By editorial board • 

Is there a doctor in the house?

An institution as large and important as a hospital will always be the target of stories circulating about unsatisfied customers. But there seems to be an increase in discontent recently when it comes to the Willamette Valley Medical Center.

Patients tell of waiting days for basic medical services, such as getting a simple X-ray read — services are readily available just 16 miles north the road at the Providence Newberg Medical Center.

Meanwhile, nurses are in the process of unionizing over a range of grievances. They maintain they are overworked and underpaid, and their bosses have adopted a hear-no-evil, see-no-evil corporate policy in response.

Stories, of course, are just that. Stories.

They’re subjective. They often fail to take into account all relevant facts.

However, it’s undeniable that McMinnville’s only hospital has waded into troubled waters.

The Leapfrog Group, an industry watchdog organization, dropped the hospital from a B rating in the spring of 2016 to a D rating in November of 2019 — the worst among the 31 Oregon hospitals it graded.

Healthgrades, which rates more than 3 million health-care providers around the country, gave the hospital single-star ratings last year for its treatment of numerous of conditions. The roster included such life-threatening emergencies as heart and lung failure.

The hospital was also rated poorly for the survival rate of stroke victims.

These are not anecdotes from disgruntled employees or dissatisfied patients. These are data-driven evaluations hospital administrators should be seriously addressing. It’s difficult to know for sure how the hospital is addressing those issues, as the current interim CEO is not talking publically. We only receive carefully messaged statements about how the ratings don’t reflect reality.

But you know the old saying. Where there are flames shooting into the air, there’s fire.

Hospital administrators need for more than their standard assortment of press release clichés to earn back the public trust. Such platitudes only demonstrate how estranged Lifepoint Health, the hospital’s Tennessee-based parent corporation, actually is from the local community.

The hospital’s website continues to list the CEO and chief nursing officer positions as “vacant.” That compounds an appearance of detachment.

It concerns us that the Willamette Valley Medical Center, one of only two for-profit hospitals in Oregon, is looking so peaked these days.

We don’t know exactly what to prescribe.

However, sunlight is a remarkably effective disinfectant, so a commitment to openness would represent a good start. So would installing added control at the local level. Hopefully their search for a new, permanent CEO concludes soon.

We’d also prescribe making a vow of listening, truly listening — not only to the people who make their livelihood at the hospital, but also those who turn to it during the most dire moments of their lives.