ER Doc: ‘Difficult To Watch’ Covid Policy

Have you ever heard your doctor openly criticize another Ukiah doctor? Has your doctor ever told you a local medical professional is incompetent?

It just doesn’t happen. I can’t imagine my doc saying “That guy wouldn’t know a stethoscope from a periscope,” or “Where’d she go to med school—the Hormel Butcher Academy”?

It’s professional courtesy and a mutual code of self-protection, which makes it all the more remarkable to read of the local emergency room doctor dissecting Mendocino County’s chief health officer and the road she’s leading us down.

“Dr. Doohan is allowing businesses to drive the agenda, thinking in some misbegotten sense that this is good,” said Dr. Drew Colfax, ER doc at Ukiah Adventist Health. “Newsflash! it isn’t good for business if people are dead.”

Dr. Colfax was not in a word-mincing mood when analyzing the county’s pandemic strategy, and when his quotes appeared on the front page of the 6-28-20 Ukiah Daily Journal it was easy to see why. Daily Journal reporter Karen Rifkin wrote that “Dr. Doohan presented information from a state model predicting that in 30 days Mendocino will have 53 COVID-19 patients in the hospital per day.”

Dr. Colfax’s response: “It’s really difficult to watch how we have handled this both statewide, nationally and now, unfortunately, locally as well. As an emergency room doctor thinking about going from 1 to 53 hospitalizations in 30 days, I fear the hospital will be overwhelmed in a way that is going to be very scary.” He added “Brace yourself if you live on the coast.”

For the past few months and right up to today, Mendocino County’s strategy for dealing with the Coronavirus has been to simply follow state guidelines. But what else might we expect?

Dr. Doohan works a 20-hour week piloting a health policy for a county 600 miles away during a pandemic. So, understandably, she takes the easy way. She gets a xerox copy of coronavirus guidelines from Sacramento, puts Mendocino County letterhead across the top and sends it out, assuming what’s recommended for inner city LA or remote Alturas is just right for Ukiah.

This helps explain why, as coronavirus cases increase, she paradoxically allows more and more businesses to open and citizens to congregate, albeit with masks and distancing. In May and June people were fenced out of parks and public spaces, and outdoor activities like golf were forbidden.

The policies were relaxed and increases in the disease immediately began to be reported.

Dr. Colfax’s words: “It’s pretty grim. We are on a trajectory in the county that is not going to be readily reversed if we do not shut things down. The curve now looks like a space shuttle contrail, almost straight up.

“In the fall it’s going to continue this way. We have squandered the opportunity.”

I guarantee I’ve never witnessed such bruising, one-way contempt expressed, openly or privately, by any doctor. Dr. Mimi Doohan may not be shocked or outraged at his comments. She may not even disagree.

No answers needed:

1) Have you finally admitted to yourself you’ll never hike up to the ‘U’ in the western hills?

2) Do people still bogart joints?

3) Do people still smoke joints?

4) Does Johnny LeMaster ever lie awake at night wishing he’d spent his entire career with the Montreal Expos instead?

5) Are Screaming Yellow Zonkers still around? (Kids: Ask your grandparents.)

6) Do you think the lawsuit between the City of Ukiah and the city’s Sanitation District is a crime or a swindle?

7) When some guy walks past wearing a red baseball cap do you hurry ahead of him to read the hat to find out whether or not you’re supposed to hate him?

8) Does everyone give a chuckle to see the fresh black scorched pavement ‘donut’ tire markings right downtown all over School Street? Wild kids! Fast cars! Or is it just me?

9) Would you rather suffer from miserable health while living in Ukiah, or be physically fit at Folsom Prison?

10) How do you think Diana Ross spends most afternoons?

(TWK, Ukiah’s most beloved and celebrated columnist, spends his days tending to his orchids and rare koi on his ermine ranch nestled into a few remote acres on Ukiah’s west side. Tom Hine handles PR duties and feeds hay to the cheetahs.)

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