Letter: Wheelchair clinic’s closure will be devastating

Graphic by Lori Deaton

HCA’s CarePartners wheelchair and seating [clinic] is the only clinic of its kind in Western North Carolina. Its closure by HCA is alarming. The devastating impact of the closure is felt across our entire region and beyond. HCA has turned its back on the most physically and emotionally vulnerable people in our community. HCA excluded people with physical disabilities from access to this health care.

For those not familiar: The CarePartners wheelchair and seating clinic is not a wheelchair store. It is a highly specialized clinic with extensive expertise in taking a multitude of measurements unique to each patient. It further assesses patients’ needs with intense scrutiny. Such measurements and evaluations are necessary in order for patients to receive a wheelchair that best matches their situation.

The clinic serves young children, adolescents and adults with conditions including spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, spina bifida and cerebral palsy. Many wheelchair-dependent people live 14 hours a day in their wheelchair. Their chair is a lifeline to everyday life. A perfect fit is necessary — not just for comfort — but to prevent potentially life-threatening pressure sores.

N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein announced Wednesday, Nov. 13, that he will look into HCA clinic closures. My hope is that our greater community, the Gibbins Advisors, (the watchdog group selected by Dogwood Health Trust to monitor HCA) and our attorney general all realize that HCA’s closing the wheelchair clinic is not a reduction in service. It eliminates this service.

There is no comparable service nearby. The closest comparable clinics are so far away that travel to either would be an exhausting, all-day round trip for many who can’t drive — many who must depend on transportation assistance. In addition, the process of getting a wheelchair from start (a doctor’s prescription) to finish (getting the chair that is a perfect “fit”) often requires multiple trips.

We have N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein’s attention, and his office is aware of the petition. The Dogwood Health Trust is aware of the petition, and I have spoken with a member of the Gibbins Advisors. Gibbins Advisors has read the petition and have let me know that comments are being taken seriously.

I am not convinced, however, that they are fully aware of how devastating and far-reaching this action is. More signatures and comments are needed.

Learn more about the CarePartners wheelchair and seating clinic by reading the petition [at avl.mx/6qc]. If you object to its closure, as I do, please sign and leave a comment detailing why you object.

Help make HCA — and all of the players in this decision — fully aware of this action!

— Jane Sutton
Old Fort

Editor’s note: Xpress contacted HCA with a summary of the letter writer’s points and received the following response from Nancy Lindell, public and media relations manager at Mission Health/HCA Healthcare: “Mission Health recognizes the importance of the Wheelchair Seating Clinic to our community. In years past, the clinic has relied heavily on grant funding, but due to our taxpaying status, we are no longer able to accept charitable contributions to subsidize these types of services. To benefit our communities, Mission Health expects to pay millions in state and local taxes each year. For some time, we have been actively engaged with community partners to determine how we can work together to identify alternative ways to sustain these vital services. We will have more information to share once those plans are finalized.”

 

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3 thoughts on “Letter: Wheelchair clinic’s closure will be devastating

  1. MG Massey

    With seventy percent unemployment statistics,
    it’s no surprise for me that Mission cuts disabled folks first.

    Validates personal experience

  2. Mike

    Done. Thanks Ms. Sutton!

    Folks, this is a real issue affecting real people, not some emotional partisan garbage. Take a couple of minutes and sign the on-line petition. Even if it can’t make HCA choose people over profit, maybe it will encourage an alternative to be developed.

  3. NFB

    The short version of the HCA reply:

    Our profits are more important to us that the health care of the community. Now that we are no longer a non-profit organization we have to pay taxes so STFU.

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