Merger a ‘degradation of access to health care’

Editor of the Reformer:

I am deeply concerned about the merger of Cornerstone and Just So Pediatrics. This move will result in a degradation of access to health care for families in the Connecticut River Valley and represents a lack of understanding about the needs of the diverse population of families in Bellows Falls and nearby communities that access Cornerstone Pediatrics.

I am a parent who lives in Langdon, N.H., and works in Brattleboro. My children’s physician, Dr. Susan Slowinski of Cornerstone, has been our pediatrician since each child was born in Brattleboro Memorial Hospital. I am happy with the health care we have received at Cornerstone and have never found scheduling (vaguely referenced as the reason for the merger) to be an issue for us. My doctor and her colleagues have always been responsive and available to us, even in minor emergency or same-day-appointment situations.

Moving our medical care to Brattleboro will be an inconvenience for my family. The prospect of driving 40 minutes each way when a child is ill, or even just for a routine visit, is not a high standard of care.

Much more important and troubling, however, is the effect this change will have on low-income families in the area. As in many medium-sized, rural communities, families in Bellows Falls and surrounding towns represent a wide range of economic backgrounds.


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Additionally, Bellows Falls has a high number of young parents who access Cornerstone Pediatrics. The lack of reliable transportation and childcare for other children can be a challenge for many families. There is no reasonable public transportation between Bellows Falls and Brattleboro. I can confidently say that this move will degrade the quality of care for many vulnerable families.

True, there are (just) two other pediatricians in Bellows Falls. I doubt they could accept all the patients that Cornerstone serves, but the premise that should trouble us is the assertion that anyone for whom this is a challenge can change their pediatrician. What this really means is that poor families, regardless of whether they are happy with their pediatrician, will have to disrupt their medical care and find a new pediatrician, a burden that will be optional for families in higher income brackets.

As a community we should be concerned when things are getting harder for children and families already at risk. We should be concerned when a young mother becomes more likely to miss well-child appointments for her newborn because she doesn’t have a car. We should be worried when an at-risk 5-year old becomes more likely to miss his only annual check-up because his father would have to take four hours off work to get him to and from his appointment.

I can only assume that the reason for this, although not stated in your article, is financial. I understand that health care companies must operate as businesses, but this move so clearly disregards the needs of families and misunderstands the makeup of our rural communities, that it causes me to have serious concerns with the direction of the leadership of Brattleboro Memorial Hospital.

Kimberly DeRego,

Langdon, N.H., Aug. 3

Keeping an eye
on pertussis

Editor of the Reformer:

We were pleased to see Dr. McGraw’s column on pertussis (whooping cough) in the Aug. 29 paper. As of Sept. 2, there have been 39 confirmed pertussis cases in Vermont, 32 of those from Windham County. Eleven of the Windham County cases have been reported since July 15. As Dr. McGraw wrote, whooping cough can be a very serious illness and can be life threatening to infants. If you have symptoms of pertussis -- severe or persistent cough -- you should be evaluated by a health care provider.

The Vermont Department of Health has been working closely with area medical practices and with school nurses now that classes have resumed. Vaccination is the best method of prevention. To learn more visit the healthvermont.gov website, call your healthcare provider, or speak to a public health nurse at 802-257-2880.

Prudence MacKinney,

district director, Vermont Department
of Health, Brattleboro, Sept. 4