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Retired Emergency Doctor With Heart Attack Cannot Get Ambulance Or Hospital Bed

Photo courtesy of Cherryl Walker, Former Josephine County Commissioner, and Dr. Martin T. Hill.

When a former Grants Pass emergency doctor began having a heart attack on his way to the South Oregon Coast earlier this month, the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic struck home.

Dr Martin Hill, a longtime emergency physician at Asante Three Rivers Medical Center, started showing signs of a heart attack during a layover at a motel in Grants Pass, then his wife, the former Josephine County Commissioner Cherryl Walker, dialed 911 to call an ambulance.

This is where their troubles started.

“We don’t have ambulances available,” the 911 dispatcher told Walker. “You will have to wait until there is one available. There are people in front of you.”

Walker didn’t wait. She drove her husband straight to the emergency room at Asante Three Rivers Medical Center, where Hill had worked for many years.

“We were just lucky he could walk to the car,” Walker said in an interview on Sunday night. “If someone was bleeding from a serious wound or couldn’t breathe, they could die.”

Medical staff at Three Rivers stabilized Hill, but with no beds or rooms available, he spent the night on a stretcher in the emergency room “because the hospital was full of COVID-19 patients,” Walker said. “In fact, 17 of the 30 emergency room beds had non-COVID patients waiting to be admitted to hospital.”

She said the hospital was canceling elective surgeries and “started using the ‘preoperative’ wards as a place to place patients like my husband.”

An angiogram was performed on Hill the next day, and he was transferred to Rogue Regional Medical Center in Medford, where he underwent successful stent surgery. Walker said the RRMC was also “full of COVID patients and understaffed.”

The couple are now at home at Lake Oswego, recovering from their ordeal.

Hill, a certified emergency physician who worked in Grants Pass emergency rooms from 1978 until his retirement a few years ago, is uniquely qualified to assess the medical care patients currently receive at Three Rivers.

Hill and Walker expressed their admiration for the way “the staff were dealing with the dire circumstances and the lack of room availability. It’s such a difficult situation. They are all heroes, they all work so hard there. “

Now the couple feel compelled to share their experience, “not to complain about the medical care – because it was excellent – but to shed light on what caused these problems.”

Walker took to Facebook during the emergency to let friends and family know what they faced in a life-threatening situation.

“Our medical system is overwhelmed with people who won’t get vaccinated or wear masks,” Walker wrote. “Their selfish decisions put other sick and injured people at risk because the system is completely overloaded.”

She also believes that children and those who cannot receive the vaccine for medical reasons “might be better protected if most of the others received the vaccine.”

Hill said in an interview on Sunday that he was frustrated with people saying the vaccine is too new and has yet to be tried.

“This technology has been researched and tested for over 20 years, so when the vaccine was needed, efforts focused on using this mRNA technology. This large knowledge bank was quickly built up on COVID- 19. But the longer this pandemic continues, the more the variants have the possibility of mutating and becoming resistant. “

Hill referred to the work of Dr Paul Goepfert, director of the Alabama Vaccine Research Clinic at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who has publicly stated that during his 30 years of vaccine studies he had “never seen a vaccine as effective as the three COVID vaccines – from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson – currently available in the United States.”

Hill also said the three vaccines have each been tested on more than 30,000 people, with studies concluding last June that “the typical reactions were about the same as any other vaccine, maybe a little redness on the skin. site or a slight reaction “.

Walker, who served on the Josephine County Commissioners Council from 2013 to 2016 and then, as the county’s public health administrator until his retirement with Hill in 2017, has expressed concerns about how his successors are handling the pandemic, claiming their reluctance to recommend vaccines – or even support the wearing of masks – likely contributes to high levels of vaccine reluctance in the county.

“In all crises that affect the citizens of their jurisdiction, it is incumbent on elected officials to exercise the leadership functions for which they were elected. This means protecting the public by following the instructions of their own emergency management, public health and safety administrators. But with the leadership failure that apparently happened in Josephine County, many more people will suffer and die from a very preventable disease than necessary.

“My grandmother once told me that she would never want to go back to the ‘good old days’ before the vaccines because our children were paralyzed from polio and died from chickenpox, measles and mumps.

“Now the children are seriously ill because too many adults – most of whom have received their childhood vaccines – will not take this COVID vaccine,” Walker said. “Well, it could be your neighbor, or even you, who can’t get an ambulance, a doctor, or a hospital bed. People are suffering and dying when they shouldn’t be.”

Contact Illinois Valley Freelance Editor Annette McGee Rasch at

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Linda Stewart

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