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A hard decision to make

Kristen Kohlbrand

To the Editor:

I’m sure many of you have seen the video of the Weston County Health Services board meeting from March 21 and know by now that I have submitted my letter of resignation from WCHS, effective April 19, 2024.

I did get emotional and didn’t get to finish reading my letter that addresses the most important part, my message to my patients. I want to thank the community for their support over the last 20 years. My patients have become like family, and I have truly enjoyed caring for each of you over the years, whether it was at the Manor, the hospital, or now at the clinic.

This was not a decision that I made lightly, and I will miss being able to care for this community. We have been extremely lucky in Weston County to have so many wonderful providers for patients to choose from, and this is what makes me extremely sad about the direction things have gone.

I was always extremely proud to be able to tell patients that even though we were a small community, patients had a choice in the recent history of seven providers within one clinic and two at another clinic to choose from, and all of us had different ways of practicing and different personalities, so if they didn’t fit with one provider they could try another until they found a good fit.

All providers see things a different way and practice a different way, and Weston County was so lucky to have all those different options.

This is during a time when most rural communities are having trouble filling in one medical provider. Unfortunately, this is not the case anymore and something I hope will return as things are fixed within the facility. To make a variety like this work it takes mutual respect and understanding that not everyone does things the same way, and it takes support from administration to encourage these differences.

I have felt very discouraged over the last year, and often questioned why I stayed in the medical field, but the amazing support from my patients — and especially the support after submitting my resignation — reminds me why I chose this career in the first place and why the decision to leave has been so difficult.

I believe in transparency and know that the trust in the facility is low and there will be rumors after the way others have left without any explanation. This is why I chose to give my resignation during the public session, as much as I hate any type of public speaking out loud. I prefer to put my thoughts on paper where I have time to think of what I will say, but if it is public then there is no hiding it, especially with the News Letter Journal video coverage.

I didn’t want any misdirected anger or assumptions made about this decision, because I do know when there is a lack of facts the public will fill in their own ideas. This was a decision that was made for the best interests of myself and my family, not a decision that was forced by the WCHS board or administration.

I have come to the realization that my values do not fit with those that have been shown by WCHS, after myself and some coworkers brought forward some grievances and never received a response after meeting with the board, and how the public’s concerns have been ignored or down-played both during the town hall meetings and when talking to those within the facility about them.

I’m sure as an attempt at redirection you may hear other things, or it will be said that there is more to the story or insinuation that I have done something wrong to deserve what has happened, because that is what has been done when questions were asked about others who quit or were fired from the facility.

I would be happy to address any of those concerns people have if they come up, without sharing specifics that involve other employees because they also deserve privacy and respect. The patients at WCHS, and community in general, deserve straight-forward answers and deserve to have their concerns validated and investigated. I hope that you will continue to bring forward your concerns, and question things that you don’t understand or agree with. It might not seem like it makes much of a difference, but your voices have at least opened up discussions.

We have some excellent, caring board members who I truly feel are working toward improving the facility, and now that they are aware of issues and aware of how difficult it has been for the community to contact the board members, I do see them working to ask more questions and be more open to the public. I thank each of them that were willing to have a two-way discussion — even if we didn’t agree by the end of it, at least they were willing to have a discussion without making excuses or shutting down the conversation. It will take time though, and it will take the public using their voices and their vote to help these changes to happen.

I am disappointed in myself that I cannot make myself stay to see these changes happen and continue to care for the community, but you can see in the video from the last board meeting why that is. No response is a big response.

I hope that my patients will understand, and, most importantly, I hope that they will continue to receive the care they deserve. There are still wonderful providers left in this community, and for those patients with addiction and other mental health conditions there will be an outreach clinic coming from Center for Solutions out of Gillette to help with that need.

Thank you for everything over the years,

— Kristen Kohlbrand

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