Austin must work to keep Brackenridge

Austin American-Statesman, March 25, 1995

Turning out the lights and closing the doors of Brackenridge Hospital would be a tragedy this community should not have to endure.

As a member of the Brackenridge Evaluation Team, an activist in community affairs, and a practicing nurse at Seton since 1979, I am in full support of the lease of Brackenridge Hospital by Seton Medical Center.

I have some reservations – namely public accountability, the question of whether physicians will continue to provide pro bono services in a private institution, and the fact that Brackenridge employees will lose the benefit of sterilization coverage, to list a few.

But I realize that market forces, namely the formidable $5 billion merger of Columbia/HCA with HealthTrust (the nation’s two largest hospital chains), are changing for all time the health care landscape in Austin.

With these forces in mind, I believe that if Brackenridge does not join with another hospital network, it surely will not thrive and possibly not even survive. Seton is the obvious choice for partner because of its century-long history of serving this community, its mission to serve the poor, its solid financial backing, and its operational efficiency and excellence.

Turning out the lights and closing the doors of Brackenridge Hospital would be a tragedy this community should not have to endure.

I was stunned at some of the rhetoric I heard at the recent town meeting and the public hearing on the lease agreement. One woman said she didn’t want to wake up from surgery and have “some nun standing over her trying to convert her.” I can only conclude that testimony of this nature was based on fear, not experience, for it is not the reality I experience at Seton.

In Seton’s Regional Neonatal Center where I’ve worked for the past 15 years, the most sensitive issues arise on a routine basis – for example, whether to attempt to save a questionably viable infant, to remove life support of a terminally ill and suffering infant, to sterilize mothers when medically necessary. When these situations arise, they are handled responsibly and in a timely manner with one underlying, fundamental humanistic principle: respect and dignity for the individual – always. Often that means dying with dignity. I am not Catholic, yet I have always been comfortable with the decisions made.

While no solution is perfect, I think that as a community we must take advantage of this unique opportunity to position both of these mission-oriented, nonprofit institutions favorably in the marketplace vis-à-vis the for-profit giant. By working together we can assure that the people of this community receive the right care in the right setting in the right amount. And that’s what this is all about.

Toni Inglis, MSN, RN CNS (retired), FAAN, a lifelong Austin resident and retired neonatal intensive care nurse and editor of NursingNews, writes a monthly opinion column for the Austin American-Statesman editorial page.