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Independent care is rare now

Portland's Southeast neighborhoods lost an old friend with the recent closure of Eastmoreland Hospital. The small community hospital has provided care to the area for almost 60 years. Its longtime staff of physicians, nurses and employees provided the kind of personal and cost-efficient care to patients that too often is missing in the large, megahospital environment.

But beyond its mission of caring for patients, Eastmoreland also served the community and indeed the entire Northwest by training many of Oregon's family physicians.

For many years, Eastmoreland was the only private hospital in Oregon training family doctors; OHSU was the other.

At one time, Eastmoreland trained one-third of all the family practice residents in Oregon. Upward of 4 percent of the physicians practicing in Oregon trained at Eastmoreland, and almost 10 percent of Oregon's family physicians trained there.

Many of these physicians practice in Oregon's rural areas. Towns such as Carlton, Sisters, Sunriver, Silverton, Monmouth, Albany and Estacada all have physicians who trained at Eastmoreland

That's quite an accomplishment for a 100-bed hospital in Southeast Portland and a substantial loss to a state that has a shortage of primary-care physicians, particularly family physicians.

With the loss of two hospitals and nearly 500 jobs, it is alarming that not one elected official commented on the impact to Portland.

All of the major hospitals report that they are on 'divert' status and that there is a shortage of beds. Clearly the loss of Eastmoreland and Woodland Park hospitals makes the problem worse.

One of the things that the Portland community should consider with the loss of two community hospitals is 'What kind of hospital care do we want for our community?' There are only three independent community hospitals left in the metropolitan area: Portland Adventist, Willamette Falls in Oregon City and Tuality Hospital in Hillsboro. These community hospitals traditionally provide a much more personal and intimate level of care than the large critical care hospitals. They also are less costly than their larger brethren.

Reed College has purchased Eastmoreland, and it's possible that Woodland Park may reopen under new ownership. If it does, the community should welcome it back as a valuable asset and ensure its inclusion in the total health care delivery system in Portland.

Jeff Heatherington is executive director of Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons of Oregon Inc.; he also is president and chief executive officer of FamilyCare Inc. and board chairman of the Portland Symphonic Choir. He lives in Northeast Portland.