Letter to the Editor

Who will do the social work at PCH?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

To The Editor:

March was Social Work Month.

It is when social workers are acknowledged and appreciated for what they contribute to their communities locally and around the world.

Before March has been over too long, I want to thank the hospital social workers we have had and to use the occasion to lament the down sizing at the Putnam County Hospital that necessitated the letting go of the social worker.

Who will perform her very important tasks?

I know that social workers are usually the therapist for the staff. They listen, when the stress gets high, to nurses and doctors, and others on staff in a hospital because of work overload, or too many deaths, or the deaths of a loved one, or a child who could have/might have been saved.

They know how to organize for employee assistance when needed. They know how to mediate between staff and administration when there are disputes or misunderstandings. They know how to advocate for patients with doctors and administration.

Who will perform these tasks with no social worker available?

I know that social workers have learned how to deal with the psychological problems that accompany ill health in patients. They know how to help with anxiety, depression, PTSD, the decisions about using extreme measures, and end of life issues. They know how to deal with patients when mistakes have been made, God forbid. They are trained to listen, give comfort, process emotions, complaints, worries, ask difficult questions, even motivational questions, or to just be present at difficult times when the doctors and nurses have pressing physical health issues to look after.

They know about psychosomatic illness, and Munchhausen syndrome, and living wills. They know about advance directives and how to help fill them out.

Who will have time for these crucial tasks when there is no social worker in the hospital or on call?

Social workers know how to lead groups. They can "hold" the grief and pain of a support group for Alzheimer's survivors, deal with the emotional fall out from emergencies of accident victims, of rape victims, of child abuse victims, of battered women when the staff is busy dealing with the physical consequences of these tragedies.

They know how to file a report to police or the Division of Family and Children when necessary. When there is no social worker, who will be there to sit beside these persons and offer a different kind of comfort but as important as physical comfort?

I want to acknowledge Social Work Month and the two Social Workers I have known at the Putnam County Hospital. I want to thank Sue Murray for her 25 years of service to the staff, and to patients at the Putnam County Hospital and to the many others in our county she was able to serve during her long tenure at the hospital.

I want to thank Barbara South for her short, but important stay as the social worker at the hospital when Sue left. I for one am sorry to see Barbara go.

I want to tell Dennis Weatherford and the trustees at the Putnam County Hospital that I hope the recent economic conditions will improve sufficiently that quality healthcare through the services of a certified social worker can be reinstituted soon.

Ann Kelly Newton

Retired School Social Worker