Monday, January 3, 2011

Kudos to the Smallest Hospital in New York State

Clifton-Fine Hospital 2003
In Gem of the Adirondacks I wrote of the smallest hospital in New York State and my experiences there. Not quite out of my teens, I had taken many spills while water skiing on Star Lake with friends. Two days later I was admitted to our local Clifton-Fine Hospital with double pneumonia. I nearly died, but thanks to the people at the hospital my demise was postponed, so far by 48 mostly interesting years.

A few years ago we were again in Star Lake when one of us had an unexpected and disturbing vision problem. At the hospital's clinic we learned that there is no ophthalmologist on staff, but they could give us contact information for several in towns an hour or so away. That's fine, we said, but our cottage doesn't have a telephone (everyone knows that cell phones don't work there). No problem the receptionist said, and she promptly made the call herself and got us an appointment for us that very day.

New Construction and New Facade 2010
Visiting the community last year, we noticed construction underway on a significant new addition. And late in the year we received a solicitation for a donation to help pay for the new facilities. The new wing will support consulting and out-patient care. We gladly responded and we commend others to support the organization also. It is one of the community's most valuable assets.

Decades after the water skiing mishap, we now live in a community of perhaps a quarter of a million people with a major university and at least three very large hospitals. Indeed, health-care is the largest employer in Gainesville, Florida. Nevertheless, if I were to experience chest pains, for example, I would not know where best to go or what to do to receive the most timely and appropriate care. Like my neighbor with signs of suffering a stroke, would I find myself sitting for hours in a hospital emergency room? He had waited with dozens of other sufferers, next to an unfortunate and moaning youth who casting poorly, had lodged a fishing hook in his ear lobe.

People who have never been seriously ill or who are lucky enough not to have had any friend or family member needing health care have claimed that we in America have "the best health care system in the world." One wonders what planet they inhabit, but perhaps they are not as disconnected from reality as the mass of our citizens believe them to be. Instead they may have had the good fortune to live in a backwater place like Clifton-Fine, on the ragged and almost forgotten western edge of the great Adirondack wilderness. Maybe this tiny part of America's personal and non-industrial  approach to health care can really stake a claim to being the best. We don't know, but we want to help keep this slim glimmer of hope and promise alive.

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