We need to save our children’s health care

The Christmas season is a time to focus on the well-being of children, and generosity towards others. Our schools and churches celebrate the happiness of children with The Nutcracker, Santa Claus, Christmas pageants, and candlelight services.

Now the health of children in our community is threatened by the potential closing of inpatient pediatric care (ages 6 weeks to 18 years of age) at Alpena Regional Medical Center. Practically, this means that your child in need of in-hospital treatment for any condition will be sent on a 150 mile ambulance transport for hospital stays in Saginaw, Traverse City, Petoskey, or elsewhere. Such a trip in winter is not without hazard. Our community will be viewed as an unfavorable place to raise children.

A dedicated group of doctors has been struggling to prevent this crisis, including doctors Conboy, Hahn, Licht, Nicholson, Panknin, Parsons, Root, and myself. A service once shared by all physicians in our community is now shouldered by this group for all of northeast Michigan. Administration and staff of ARMC have made every effort possible to solve this dilemma, but cannot maintain a service that does not have broader support from the medical professional community.

When cancer care in our community was threatened, a cooperative effort from community members and visionary professionals helped establish our Cancer Center, for the enormous benefit of our community. A similar effort is necessary to secure inpatient care for children of our community into the future.

Ask your doctor or primary care provider what they are individually doing to solve this dilemma. A positive dialogue about the needs of children should begin now, when the Christmas Holiday spirit of generosity and caring can guide us.

Avery John Aten, MD