Patients say CHI closures are taking a toll on more than just their treatments

Published: Mar. 23, 2023 at 3:28 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 23, 2023 at 8:08 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Your News Leader reported last week that CHI St. Alexius Health had plans to close its oncology and infusion center.

Former patients say this isn’t the only department to close.

Those being impacted say it’s been a struggle to keep up with their treatments.

CHI Communication Specialist Terry Douglass says the closures are due to quote, “changing environments, inflationary pressures and more.”

The patients I spoke with say the CHI closures have not only resulted in delayed or halted treatment but have also impacted their mental state.

Cancer is a disease that takes a toll on the body, but also the state of mind and emotions of the person it attacks.

Patients say the prospect of subsequent treatments can also be hard to accept.

“You don’t even know what to expect just going through the chemo, but this was a total shock,” said one former CHI cancer patient who wants to remain anonymous.

One former CHI cancer patient who would like to remain anonymous says that was her reaction when she found out the oncology and infusion center was closing.

She says she was diagnosed with cancer through a mammogram in February.

She started lab work with the doctors at CHI, developed relationships with CHI nurses and headed to her first chemotherapy appointment at CHI on March 15.

But when she walked through the doors, she says things took a turn.

“All the nurses in there had red eyes. And then the doctor said, ‘We’re closing in a month. We can’t begin your treatment today. And it was like the rug was pulled out from under me. I was just like falling down into a hole,’” said the former patient.

She says the biggest hurdle she had to conquer next was answering the question, ‘now what?’

She says the CHI staff told her a Sanford Health representative would reach out to her with more information.

“The anticipation of waiting for a phone call with your cancer treatments, it just plays games with your mind. It’s depressing and then relief... and then you’re not sure is this going to work out,” she said.

But for her, she says it did work out. According to the patient, Sanford called that afternoon. She started treatment at Sanford on March 20, five days after her initial chemo appointment was canceled.

However, she says she feels the hospital didn’t take the patients’ feelings into account.

“I feel like they just didn’t really care, and we were just considered collateral damage,” she said.

Another former CHI rheumatoid arthritis patient who wants to remain anonymous says they had a similar experience.

“We got a letter in the mail, beginning of March stating that our rheumatology department would be closing, that there would be no more providers, that we would have to seek care elsewhere,” said the former CHI rheumatoid arthritis patient.

When it comes to further guidance provided by CHI, the former patient had this to say:

“When we questioned the nursing staff, and I understand their hands are tied, they could not give you any guidance. They could not tell you who would be approving your medications, who would be ordering lab work,” the former patient said.

She says she has applied to Sanford for treatment approval but has been told their waiting list spans to 2024.

Employees at CHI St. Alexius have not yet responded to our request for comment.