The Road to Health Care Reform: the discussion started last Friday
2009-07-06 · By Editor
Despite it was the day before a holiday, the urgency of the subject drew a crowd of approximately 150 people to the St. Mary Medical Center campus for the “The Road to Health Care Reform” Town Hall meeting on Friday, July 3rd. Panelists who participated included Congresswoman Laura Richardson; 5th District Councilwoman, Gerrie Schipske; Dr. Mauricio Heilbron, Jr., St. Mary Trauma Surgeon; Anna Totta, Director of Catholic Charities; Kathy Crow, RN, St. Mary Disaster Resource Center Coordinator, Hilary Fraser, Greater Long Beach Interfaith Community Organization; and moderator, Minnie Douglas, Ed.D., RN. The Town Hall meeting provided the public an opportunity to hear from those on the frontline of healthcare reform, voice their ideas and ask their questions.
Chris DiCicco, St. Mary Medical Center President/CEO welcomed guests and panelists stating “St. Mary and Catholic Healthcare West, our parent company, would like to see a reformed health care system include coverage for all, stable financing for hospitals and physicians, and improved access and quality for our communities across the board. All of us, whether we have insurance or are one of the 46 million Americans without insurance, in a great country like ours, should not have to worry about how to pay for health care or neglect our health because we can’t afford it.”
Minnie Douglas, Ed.D., moderator, introduced the panelists and invited Congresswoman Laura Richardson to the podium, who stressed that health care reform is absolutely necessary, but the “right program” is key. Congresswoman spoke briefly about factors which are impacting health care reform, which include the recession – likely to continue for at least another year; the large numbers of uninsured and underinsured Americans who need assistance; affordability, as more people lose their jobs and disparities in access for lower income communities; necessary prevention programs and healthcare technology; and taxing of employees’ health care benefits to fund reform, which would strap it on the back of taxpayers. Congresswoman Richardson responded to questions from the attendees and conveyed her committed to working with Congress and President Obama to reach a workable solution, stressing that Universal Health care is not likely to pass as there are not enough votes in Congress to do so.
Dr. Mauricio Heilbron and Kathy Crow, RN presented unique points of view – that of the physician and a trauma nurse. Dr. Heilbron agreed that changes regarding health care access, affordability and delivery needs to be done. However, the impact on all parties must be addressed and physicians definitely need to be a part of the puzzle. He stated that contrary to what the public may believe, physicians are increasingly feeling the impact of uninsured and underinsured patients as much, if not more than the government, particularly as the cost of malpractice insurance increases annually and reimbursement for services from HMOs, managed care and the government decrease.
Kathy Crown, RN, Trauma and St. Mary Disaster Resource Coordinator, addressed how hospital emergency rooms and trauma centers are being overwhelmed and some even being forced to close, as increasing numbers of uninsured patients use the ER as their primary care. “Our hospitals cannot continue to operate in this way. The costs to provide care is putting a financial strain on hospital’s resources. We are creating a potential collapse in the health care system.”
Panelists shared their views and discussed issues that they felt should drive health care reform, and what individuals can do to build consensus for achieving real change. It was a wholesome, intellectual and sometimes emotional exchange. Participants had an opportunity to fill our forms addressing their concerns about health care reform. Findings from throughout Catholic Healthcare West hospitals will be sent to the Obama Administration and to Congress.