WENATCHEE — Dr. Peter Rutherford is the CEO of North Central Washington's largest medical provider, Confluence Health. Confluence Health has been a key part of the region's COVID-19 response in its care of the sickest COVID-19 patients at Central Washington Hospital along with its testing and vaccination efforts. 

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In Central Washington Hospital's cafeteria turned waiting room, Jonathan Camacho receives instructions on what to expect after getting a COVID-19 vaccine in April. Camacho is an H2A worker for Stemilt.

The answers in this Q&A were received by email and have been edited for clarity.

What was your proudest accomplishment in 2021?

Dr. Peter Rutherford

Dr. Peter Rutherford

Confluence Health CEO

I am most proud of is that Confluence Health has been able to significantly help with our region's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, while continuing to care for our patients. 

Over the course of the year, Confluence performed over 162,000 COVID tests, over 50,000 COVID vaccinations, and provided inpatient care to over 1,300 patients with COVID-19 with an average length of stay of 10 days.

Of those we provided inpatient care for, 245 patients required ventilator therapy, with frequently much longer lengths of stay. This was all done while our teams continued to strive to meet the “usual care needs” for our patients throughout the region.

Confluence Health implemented a controversial vaccination policy which was met with criticism in the community, including Confluence staff. How do you feel Confluence Health handled the state's vaccine mandate for health care workers?

Meeting the requirement of the vaccination mandate from the governor was probably one of the most difficult and painful events of my career. Though I believe the mandate was the correct step by the governor, it created heartache across our organization and in our community.

That said, part of the Confluence Health mission statement speaks to our commitment to providing "safe care" to all who ask for our help. I do not think we can say we are doing all we can to provide "safe care" if we do not expect our staff to be vaccinated.

Vaccination clinic (copy)

East Wenatchee residents, Mayte Bielmas, at left, helps her mom Maria Bielmas as they go back to their car after getting COVID-19 vaccinations at a Central Washington Hospital clinic on Saturday. Confluence worked to make sure all in the community knew about and had access to COVID-19 vaccinations.

Though the approach taken by Confluence Health to not permit employees or physician medical staff members to work unless they were vaccinated was perceived as more restrictive than other health care organizations, it has allowed us to put our full efforts into patient care instead of tracking employee testing results, and be assured that we were doing our best for the safety of everyone.

Central Washington Hospital experienced the largest wave of COVID-19 hospitalizations this year. What is the biggest lesson Confluence Health learned through this most recent wave?

One of the largest lessons learned through the last COVID-19 wave was not a new lesson, but one we have known all along, and that is that our people continue to be our most critical asset.

People go into health care because they want to help people improve their health, and there is a significant intrinsic reward from seeing people get better when they are ill. COVID is an atypical disease in that many people who get severely ill do not get better despite everyone’s best efforts. This takes a huge emotional toll on all those providing care.

We need to keep infection-related pandemic planning on our minds as we move into the future. Again, this is not really a lesson, but a confirmation of a long-time fact. Health care is a people business. We can’t do anything for anybody without committed, passionate, skilled people.

I am most proud of is that Confluence Health has been able to significantly help with our region's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, while continuing to care for our patients.

Oscar Rodriguez: (509) 665-1179


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