Opinion

Tri-City Herald: Kadlec donation benefits entire region

An extraordinary gift from Kadlec Regional Medical Center is going to improve the future of health care in the Tri-Cities and the entire region.

The $18 million donation to Washington State University Tri-Cities for an expanded nurse practitioner program is being called a game-changer and we agree. This is going to put the community in solid shape when a shortage of providers is predicted to strain health care systems even more — especially in rural areas.

Rand Wortman, Kadlec CEO, and his board are visionaries who made this smart and generous decision that will benefit all hospitals in the area, not just Kadlec.

Doctor shortages are happening around the country, including parts of Eastern Washington and in rural areas in the Northwest. It is predicted the need for additional health care providers will increase as more baby boomers age and retire. Kadlec’s donation is helping to address that.

Nurse practitioners are registered nurses who have additional training that allows them to examine patients and make a diagnosis. In Washington, they have a great amount of independence and can work without the partnership of a physician. They can order and interpret diagnostic tests, write prescriptions and make referrals to specialists. They can cover a lot of basic health care needs, which for many patients, is all they need.

WSU Tri-Cities has about a dozen graduate-level students pursuing their doctorate degrees as nurse practitioners. But since there are no faculty in the Tri-Cities, those students end up traveling to WSU’s health care sciences center in Spokane, or they take courses via video conferencing.

Clearly, this is not an ideal system.

The program has been very limited, but with Kadlec’s gift, the university will be able to pay for five new faculty positions. That should provide enough support for 50 to 60 additional nurse practitioner students, with about 15 to 20 graduating each year. That eventually will put the Tri-Cities in a good position to create its own pool of health care providers for the community and the region.

This donation is not a one-time startup fund. The Kadlec Foundation will maintain the endowment, and with the interest it generates, provide the university enough money to continue the program indefinitely. It may take a few years to get it set up completely and attract students, but once it is established, it will serve as a model for the future.

This is the largest single gift to WSU Tri-Cities. A couple of years ago, Kadlec and other health care providers gave $3 million to the nursing program, with Kadlec also offering building space for classrooms. This alliance between Kadlec and WSU-Tri-Cities provides a wonderful opportunity for Tri-City students and the community.

And while Kadlec also stands to gain something from the partnership, the benefits of its financial contribution will ripple through the region.

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