ACH proves bigger isn't always better

Published 4:57 am Wednesday, December 26, 2001

I have always been a believer that the space on this page should be used to focus on issues and events that shape our community, our country and our world. Consequently, I seek to avoid using this space to tackle personal issues and to address things that are happening in my life.
But – and you probably already knew that was coming – today will be different as I seek to wrap up some personal business that has been on mind since December 12, 2001.
That was a day which will be one of the cornerstones of my life for the rest of eternity. Like the day I got married and the day my first daughter was born, December 12, 2001, was another special event that I will never forget so long as my faculties are in good order.
My second daughter was born that day in Atmore Community Hospital with a good deal of fanfare. Despite my cowardice, I actually stayed to witness the event – although I had ducked behind a curtain in the room near the doorway just in case things got unbearable. They didn't and despite my squeamishness, I saw my second daughter take her first breath of air.
The health of my wife and daughter were foremost on my mind throughout the pregnancy and I had little doubt that they would be well-cared for after having had contact with my wife's doctor. His professionalism, personal concern for his patients and his enthusiasm are the things I remember most about the visits I attended. His knowledge and his skill, though, proved to be a match for all of his other strengths.
And I'll be honest about something here … Almost every time people asked where my wife was planning to have the baby, they would name some hospital in Mobile or Pensacola.
It simple appeared to me that a lot of local folks have the idea – at least when it comes to medical care – that bigger is better.
If so, they don't know what they are missing.
Our first daughter was one of five born in a 12-24 hour period at a hospital in Mississippi five years ago.
While her care was adequate, I have serious problems with the way my wife was treated. In fact, once the nurses found out it was her first delivery, they were convinced that the screaming was a result of her being a big baby who couldn't handle the pain. Besides, they had more "pressing" patients to attend to. Furthermore, the staff was small and short-handed.
After waiting and waiting through the screams for hours, they finally decided to check her out – and when they did, they discovered it was too late to do an epidural or any other procedure that would stop the pain.
It was at this point, just minutes before delivery, that they finally decided to call in the doctor.
While he handled himself and the staff very well, I still remain convinced that we got second-rate treatment at a large facility.
Furthermore, there were rules and regulations, can't-do signs posted everywhere, nurses and hospital personnel that seemed obsessed with the idea of following rules just to be following rules and staffers who had an it's-no-big-deal complex.
I am delighted to say that this wasn't the case in Atmore. There were rules, of course, but they made sense. The maternity ward is in a secure wing and you have to be admitted through an electronically-locked door to get in. This is done to protect babies and a good answer to the question "Who are you here to see?" will generally get you in as long as the patient knows who you are.
The care was outstanding, personal, direct and intense. There were nurses and staff members whose only duty was to make sure that their one patient – my wife – got proper medical care.
The next day, another expectant mother came in and gave birth. I didn't see a decline in care when this happened.
So I guess my point is that bigger isn't always better. When it comes to medical care, at least, my goal is to make sure that the hospital has the personnel and facilities to deal with the issue and the time to treat the problem or situation as a top priority. That way, it won't become a situation where my family or I become another number and a chart on a closed door.
We were treated like a family in a strong community-caring atmosphere, and I am convinced that if I need help, attention or care, I don't have to cross a state or county line to get it.
In the case of maternal care, we got this and more from Atmore Community Hospital and my wife and I owe a hearty amount of thanks to those folks in OB wing of the hospital, including the nursery employees.
Our visit was terrific and without singling out anyone among a group who all gave their best efforts to provide care for their patients, I say thank you. Thanks again are due to our doctor, Daniel Hegarty, whose work and care were outstanding.
So to all the folks at ACH, I hope you had a merry Christmas and I bid you happy New Year. Thanks for your help and for a job well-done.
Brian Blackley is publisher of The Atmore Advance. He may be reached at 368-2123 or via e-mail at

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