and he wife would not have had to get up at 5 a.m. to get to the hospital since she did not actually undergo the procedure until 9 a.m. or so. The Watermans live in Missouri Heights, near Carbondale, roughly 30 miles from the hospital.June, whose previous child had been delivered in an emergency Caesarian delivery at AVH in November 2002, said the hospital and her doctor told her that her second child would have to be delivered by Caesarian as well, because of potential complications related to the scar left by the previous delivery.”I had prepared and was all ready to have the surgery,” she said, adding that she was “in a very nervous state” about the procedure, had not eaten or drunk any water since the night before.”It wasn’t an awful experience,” she stressed more than once, and both she and John said the hospital staff treated them well, was attentive to their needs and worked diligently to free up a bed, at the insistent urging of her doctor. And once they were admitted, she said, the delivery went well.John Waterman also said that Harms told him the beds situation was “a game of chess that they play” whenever they come close to hitting the 25-bed limit.”If AVH and the public think it’s okay for AVH to be playing a chess game, well, so be it,” he declared. “I just think the public should know what’s going on. It’s a game, and the people who are suffering are the patients.”The Watermans’ doctor, Mallory T. Haring, has called for the hospital to abandon the CAH designation and open up all of its 32 beds to patient care.John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com


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