Letter to the Editor – John E. Cochran-PMC

April 26, 2012
Residents of Prowers County:

After attending a meeting last week of prospective hospital board candidates, I came away with the opinion that PMC and High Plains haven’t worked well together in the past and that PMC was the problem. As an employee of PMC, I was concerned about PMC’s role in the lack of cooperation and began looking a little closer at the situation.  I came up with a few questions, but no direct answers.

1. Why do High Plains physicians choose to use health care providers outside of the Lamar area?

2. Why do High Plains physicians ask their Prowers County patients to drive to Pueblo, Colorado Springs and/or LaJunta?

3. Why is the finger pointed at PMC for lack of willingness to work with High Plains?

I’m not quite sure, but I have an idea. Let me provide a real life patient example that was just presented to me, that may suggest the seriousness of the questions.

A patient was recently seen by a High Plains physician.  It was determined that he needed to see an ENT specialist, so the patient was referred to an ENT in Pueblo. Why?  Dr. McLean, an ENT, services the Prowers community and could have seen the patient right here in Lamar! That Pueblo ENT felt the patient needed a modified barium swallow study, so the physician referred the patient to the LaJunta hospital to complete the study.

At PMC, I am the only health professional in Lamar that has completed hundreds of modified barium swallow studies as well as approximately 50 since beginning employment at PMC 1½ years ago.  Another opportunity to support the medical professionals in the area was missed. I will have the opportunity to work with this patient as an outpatient.  Graciously, the Speech Pathologist at La Junta forwarded me the swallow study results.  Unfortunately the fax transmission from her hospital was blurry, so I requested another copy to be sent from the ENT in Pueblo.  The second copy is just as unreadable as the first. So I begin treatment with this patient next week, with a barely usable swallow study and a diagnosis of swallowing difficulties.

The above situation resulted from a High Plains physician’s choice to refer a patient to Pueblo instead of using a local healthcare provider.  In this case, the patient and I are at a disadvantage as we begin treatment. However, it does provide Prowers County residents a “real life” example of the medical obstacles in this community that need to be overcome.

If the High Plains medical staff has concerns with the providers or healthcare at PMC, it would be appropriate to speak to those professionals in person and work towards resolving the differences.  We can choose to be part of the solution or part of the problem.  If there is going to be an improved cooperative effort to provide better healthcare services in Prowers County, it needs to begin now.

Take the past out of the equation, let it go and make a new fresh start.  We have quality healthcare people in the community at both facilities, but unless old grievances are dropped, it won’t be that way for long.

John E. Cochran CCC-SLP
Prowers Medical Center Speech Pathologist


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