Sunday, August 5, 2012

Something Else That Sucks About Bend: Its Hospital

Kind of a shocking headline at the top of the front page of this morning's Bulletin: "Staff questions safety at St. Charles."

The story went on to tell how a survey of operating room staff at Bend's only hospital "raised widespread ... concerns" about patient safety. Only 40% of the staff who took the survey said they would feel safe having surgery at St. Charles themselves. The average score on the survey, which has been conducted annually for the past four years, has dropped from 49 in 2009 to 39 in January 2012.

Actually, the story isn't all that shocking to somebody who's lived in Bend for more than a quarter of a century and is familiar with the Bend way of doing things.

People in Bend like to say they work hard and play hard, but the reality is more like "play hard, and work as little as we can get away with." As a PR client of mine -- a prominent, longtime Bend businessman -- used to lament, "People come to Bend to play, not to work." And that's probably just as true of surgeons as sheetrockers.

Add to that the culture of mediocrity* that permeates the place -- the attitude that being "a nice person" is far more important than being excellent, or even competent -- and it's not hard to imagine that culture penetrating the operating room too.

Hard data on how the attitude toward safety affects patients' health is hard to come by, but the Bulletin story did note that in 2011, there were 14 cases of surgical site infections in patients who had bowel surgery -- twice the normal rate for hospitals of St. Charles's size.

And I personally have known too many cases of surgery patients who experienced unfavorable outcomes -- up to and including dying on the operating table.

Of course, such mishaps happen -- happen way too often -- at hospitals everywhere. Nonetheless, I've made up my mind about one thing, and given my loved ones a clear directive about it: If I need surgery and I have any choice in the matter, I want it done somewhere other than Bend.

ADDENDUM: Recently I encountered a Bend woman whose child had been suffering chronic pain. The Bend doctors -- even the so-called "pain specialists" -- had been able to do nothing to help the child. Finally the parents took the child to a top medical clinic in the Bay Area, which fortunately was able to diagnose and treat the problem. Bottom line: If you have a broken femur or a torn ACL, Bend is a great place to get it treated. If you have anything more exotic, fuhgeddaboudit.

*The culture of mediocrity does not apply to athletic endeavors, which is the only area in which Bendites strive for and prize excellence.

Monday, July 23, 2012

We're Number One!

See that number 54 smack-dab in the middle of Oregon? Yep, that's little old Bend -- coldest town in the Lower 49 states at this moment (10 a.m. on July 23, 2012).

But no worries; it probably will warm up to 60 by late afternoon.

Meanwhile, Albuquerque's looking good at 80.

Monday, July 9, 2012

My Pride and Joy

This is my new most-prized possession (and a neat early birthday gift) -- a custom-made BEND SUX mug handcrafted by Owen Gearing Dearing of Bend, aka "The Mugmaker." Owen is a fine craftsman and a helluva nice guy who creates beautiful mugs with your choice of custom lettering or design, and also very lovely shaving mugs (I bought one). Check it all out here.

P.S.: I'm sure Owen would be happy to make any of my fans a BEND SUX mug of his/her very own.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Anthropological Fact

"Chimpanzees never shelter from the rain; they just sit in the open and look miserable, occasionally shaking themselves to throw off the raindrops clinging to their coats." Source:

Q: What's the difference between chimpanzees and Oregonians?

A: Oregonians sit out in the rain grinning, and they don't bother to shake.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Shit My Mother Said, and Related Matters

I've always thought one of the most annoying sayings ever coined was one my mother used to lambaste me with all the time I if I complained about anything: "I wept because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet."

This is an example of the so-called logic that says: "Because something worse is happening, has happened or could be happening to somebody else somewhere at some time, what's happening to you right now isn't bad."

I say this is 200-proof, double-distilled, bottled-in-bond bullshit.

Somebody else's misery may be worse in comparison to mine, but that doesn't lessen mine. If I had no shoes and met a man who had no feet I would feel sorry for that unfortunate man. I would do whatever I could to help him. But the ineluctable fact remains that his lack of feet would not remedy my lack of shoes. (Unless, of course, he happened to have an old pair of shoes that he didn't need any more and was willing to give them to me.)

Another pain-in-the-ass thing my mother used to say to me when I griped because it was raining and I couldn't play baseball was: "Be thankful we don't have tornadoes."

I often wondered what mothers in Kansas said to their kids. "Be thankful we don't have earthquakes," probably.

Similar "logic" is often used to defend Bend's suckalicious weather, e.g., "Well, we could be having 100-degree heat like they're having on the East Coast."

Sure, we could. (Well, no, actually, in Bend we couldn't.) But no matter how badly the weather on the East Coast, or in Alaska, or in Siberia or wherever is at any given moment, it does not alter the sucky attributes of the weather in Bend at that moment. And, since I am in Bend and not on the East Coast or in Alaska or Siberia or wherever, the weather in Bend is what I'm interested in.

So here's a polite request for the next person who tries to pull my mother's old shit on me and tell me it doesn't really suck in Bend because it sucks harder somewhere else: Stuff it.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Are We in Shangri-La Yet?

The Bend-is-Paradise myth takes many peculiar forms. One of them is that some Bendoids apparently believe living in Bend will make people live longer. The other day I heard an acquaintance remark, "Seventy is young in Bend."

Is it really? Is Bend a Shangri La-in-the-Cascades where 70-year-olds are mere adolescents and 200-year-olds are common? Well, let's look at the numbers.

Figures on life expectancy specifically for Bend are hard to come by. However, the extremely valuable source has a table listing the 10 most common last names of deceased persons in Bend and their ages when they died. Averaging them out yields a life expectancy of 76.3 years.

The average life expectancy for the United States is 78.6 years; the average life expectancy for Oregon is 79 years. Measured against those numbers, Bend doesn't stack up very well -- despite its clean air and vaunted "healthy outdoor lifestyle."

What places do stack up well? The Top 10 11 states for life expectancy, in descending order, are Hawaii, Minnesota, California, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Utah, and Colorado, Arizona and South Dakota (tied at 79.9 years).

What do those states have in common? Most of them have relatively high levels of education and income. High levels of education and income correlate with access to good medical care, and good medical care indisputably extends life expectancy.

So Bend has no magic elixir for extending life. And if you hope to hit the century mark before you check out, here's my advice: Don't move to Bend -- move to a place where there are good doctors and you can earn enough money to pay them.