A Reflection on Our Local Healthcare

When I came to Fremont County in 2019 as the CEO of SageWest, I was not sure exactly what I was getting into, but I can say without a doubt that these two years have encompassed some of the most extraordinary moments of my career – moments of joy and triumph, of sadness and frustration, and of hope and pride.

These first two years will, of course, always be shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic. More than half of my time so far at SageWest has been defined by this global health crisis. While everyone on our team is prepared to deal with infectious disease outbreaks, the scope and scale of what we all have experienced with COVID-19 has truly been unprecedented.

You learn a lot about people during times of crisis, and I’ve certainly learned a lot about the SageWest team. I’ve seen our team members go above and beyond for their colleagues and their patients and leave their families during times of stress and fear to care for others. I knew going into the pandemic that our team was dedicated and compassionate, and cared deeply about the community, but the past year has put these traits into sharp focus. Our team rose to an unbelievably difficult and uncertain occasion, and I could not be more proud of them.

What I saw from this team during COVID-19 also puts into focus the many misperceptions about SageWest I have heard here the last two years and even more so, just recently– none of which could be further from the truth.

What I see at SageWest is two fully operational hospital campuses. Two round-the-clock emergency rooms. Two spots for crucial care like general surgery, inpatient care, primary care, and intensive care. An organization that has evolved and added services as the demographics and needs of its patients have evolved. A team focused on bringing as much care as possible to their community against a lot of common rural healthcare challenges including the recruitment and retention of clinicians.

I can’t claim to know and understand all of the history and dynamics of our region that predate my time here, and I don’t know why so much false information continues to swirl in our community. But I can tell you I’d like to change this.

When communities collaborate they can overcome a lot of complex challenges. They can bridge gaps in care, attract new people to their regions, and create strong and vibrant institutions. When communities are divided, they do not always make the best choices, often jeopardizing the vitality of the places and systems they are seeking to strengthen.

I don’t want to see this happen here.

As we work to emerge from the pandemic, my hope is that the state of healthcare in Fremont County can be a collaborative conversation. Now more than ever, we have an opportunity ahead of us to change healthcare for the better here – we just need to work together.

John Ferrelli
SageWest Health Care CEO

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