TCGH Care Goes Beyond Hospital Walls

When you think of a hospital, you know you can expect it to be focused on physical and mental well-being. As an Adventist Health hospital, Tillamook County General Hospital aims to be just as attentive to the spiritual side of the healing process.

Eric Swanson, Emergency Medical Services director, found a way to address spiritual care before patients even get to the hospital. In Tillamook County, unlike most areas, TCGH is the sole ambulance service provider, one way of giving back to the community. Swanson developed spiritual care guidelines that are used by emergency medical technicians in the field.

The outline helps the emergency responders know how to approach a patient or family members about their personal belief system, determine their spiritual needs and proceed appropriately, such as with prayer or spiritual referral to a chaplain or local clergy.

TCGH's mission of spiritual healing is strengthened not only in this local involvement but also internationally. During the three months following the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti, three medical teams from the hospital traveled to the ravaged island with medication and supplies to provide first aid and critical care. Rex Parsons, hospitalist, Matthew Turney, emergency department physician, and Larry Hamilton, nursing supervisor, led the first team in January. Gene McColgin, emergency department physician, followed with a group in February, and Parsons returned with a team of four other hospital employees in late March.

"We treated everyone from day-old babies to 80-year-old women and everything from bronchitis to infected amputations," says Parsons. "They lacked simple things like clean water, toilets, vitamins and basic antibiotics. Just having access to better water would solve a majority of their problems."

Parsons and the first team arrived in Port au Prince 10 days after the earthquake. They set up a clinic in one of the many camps where displaced and injured people gather, and in one week they helped more than 1,500 people.

On Parsons' return trip in late March, conditions had improved slightly. Tents provided shelter, better sanitation was in place and the water supply had improved.

"We were only in that area for two days," recalls Parsons. "We saw half the people, and they were only half as sick. The degree of need in Haiti is so large that you wonder if it could ever be fixed in a lifetime," he adds. "But the long-term solution for Haiti is literacy and education."

Both McColgin and Parsons plan to visit Haiti next year to continue medical outreach.

TCGH staff members have participated in many mission and medical outreach trips to more than 25 countries all around the globe. Countries served in recent years include Haiti, India, Iraq, Mexico, Indonesia, Brazil, the Philippines and South Africa.

August 01, 2010 / Adventist Health