Pawns in a healthcare battle


To the Editor:

Among the trove of legal documents flowing from the Edgartown courthouse recently in Martha’s Vineyard Hospital v. Woodin, Joseph L. was this claim by hospital attorney Eugene Sullivan: “Mr. Woodin had begun to take steps to end the hospital’s relationship with MGH and Partners system, and possibly turn the Vineyard hospital into a federally qualified health center, a special designation held by the previous hospital he had headed in Randolph, Vt.”

This idea should be explored, for not all Island residents are well served by Partners; I am one of them. Partners accountants, not local doctors, appear to be calling the shots as to just what medications will and will not be administered while you are a patient in Martha’s Vineyard Hospital.

At home I use Symbicort, a unique, highly effective inhaler to improve lung function prescribed by my primary care physician, a Partners employee. But the Partners-employed hospitalists — those doctors and nurse practitioners who care for inpatients — are not allowed to prescribe the inhaler.

So I had a hard choice to make recently when diagnosed with the flu. The ER doc said I needed to be hospitalized: People like you (elderly and asthmatic) tend to die in their sleep when they have the flu. You have terrible lungs, she reminded me. I reminded her that as an patient in MVH I would not have access to Symbicort, the one medication that turned my terrible lungs less terrible. I was headed home.

I survived the night at home, dosed my fiery lungs with Symbicort and was well enough by morning to travel to Leslie’s to fill a prescription for the antiviral Tamiflu.

Why no Symbicort in Partners’ formulary? By not including this obscenely expensive drug in its formulary, Partners appears to be involved in some sort of smackdown between Big Healthcare and Big Pharma — patient welfare be damned. An interesting battle, but for the fact that I am collateral damage as Partners and AstraZeneca involve themselves in some sort of arm-wrestling contest between healthcare giants.


Anne Ryall Sylvester
Vineyard Haven