Some Mid-Summer Levity, Please!

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Given the intensity of the debate over Hoag’s affiliation with St. Joseph – Attorney General Kamala Harris’s office is re-examining the agreement – and the various issues afflicting our country (Congress’s general ineptitude, Detroit’s bankruptcy), our city (the controversy over Big Corona’s fire rings, the foolishness over the inaccurately-named “dock tax”), I found myself yearning for humor in something, anywhere. I was getting desperate.

 And then, just the other afternoon, a letter arrived from Robert T. Braithwaite, the President and CEO of Hoag Hospital’s Board.

 I had recently undergone a routine scan at the hospital. Mr. Braithwaite’s letter assured me that “providing the highest quality care is our priority.” He sought my opinion “to help us in areas we may need to improve.”

 Really, after three columns devoted to forewarning that Hoag’s decision to affiliate with St. Joseph undermines the future of its quality of care, they wanted more of my opinion? Was this a joke?

 Apparently not. My name had been “randomly selected” for a survey being conducted by Press Ganey Associates, in South Bend, Indiana.

 The survey asked how it went at the registration desk: Efficient and helpful.

 What about the “comfort” and “cleanliness” of the facility? Absolutely lovely. Hoag looks, in many areas, like a country club.

 The “friendliness/courtesy of the staff?” Top-notch, as it usually has been at Hoag.


And then the not-so-fun part: What about the hospital’s “sensitivity to [my] needs”? Hoag’s “image in the community?”

 As is so often the case with institutions, what we see when we walk in the door and the people we encounter face to face – in Hoag’s case, the care-givers and their staffs – is appealing and aimed make the visitor at ease. Hoag does this well.

 But the Board has failed miserably in its sensitivity to the community’s needs. This, Mr. Braithwaite, is where the hospital must improve.

 It was not forthright in communicating the reason for ending elective abortion. Nor has it, to my knowledge, addressed the other services that Catholic doctrine dictates to its medical professionals: end-of-life and right-to-die decisions, procedures and treatments based on fetal stem-cell research, for example. Patients want and deserve clear answers.

 Meanwhile, the U.S. Conference of Bishops continues to wring its hands over gay marriage and to lobby in Sacramento against SB 131, which would allow victims of sex abuse more time to file claims against the church.

 I laughed, though not from mirth, and was left to consider our human condition, with all its vagaries.

 In the aftermath of the tragic Asiana Airlines crash landing in San Francisco on July 6, we learned that a “rogue intern” at the National Transportation Safety Board had given out racially insensitive names to a San Francisco TV station when it called to confirm the four Korean pilots’ names.

 As the newscaster earnestly reported the four names that any mother of an immature teenager would have known to be bogus, I confess to a bit of Schadenfreude – good grief, it was KTVU, the local Fox affiliate that had erred. Do Fox newscasters train at the Karl Rove School of Journalism? (See Fox, Election Night, 2012).

 I thought about the parents of that rogue intern, who would surely have been pleased that their child had landed an internship at the NTSB. Possibly even a job there someday. And now this: Fired summarily. I imagined the parent-child conversation, which likely would have begun, “What were you thinking?”

 A question few teenagers can answer, in my experience, as thinking through to the consequences is seldom a part of a rash decision to act.

 It’s also a question, I hope, that Kamala Harris demands of Hoag’s decision to affiliate with St. Joseph.

 Jean Hastings Ardell can be reached at [email protected].



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