Remember the Rope-A-Dope?

Posted:  Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - 8:00am

Dear Readers,

Did you see the hopeful letter from Jim Donovan in last week’s Boothbay Register?

Just in case you didn’t catch it, the boss of Lincoln County Health said he is hopeful the concerned citizens who make up the St. Andrews Task Force will find a consultant to help them understand (and accept) the reasons he wants to shutter our beloved community hospital.

  “I am writing today to support the St. Andrews Hospital Task Force in its efforts to understand the demographic, clinical and patient volume trends that significantly change the way we (and providers elsewhere) are delivering healthcare,” he wrote.

“It is my sincere hope that the task force will review the data and come to understand the challenges healthcare providers are facing throughout the state. We may continue to differ in our conclusions, but the sooner we both agree on the problems, the better.”

As I talk to friends and neighbors, they seem to agree on three problems. They feel betrayed by Lincoln County Healthcare's decision to close St. Andrews Hospital. They resent the way Lincoln County Healthcare's brass hid behind closed doors to make their decision. And they have a very real fear that if something should happen to them, they would be denied adequate healthcare services.

While Donovan has put a “hopeful” public face on his attempt to convince the public that closure is the only answer, his official “to do” list before closing the hospital next April mentions the need to work on operations and finance, quality and safety and regulatory and licensure compliance.

The final task on his list is “the need to rebuild community trust and support, which includes working with a Community Advisory Committee, made up of town leaders whose role will be to advise Lincoln County Healthcare during the transition on issues of public understanding and education.

Lincoln County Healthcare's big boss and his minions are smiling sincere smiles and saying kind words to our community, but it looks like a stall.

In boxing terms, it resembles the old “Rope-A-Dope,” a boxing tactic practiced by Muhammad Ali when he fought George Foreman.

Foreman, the stronger man and tougher puncher, was supposed to overpower Ali. But the smarter Ali backed up against the ropes, covered up and protected himself for most of the bout. Then, in the eighth round, when Foreman was the tired out from punching, Ali went on the attack and knocked out the bigger man.

Next April, Dovovan will just pull the plug. St. Andrews Hospital and its long tradition of providing caring healthcare for our communities will disappear.

Like Ali, he hopes the citizens of Boothbay, Boothbay Harbor, Southport and Edgecomb will be too tired out and too broke to put up a stink, especially one that involves lawyers and courts.

For now, much of the community is mad as heck at Donovan and Lincoln County Healthcare. They feel betrayed by the very people they supported and trusted.

In his prime, I wouldn’t have bet against Muhammed Ali when he stepped into the ring. Today, I wouldn’t bet against the community’s will to find a way to keep St. Andrews Hospital open, despite Donovan’s “Rope-A-Dope” strategy.