LETTER: More respect should have been shown to longtime doctor

I know I join thousands of Vashonites in expressing sadness about the news that a beloved physician, Dr. Gary Koch, will be leaving Neighborcare Health at Vashon this July. For over three decades, Dr. Koch has been one of the critical supporters of clinic services here on Vashon. I wonder if the Sunset Ridge clinic would exist today were it not for his selfless and untiring dedication to maintaining its presence.

Dr. Koch is an heroic example of excellence and effectiveness. To me, he is never less than totally engaged, completely knowledgeable, unfailingly honest and personable in a disarming way that engenders immediate and lasting trust. I cherish such people, and when they are found, I believe they should be valued and honored. Sadly, this is not what has happened.

It’s quite true that Neighborcare is taking steps to bring its budget in order, and Dr. Koch had announced his retirement at year end. I hear that Neighborcare’s response was to summarily dismiss him as of the end of June. If this is true, then all of Dr. Koch’s efforts over so many years will be rewarded with an ignominious ending. I believe there is a coldness and lack of both community and humanity in the way this was done that beggars reason and, to my mind, insults both Dr. Koch and all of us whose lives have been touched and ameliorated by his care.

In the last six months, we have seen two of the islands primary healthcare institutions veer in the more “corporate” direction. I think it’s too early to judge the results, but with respect to the way it seems Dr. Koch was treated, I suspect there will be little disagreement. This kind of corporate culture does not bode well for those of us affected personally by Neighborcare’s management decisions.

— Antonio Christopher Dittman

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