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Columnist Jim Kent Censored Again: Read His Take on Rapid City Hospital Rating

I read in Saturday's Black Hills Pioneer (print edition only, alas!) that the Spearfish Regional Hospital got an A in the Leapfrog Group's Hospital Safety Score. That's the only A in Leapfrog's roster of South Dakota hospitals surveyed. I am heartened to know that, if I drop a box on my foot as we move this weekend, I'll be able to hobble over to the hospital a couple blocks away and not have too much medical havoc wrought upon me.

Rapid City Regional, as we know from this month's fretful media coverage, got a D. The Rapid City hospital's CEO calls the rating bogus; the Leapfrog Group's CEO calls his complaint bogus.

You'll hear various opinions around Rapid City... but apparently you won't hear many negative opinions in the Rapid City Journal. Columnist Jim Kent has sent an e-mail to readers saying that the RCJ editorial board refused to print a column he submitted on the mixed quality of care his mother received at the hospital. Among other beefs, the editorial board found his use of personal experience unacceptable.

But Kent says the RCJ's stifling of negative opinions about the hospital goes beyond his nixed column:

Perhaps more disturbing than the paper’s refusal to publish this column, was Rasmussen’s response to me when I stated that my comments would surely be published if I sent the RCJ a Letter To The Editor on the topic. To this Rasmussen responded “Actually, quite a number of people wrote in to us citing complaints about RCRH, but we didn’t publish any of them for the same reason that we’re not publishing your column – this is not a forum for consumer complaints” (or words to that effect) [Jim Kent, e-mail, 2013.06.27].

When corporations stick up for each other to shut out consumer voices, we turn to the blogosphere. As he did the last time he faced the censorship of Lee Enterprises, Kent has permitted me to publish his suppressed column:

I make it a point to stay away from hospitals – they’ve got sick people in there.

Okay, ancient jokes aside, I was able to stave off the seemingly obligatory routine of entering those hallowed halls of medicine until well into my 40s.

Of course, just like finding a good mechanic, the personnel in the medical facility you choose to care for your classic frame (easy… that’s anything over 30) is key to your chassis’ long-term success.

What got me thinking about this was the recent ranking of Rapid City Regional Hospital as the least safe hospital in South Dakota – and among the worst in the country. And though my experiences with RCRH are few, I feel they warrant comment.

On an individual level, I generally receive medical care at the Hot Springs Veterans Administration facility which – until recently – was regularly voted among the top VA medical providers in the country by veterans.

Yeah, the one they’re closing, or not, or maybe, or….

I’m thinking the Pentagon must have taken over operations there, since no one in the upper echelons listens to the people on the front lines.

But, as much as I’ve been blessed by the stellar care provided to me by folks like Jim Woehl and Lisa Wurnig-Johnson, I have had to visit RCRH on one occasion - for a minor incision procedure. Start to finish zero problems, nice folks, excellent care and no foreign objects left inside me (that I’m aware of ) – which was noted by the non-profit Leapfrog Group as one of the hospital’s major problems.

However, I still can’t get my late mother’s first visit to RCRH out of my mind. It was during the early onset of dementia. That’s when I received a midnight phone call from the staff advising me that I’d “better come up and do something about my mother’s behavior” because the two burly security guards they’d sent into her room couldn’t handle the 5’4”, 87-lb senior who’d actually been placed in the hospital due to dehydration.

It seemed Mom had expressed a desire to leave. They couldn’t make her understand she needed to remain there until she recovered. So they opted to send security guards into her room to restrain her. When that didn’t resolve the issue (no surprise there) they called me.

That no one on the staff was able to control the situation still astounds me. Given my 15 years in corporate security, I asked the nurse on duty if she’d like me to provide classes for the RCRH personnel on how to defuse confrontations.

The matter was resolved by my talking Mom into understanding over the phone – but only after she’d been placed through the emotional stress she suffered by the staff’s ineptitude.

So, one positive experience for me, one very negative experience for my elderly mother.

But, hey, that was probably just an isolated incident, right?

Conclusion: I’m glad Mom spent her remaining years in the hands of the capable staff at Custer Regional Senior Care with her medical needs overseen by an angel named Joy Falkenburg.

I received late-night calls from them as well – but to advise me of how they were assisting my mother when she was in crisis.

—Jim Kent, "Hospitals Come in Good and Bad," column submitted to the Rapid City Journal, 2013.06.26 – publication refused.

Sure, Kent's column is pure personal anecdote. Lots of columns are. But even in anecdote, Kent strikes some balance. When he went for a procedure himself, he had no problems. When his mom went, he found the staff performing poorly. Alas, even that balance is too provocative for Rapid City Journal. Whether it's a columnist or you, dear readers, relating your own stories and complaints about bad service at Rapid City Regional Hospital or any other business, the Rapid City Journal doesn't want others to hear it.


  1. David Newquist 2013.06.30

    When you put Jim Kent's account with others like the Vern Traversie episode (, serious questions are raised.

    And when newspapers are no longer the places consumers can register their problems and provide fair comment and criticism of what is being offered to the public, they verify how they have become part of the corporate state. They play no role in addressing problems for the betterment of the communities. And so, they go.

  2. John 2013.06.30

    We've long known the Rapid City Journal has little interest in bettering local services and government - selling ads and hollow panache cheerleading are its interests.

  3. kurtz 2013.06.30

    Unless these complaints are put into some political context kvetching is of little value. Start pointing some fingers, people: maybe start at the hospital's relationship with Ellsworth.

  4. kurtz 2013.06.30

    The emerging insurance scandal goes right through DD's office.

  5. Robin Page 2013.06.30

    Mr. Kent's experience with his disabled mother's treatment at the RC hospital is just the tip of the iceberg on how people with disabilities are treated in our community. Whether it is the elderly, veterans, or adults or children with mental disabilities, the first reaction is always: call security, or call the sheriff or the police. Our community is way behind the Nation in learning about "best practices" of dealing with people with mental illness. Shame on Us!

  6. Douglas Wiken 2013.06.30

    Our local rag, sometimes known as the Weekly Incontinent, has a policy that bans any letters to the editor that mentions the name of a business. And not just any existing business, but any businesses that have already left the area. For a time, their notice "proscribed" all letters until I let them know what that word actually meant.

  7. Terry Murbach 2013.06.30

    ME THINKS the RCJ's reaction to Mr Kent's column hit close enough to home for them to circle the corporate wagons and Holler FOUL. WHY unless this was too close for comfort to the muck they wish to remain unraked . I also smell the stench of greasy green paper being spread around too freely in a "non-profit" organization.

  8. jerry 2013.07.01

    What can you expect from a hospital that was busted for Medicare fraud and had to pay millions in fines? I would say a D is a gift for this not for profit fraud. If you have a dispute with your Emergency room treatment like I did, you must contact the billing department in Maine to complain. We taxpayers in western South Dakota are once again getting taken by a bunch of crooked republicans who make their moolah from a fly by night organization that is dangerous to our health and well being.

    Regarding the Journal, not fit for even the bottom of the compost pile.

Comments are closed.