Protest over Providence Pool closure caught the eye of KOIN6

Why is Providence closing the warm-water therapy pool?

We keep hearing that the pool will close at the end of August 2012. How can that be true? Why would it close then? Construction on remodeling the Professional Plaza, the building that houses the pool, is at least two years away and maybe more. At least that’s what we have been told in community meetings by the CEO of the hospital.

Watch this video from KOIN 6 that captures the protest that users of the therapy pool staged on Saturday, August 4, at 10:30 in the afternoon. There would have been even more folks there but many of them were unable to tolerate the heat. Thank you to KOIN 6 for posting the video footage on their website!

KOIN 6 coverage of Pool Closure Protest 

Could they be closing the pool at the end of this month to save money? According to Dr. Bruce Becker, MD, director of the National Aquatics and Sports Medicine Institute, a pool needs 1,100 users to pay for itself. The Providence Therapy Pool has 2,000 monthly users. Is this just a rumor and the pool will continue to operate? Are we being threatened so we will concede on some other topic we don’t even realize will affect our lives in even more significant ways?

Is the health department pressuring Providence to upgrade facilities? If not, what is the rush to change the facilities? Even if Providence upgraded the facilities to meet ADA requirements it would not make sense to do anything until construction on the larger building remodel begins. There is more than enough time to put out a request for donations to pay for the upgrade of the pool showers and locker rooms. This is exactly the kind of project donors love.

This leads us to ask again, why is this program the one being chopped? Could this have anything to do with the fact that a large percentage of the users are uninsured or underinsured? Why is Providence not continuing this program that benefits so many who have been injured and are no longer able to work or who have no other means at their disposal to get the amenities a pool like this provides. They are not individuals who can access an expensive gym for the jacuzzi or pay for regular massages. They maintain their day-to-day functioning because they use the warm water therapy this pool provides.  Ironically, the group of people who uses the therapy pool are the very folks that Providence promises to help. And, it’s likely to be you and me, someday. This is the type of preventive medicine that needs to be accessible for all and who will do that for the community, if not the hospital?

Providence is complaining about spending 1.2 million dollars to upgrade the facilities, sometimes the repairs are quoted as 1.5 million dollars. 1.5 million is not much more than the hundreds of thousands of dollars Providence spends on attorney Michael Robinson’s legal counsel as he escorts them in their every move with neighbors and the City of Portland. Another comparison is that 1.5 million dollars is the cost of building 60 parking spaces. And for sure, with all those day surgery patients, more parking spaces will be needed.

Another interesting question is, how much would it cost to build a pool like this in today’s economy? A pool of this nature is no small undertaking and the chances of getting another one like this in Portland are very, very slim. We don’t understand why Providence doesn’t use this pool as a publicity tool and bring more users and make the pool support itself even more clearly. With healthcare heading in the direction of self-directed and preventive types of models, the warm-water therapy pool is EXACTLY the kind of treatment many individuals need.

Finally, how does eliminating the pool fit with the new mission? You can read the details of the new mission here…….

Below are a couple of items that jumped out at us from the mission Providence posted this last week or so. We didn’t think this represented how they treat their neighbors. We don’t mean Portlanders in general, we mean residents of North Tabor, Laurelhurst, Rose City Park, and Hollywood.

  • We reach out to people in need and give comfort as Jesus did. We nurture the spiritual, physical and emotional well-being of one another and those we serve. We embrace those who are suffering. (one really huge way to show this is your mission is to keep the pool operating)
  • We believe everyone has a right to the basic goods of the earth. We strive to remove the causes of oppression. We join with others to work for the common good and to advocate for social justice. (the social justice piece here is that the folks who use the pool don’t have the means to have a hot tub in the back yard or a jacuzzi tub in the bath.)
  • Much will be expected of those who are entrusted with much.   

Neighbors . . . Providence has much. And while they will be impacted by the cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, they are still and will remain a profitable company. It is easy to confuse non-profit status with not being profitable and we think Providence is using that imagery as they fundraise and make decisions about what to cut or not cut. But, if you go back to our post about the revenue Providence posted with the IRS for the last few years, you will find an organization that can easily absorb the price of a few locker room upgrades.

Providence, we expect much because you are entrusted with much.

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2 Responses to Protest over Providence Pool closure caught the eye of KOIN6

  1. Diana Wunder says:

    Hi, I am a regular user of the Providence therapy pool and I checked with the staff, your article is incorrect. The pool is not closing at the end of August 2012. A decision will be reached by the Board on the closing at the end of August and the pool will probably remain open until the end of the year. Please keep telling the public about the injustice and lack of caring on the part of Providence to even consider closing this necessary service. Thank you.

    • kimcottrell says:

      Thanks, Diana, we appreciate the details. The rumors are flying as you can imagine. The article here is meant to ask every question we can think of about why it would even be considered for closure in the first place. Comments such as yours are useful for an accurate record.

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