Good news is part of a mixed bag

As is often the nature of this business of community journalism, there’s both good news and bad in this week’s issue of The New Era.

Let’s start with some good: The news that Wiley Creek is being sold to a Salem-based firm that specializes in senior living and healthcare is good news for Sweet Home, not because Samaritan Health Services is getting out of that business, but because of what comes with this deal.

For years, local emergency responders have complained about the lack of emergency care health facilities in Sweet Home. When air ambulances are not involved, it can literally take hours to get a patient from an accident site on Quartzville Road or Highway 20, or surrounding forests to medical care at Lebanon Samaritan Community Hospital.

That can mean the difference between life and death.

A lot of people have advocated for an emergency care facility in Sweet Home. Anyone familiar with emergency response in Sweet Home knows that Sweet Home Family Medicine calls for Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District medics when a patient is having a heart attack because it is not set up to deal with emergency care. The same is true for residents at Wiley Creek who are experiencing medical emergencies. An ambulance is called.

One of the ongoing concerns we’ve heard from senior citizens is the fact that it can easily take half an hour or more to get to SLCH from Sweet Home. That’s a long way when you’re in a medical crisis.

The addition of the capability to provide more emergency care at that location is a boon for Sweet Home and we appreciate that.

Also, Wiley Creek has been a quality senior living care facility for the roughly quarter of a century it has existed in Sweet Home. It’s been a place for those who need care that’s within easy reach of local residents who want to keep Mom or Dad close by.

What’s been lacking is resources designed to provide a safe, structured environment with set routines to lower stress for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Given what we heard at the news conference we’ve reported about on page 1, that may soon be a thing of the past.

Effectively, what all this does for Sweet Home is improve the living conditions here, which facilitates economic growth and just makes Sweet Home an even sweeter place to live.

We should all appreciate the dedicated commitment of city officials and others who have devoted a lot of time and effort to see this come to fruition.

And then there’s the bad news: the resignation of schools Supt. Tom Yahraes (page 16).

In his five years here, Yahraes has undoubtedly made a difference in our community.

We have what essentially is a brand new junior high school, thanks to his and other district officials’ foresight and ingenuity in coming up with a funding mechanism that made us want to buy in.

He made it clear from Day 1 that he wanted to get PE back in the lower grades in Sweet Home, along with music and art, and although various factors have delayed the latter, elementary school students are getting exercise and learning skills under the guidance of trained teachers. Forestry’s back at the high school as well.

Graduation rates are up and under his leadership, Sweet Home has come through the coronavirus pandemic in about as good a shape as any district our size in the state. His foresight in preparing for in-person instruction was one of the reasons why Sweet Home students were back in school before many other districts in similar risk levels.

Yahraes has worked well with the district’s employee unions as well, keeping things straightforward and avoiding drawn-out negotiations that have created rancor and delays in the past.

We wish him well and we’re thankful he’s planning to stick around for a few more months.