[Editor's Note: Dr. Odocha told this editor, he had originally written this letter to his patients, but the BeatI asked him if we could publish it.]

Here it is:

To the editor:
It is easy to overlook the difficulties that you bear, just to see me. It is equally easy to brush aside the inherent dangers of surgery, of hospitalization that you recently went through, or about to undergo, and just look on the positive side of the outcome. These difficult and dangerous paths you had walked, or may soon walk, quietly, bravely and for the most part alone. Of course, a few tablets here, some drips there, a full house of heaven-bound prayers from family and well-wishers were or will be in the mix, too.

In recent months or so, however, it has been quite common, within context of changes and challenges facing the health care industry in general and Gila Regional Medical Center, Silver City, NM, in particular; to hear a great deal of debates, arguments, deliberations and some noise I must say, from insiders and outsiders—doctors, nurses, other care givers, lawyers, board members, county commissioners, consultants, hospital buyers, etc. From men and women whose role in your illness, surgery, hospitalization and care at Gila Regional Medical Center [GRMC] may have been marvelous or questionable at best. As your surgeon, I too, with much embarrassment may have unwittingly, been part of the latter group. For this, I must ask for your forgiveness before I go any further.

As I write this open letter to you, My Dear Patient, I lay no claim to knowing the full details of the administrative, financial, business affiliation decision making processes of GRMC, the legal ramifications of and the obligatory relationships between GRMC administration, the Board of Trustees and the County Commissioners. Neither do I have any warrant to assume knowledge of the future of health care, nor the vexing perplexities of the code of conduct of health insurance companies going forward. But these three issues I do know: [1] There are administrative changes in place, by the efforts of the current administration, to steer the financial health of GRMC from the intensive care unit, to healing, and full recovery. [2] I do favor, and most of the care givers at GRMC equally favor the hospital [GRMC] to be free standing, with layers of supervision as deemed necessary under the statutes of governing laws and regulations in the state of New Mexico. [3] The administration of GRMC, the Board of Trustees and the County Commissioners are good people with good intentions, and are capable, upright men and women, fully engaged in the task of making good decisions that will heal the current discomfort in the community.

To this end, I strive to assure you, My Dear Patient, that the above statements are predicated on the following: [1] We all are invested stakeholders of GRMC- since we may be, at some point in our earthly lives, a patient or the relative of a loved one who may be a patient at GRMC, or under the care of a GRMC care provider. [2] Though unbeknownst to some non-health care givers, GRMC health care givers, as many others elsewhere in the country, are intensely dedicated in the care of their patients. This is important because, isolated from friends and families, physicians and other care givers, and their patients, share private, oftentimes frightening moments together. Moments that are draped in multi-layered truths on the nature of mortal man, on living and dying, on God, forgiveness of sins and immortality.

To sum up, My Dear Patient, as the debates go on, as the County Commissioners deliberate on their positions as they rightly should, and as they finally cast votes on whether to keep the hospital as free standing or sell it; I wish to reassure you that you My Dear Patient: [1] you are the visible angel in our midst, [2] you are a revealer of paths untrodden in illness and healing, [3] you are indeed, a teacher of truths to all, on the resilience of human nature confronted by the unwanted embrace of illness and suffering, and [4] you are the most important person in the persistent fight by GRMC team of care providers for quality health care in Grant County, NM.

Okay Harold Odocha, MD

Live from Silver City

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