More on the Providence expansion: What profit to gain the whole world and lose an organization’s soul?

This week, the topic of the possible closure of the Therapy Pool at Providence weighs heavy on the neighbors. The expansion issues still loom, but we are waiting for the decision of the Hearings Officer. To see the letters that neighbors and our neighborhood representatives wrote.

The title of this week’s post, is taken from Stefanie Krasner’s letter
to the editor regarding the looming closure of the Providence Therapy
Pool. Krasner commented, “Taking the pool away would rip the heart and
soul out of an organization that was created to help and bring solace
to those in need.” (“Providence therapy pool is a positive place for
healing,” The Oregonian, June 22, 2012)

Krasner’s letter is part of the outpouring of distress to the news
that Providence has plans to close down its warm-water therapy pool.
(“Pool in jeopardy as resources dry up,” Nick Budnick, The Oregonian,
June 18, 2012)

Despite the fact that the pool is the only facility of its type in the
Portland area and has over 2,000 visits a month including medically
fragile children, the elderly and disabled, and pregnant moms,
Providence is planning to shut down its therapy pool.

One commenter wrote: “My wife and I have been using the ‘Plaza’ pool
for the past 17 years. I have gone through 6 major operations (5 at
PPMC) with three joint replacements and I am currently dealing with
Type II diabetes. My wife is currently battling ALL (Leukemia) along
with a severed tibial tendon and repaired broken right fibula (ankle).
Both of us have needed and continue to need the amenities that are
only found at the Providence pool. Amenities such as adequate square
footage at a fairly consistant depth for proper reduced
weight-bearing, a non-slippery floor surface for good traction,
stainless steel bars along the side to hold on to, a lift to aid
patients entering/ departing the pool, therapeutic water temperatures,
and a staff of attendants who understand our needs. I have yet to find
another pool in the Portland Metro area that has all of these

The benefits of warm water therapy are not in doubt. In a 2011
Oregonian article, Karen Nagao, a Providence therapist who works with
medically fragile children, described the benefits of aquatic therapy:
“The water work eases patients’ chronic pain, improves their mobility,
muscle tone, digestion and sleep patterns. Some breathe more easily
because of it. Others emerge with better verbal or social skills.
Water calms the children and appears to bring them utter joy.”

According to Theron Park, PPMC’s CEO, quoted in The Oregonian’s June
18 article, the closure is because Providence in Oregon must cut $250
million from their budget over the next three years “because of
declining Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.” Why is it always the
fault of the government and the poor? Providence says the pool, built
20 years ago with a $100,000 donation from the estate of Dorothy
Torgeson needs $1.2 million in repairs and upgrades. Could it have
been imagined 20 years ago when the pool opened through a generous
bequest, that the pool would be gone barely 20 years later?

For perspective, according to the state’s Office of Health Policy
Research, in 2010, Providence Portland Medical Center had gross
patient revenue of $1,116,621,370 and a 4.44% profit. Also in
perspective, Providence Portland Medical Center built a new cancer
center costing over $200 million in 2008 and in this year, as we know,
is looking at another multi-million dollar expansion over the next ten

The Oregonian article goes on to say that Providence is planning to
replace the pool with a profitable day-surgery center – and again
quotes Theron Park, “Our pressure is to be able to find ways to
deliver our services in a lower-cost way and in lower-cost settings.”

Of course, Providence needs to build more profitable day surgery
centers. Our question is why can’t the pool be spared? Plans are
already in place to expand the size of Providence Plaza, the building
that houses the therapy pool, a planned 40% increase in the size of
the building. Why can’t the space for the 24′ x 45′ therapy pool be

Concerning profitability, Dr. Bruce Becker, director of the National
Aquatics and Sports Medicine Institute commented that his
organization’s facility in Spokane is viable with 1,100 patient visits
a month, while the Oregonian article reports 2,000 visits a month at
the Providence pool. Dr. Becker goes on to say: “This exemplifies all
that is problematic about American medicine in 2012: we ignore
important options to recover, preserve and sustain health, while
focusing scarce resources only on the short-term treatment of

Another post, another day, will discuss how many millions of dollars
Providence, as a not-for-profit corporation does not contribute via
local, state and federal taxes.

As of this writing (June 25, 2012), an online petition to keep open
the therapy pool has 726 signatures. Please add your signature to the
petition to save the Providence Therapy Pool.

This entry was posted in Providence Current Event, Updates. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to More on the Providence expansion: What profit to gain the whole world and lose an organization’s soul?

  1. jim porter says:

    leave it open You yourself might need it tomorrow

    • kimcottrell says:

      Jim, I hope you’ll take a moment to follow the link and make your comments on website that has the petition to keep the pool open. But, you seem to be following that issue closely and maybe you’ve already done that. Thanks for commenting and following the blog!

  2. noah dundas says:

    Thanks so much for this article, by far the most complete and in depth one to date. I have been using the pool for the last 5 years to maintain my mobility, I came down with a degenerative muscle disease about 12 years ago, and I can not say enough about the benefits. One thing i would add is that by cutting the pool they are just shifting the costs back to the state as the people will lose their mobility, independence and will therefore require more in home care or institutional care, something the state can not afford. Also I have been helping organize the pool, starting the petition, but you can also follow us on Facebook, like us, sign the petition, write letters to your representatives, we need help from every angle. thanks! Noah

    • kimcottrell says:

      Hello Noah,
      Thanks for keeping us posted on the FaceBook page. I’ll put that in a separate post tomorrow so it doesn’t get lost in the comments section. Much appreciated. Also, interesting point about shifting the costs back to the state. Very interesting.

  3. Darlene Markovich says:

    Let’s not throw out the pool water with the bath! This pool presents wonderful community service.

    • kimcottrell says:

      We couldn’t agree more, Darlene. And, we think Providence could offer up a greater level of connection with immediate neighbors. We would like them to acknowledge the impact they have on our neighborhood as they go about doing business in our residential area. We are not downtown Portland, we are not an industrial area. We are a neighborhood and one that begs for amenities like the therapy pool and welcoming places to gather.

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