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SH provides exceptional care to all who seek it

26 Feb 2023

“Every one of you is going above and beyond”

By: Cheryl Nester Wolfe, president and CEO

This email was sent to all Salem Health staff from president and CEO Cheryl Nester Wolfe on Friday, Feb. 24.

An article in yesterday’s Statesman Journal profiles the tragic death of a woman experiencing homelessness. She was seen in Salem Hospital’s Emergency Department, discharged and later died of exposure. This is a devastating loss. No one deserves to die on the street, and we grieve with her family. However the article unfairly casts doubt on the manner in which our exceptional Emergency Department and Care Management staff handle discharges of patients who are experiencing homelessness. While we are always looking for opportunities to improve, I am proud of the compassionate care delivered to every patient here, and particularly our houseless neighbors.

Salem Health Hospitals and Clinics provides exceptional care to all who seek it. While I cannot speak specifically to the patient profiled in the article because the family has not authorized us to do so, I can tell you her care and discharge was appropriate. Beyond that, I can also speak to the hard work, dedication and quality of care I see each and every day. Our Emergency Room employees and providers go above and beyond to ensure patients receive the very best care. Our Care Management team spends hours on the phone seeking placement for homeless individuals, including calling family members, social service agencies and residential facilities well outside of our region in order to ensure patients have a safe discharge. As an organization, Salem Health supports multiple initiatives addressing homelessness, and the chronic physical, mental health and substance abuse problems that contribute to it. We provide funding to non-profits in our community that serve this population; we partner with Salem Housing Authority to lease beds at Redwoods Crossing, and we recently opened the Extended Care Unit because there was simply nowhere else for any of these patients to go. Homelessness is a widespread, systemic problem both in our community and across our nation, and we support efforts to fix the many things broken across the system. Until then, Salem Health serves as a safety net to vulnerable patients each and every day.

I don’t want a single staff person or provider to feel as if they are not doing enough — every one of you is going above and beyond and you have been since long before the pandemic struck. I see it in the care and compassion delivered every day, at every level in our organization.

As the leader of regional health care, we are working with our community partners to address this tragedy and build better community support systems for the houseless. Until then, we will continue to provide exceptional and compassionate care to everyone who needs it.