A Note From Dennis Knox – July 2023
The following letter to the community was published in the Columbia Gorge News on Wednesday, July 19, 2023.
To Our Valued Community:
As President of Adventist Health Columbia Gorge, formerly known as Mid-Columbia Medical Center, it is my honor to serve this community and help ensure our patients’ continued health and well-being. With that comes a responsibility to keep you, our patients, friends, and neighbors, up to date on the state of the hospital, the work we are doing to help you get and stay well and our vision for the future.
When I last wrote to you in mid-December of 2022, I shared some challenging headwinds facing the healthcare industry as a whole and MCMC specifically, particularly related to staffing. Among other things we experienced provider shortages across a number of areas. These required us to make several concessions, the most notable of which was temporarily stopping new medical oncology and malignant hematology referrals to Celilo Cancer Center for seven weeks.
Though we did our best to mitigate it, these challenges had an impact on our patients and community. I am pleased, however, to share that we have had some positive developments at Adventist Health Columbia Gorge, which I will discuss more in-depth below.
We took several steps to respond to these difficult circumstances, including proactively consolidating areas of operation, sharing support staff across providers and clinics to optimize the patient experience and provider skill sets and canceling contracts that provided limited return on investment. The good news is our hard work has paid off. There have been many bright spots and reasons for optimism.
The most impactful bright spot has been the finalization of our relationship with Adventist Health. As of June 1, we are officially part of the Adventist Health family and are now known as Adventist Health Columbia Gorge. We believe this relationship will be beneficial in positioning us to continue to fulfill our promise to the patients and families in this community. In addition to their $100 million investment to fund strategic capital needs, Adventist Health offers us the opportunity to take advantage of their size and resources, which will help us optimize provider recruitment, reduce expenses, and effectively reallocate resources into other areas.
I am also thrilled with the remarkable progress we have made in recent months to overcome the challenges of staffing. Our collective efforts and commitment to recruiting have paid off as we have brought on twenty-two new providers over the year and are now taking new patients at our Family Medicine, Pediatrics, and Internal Medicine primary care clinics.
Patients in need of a primary care provider are welcome to establish care through Family Medicine by calling 541-296-9151, or Internal Medicine by calling 541-506-6920. Patients will be scheduled according to need and availability, with those with more acute needs able to receive an appointment as soon as the next day. We appreciate your patience as we work to connect patients with the care and providers they need.
Additionally, through a new partnership with Knight Cancer Institute, limited medical oncology services returned to Celilo on April 19. These services included onsite medical oncology and hematology appointments, chemotherapy, immunotherapy infusions and dedicated lab services. Knight Cancer Institute providers from other cancer centers in the surrounding areas have been traveling to Celilo three days a week to serve Columbia Gorge patients closer to home. This is allowing us to meet the core needs for cancer coverage in the Gorge and we are currently working with OHSU and Adventist Health to ensure we have a plan to continue meeting these needs long-term. We are now taking new referrals on a limited basis but expect this to grow as we continue our Medical Oncology recruitment efforts.
Another cause for celebration was our recent installation of a new Varian TrueBeam Linear Accelerator, made possible through funds raised by the Mid-Columbia Health Foundation. The TrueBeam system is a game-changer for cancer care in the Gorge. Built to treat cancer more efficiently and effectively wherever it is found in the body, the TrueBeam uses high-rate dosing to give patients time back, beam intensity to centrally focus on small cancer targets and has the ability to tailor beam energy to the target site. We treated our first patients with the TrueBeam on April 10, and we are excited for how this new investment will revolutionize our ability to help patients fight cancer for years to come.
So, what comes next?
Now that we have finalized our joining Adventist Health, we are turning our attention to integrating our two organizations. As this process unfolds, you will start to see signage changes with our new name and logo being utilized across the campus and beyond. This is an exciting evolution of our health system. However, I want to emphasize that any change in our healthcare delivery – with providers or services – is designed to continue to deliver exceptional care to our patients.
While we have experienced some challenges over the last few years, I am tremendously optimistic for our future. We are focused on the road ahead and working hard to ensure we can meet the evolving needs of our diverse and growing community.
At the end of the day, patients and families in The Dalles and the Columbia River Gorge rely on us for the care they need and deserve. That is our purpose and that is what we are committed to doing now and well into the future.
I wish you all the best,
President, Adventist Health Columbia Gorge