letter to the editor

Telehealth: Deja vu!

Mon, 05/04/2020 - 4:30pm

Dear Editor:

After reading Lisa Kristoff’s well-written article on the wonders of telehealth featuring Mary Rafter, FNP, I had a real deja vu flashback to 1997.

I started reliving the utter frustration that I experienced then as a St. Andrews Hospital board member. This is when I introduced Telemed (now Telehealtth) to the board for a possible additional meaningful resource to better serve our rural community. Experiencing how well and how accepted Telemed was doing in Bangor, including my field of mental health, I was excited to present telemed for consideration.

At that time I heard that former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop (Hanover, N.H.) was interested in the setting up of a pilot telemed program: One hospital in Maine, one in New Hampshire, and one in Vermont. I made telephone contact as to our possible interest. Dr. Koop's Foundation sent over from Hanover its lead surgeon, Dr. Joseph M. Rosen, who created the Navy's initial telemed program involving smaller ships at sea to speak with with us. He presented at a meeting of doctors, board members and support staff. Dr Rosen was so impressed with our gathering that it looked as if St. Andrews would be the only Maine hospital in this new, expanded way of delivering additional health services.

At this time, the hospital was starting a “partnership” with Maine Health. Upon hearing that St. Andrews was about to be Dr. Koop's Maine choice, Don McDowell, then head of Maine Health, moved in with premise of the inclusion of Maine Health. To make a long story short, that was the end of St. Andrews’ opportunity to develop telemed in 1997. All this is documented in the board minutes of July 31, 1997. Additional frustration came when Dr. Rosen offered to give the residents of the Gregory Wing (before the development of the Village) free computers so all could be in touch with family and friends. His offer was not acted upon.

Readers, hopefully you will not think this is some kind of belated ego trip for one approaching 91. It's a shame that it has to take such a deadly virus for us “to see the light.”

Howard P. Wright Sr.

East Boothbay