Letters for Wednesday, February 22, 2012

• Chronic pain sufferers suffer more on Kaua‘i

• Praise for 911 and lifeguards

Chronic pain sufferers suffer more on Kaua‘i

My husband and I, and our family, have been saved and cared for by our almost always excellent local medical care professionals for nearly four decades now. Because of them, we are entering our elder years now as the walking, talking and (well, at least partly) functional people we still are. No one could be more respectful and grateful to them. It would not be too much to say that we love them.

During this past year, awaiting surgery (his fourth back operation about a month ago, and my second knee replacement a few days later), we became chronic sufferers of severe, unendurable and completely debilitating pain, and were forced to become familiar with a terrible problem within our medical community here.

For whatever reasons — social, political, religious or whatever — the Kaua‘i Medical Clinic and its doctors have decided to make believe that a new drug called suboxone is the only appropriate prescription for severe chronic pain, and this follows years of their telling us that pain medication stronger than hydrocodone is for terminal cancer patients only, that it would be medically impropriety at least, and perhaps even illegal for them to prescribe any of the stronger medicines like oxycodone, dilaudid, morphine and fentanyl to anybody else.

There are, of course, perfectly understandable reasons why doctors are reluctant to write such prescriptions, but that it is either improper or illegal to do so is made a blatant lie when a woman doctor arrives here on Kaua‘i and begins to write such prescriptions for medication that finally allow Kaua‘i’s chronic pain sufferers to manage their pain — instead of it managing them.

Her license is no different than the licenses of the other doctors here. HMSA-Quest pays for her prescriptions. And Medco, HMSA’s own subcontractor to supply patients with drugs, says that all these drugs are in “good supply” at all the pharmacies on the island.

Medco’s pharmacists say also that, while suboxone is a new miracle drug that relieves symptoms of opiate withdrawal, as a pain reliever it falls somewhere between ibuprofen and hydrocodone. Is this what the chronic sufferers of pain on Kaua‘i are to expect now? Take two aspirin and call me in the morning?

And how does our medical community respond to this brave woman doctor who has finally come to treat adults as adults here?

The local pharmacists start to refuse to fill her prescriptions, and then begin to say that they will not fill any prescriptions from anybody for the more powerful drugs, and finally that they are “out” of the drugs and “can’t get them at all.”

Now, all pharmacists and doctors have a perfect right and duty to refuse any medical request for good reason. But for all the pharmacies and doctors — the entire medical community on Kaua‘i — to conspire to prevent this good woman from doing the right thing, to try to run her off the island for finally doing what all the doctors have always known they could and should be doing all along?

Her patients were finally forced to go to Honolulu to have their prescriptions filled, and HMSA responses to a grievance filed against the pharmacies here reveal that what the medical community is doing here is usurping the prerogatives of HMSA, in effect creating a separate health care standard unique to Kaua‘i, different from the health care standards for the rest of the state.

HMSA requested, and was faxed, a list of the names and phone numbers of the offending pharmacies. For whatever reason, the pharmacies are beginning to fill her prescriptions again.

 And almost everybody I talk to about this, in or out of the legal, medical or government professions, turns out to have the same personal motivation to listen to the problem, and to become involved in its solution and resolution. They each and all have had either themselves or someone they loved denied the proper medical response to chronic pain here on Kaua‘i.

Makepeace Inc. is a nonprofit working for just what it says.

 I am a member, and strongly urge people to contact Makepeace (makepeacenow@live.com) so as to begin the documentation of the stories of those who suffered and to start the conversations that may result in improved care for chronic pain patients on Kaua‘i.

Sandra Coppola, Kapa‘a

Praise for 911 and lifeguards

I just want to take a minute to commend both the 911 response system and especially the Po‘ipu Beach lifeguards. On Saturday, we were at Mahaulepu Beach and saw a windsurfer in distress at the south end near the cliffs.

We took a walk to check on his status. When we determined that there was no good way out of the situation for the guy, we called 911. Phone service was spotty, but I got the message through after some back and forth.

In less than 15 minutes, a jet ski team came around the corner from the south, found the guy, brought him to the beach and even saved his board. The conditions were very windy and choppy, so for the ski team to get there that quickly is very impressive. The lifeguards’ skill and efficiency was very high.

Thank you very much to each service. You saved another life.

Recommendations: No. 1, If you see someone in trouble, don’t hesitate to call. No. 2, if we had access to text a 911 call, that would be great. At a lot of locations on Kaua‘i, calls are not possible but text messages will make it through.

Grant Bowen, Koloa

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