OP-ED | A More Personal Approach to the Healthcare Debate
As an assistant majority leader and vice chairman of the General Assembly’s Public Health Committee, I am regularly part of formal and informal discussions about a wide range of issues that impact the daily lives of the residents of our state.
Over the past year, I have had a front-row seat – and bed – in the healthcare industry as a patient and consumer. Since early last year, I have been battling a severe digestive disease that in my case has required major gastrointestinal surgeries and a long-term convalescence. All told, I’ve spent numerous weeks at William Backus Hospital in Norwich. I would publicly like to thank the entire medical and hospital staff for their superlative care and compassion.
While both physically demanding and mentally challenging, this experience has been tremendously educational and enlightening. Whenever you are reading this, day or night – at this minute – somewhere in Connecticut there is a nurse or a patient care technician going into a patient’s room to check on them. To ask what they need. To see if there is anything that can be done to make them more comfortable. Every minute of every day, a nurse is treating a patient, most of whom enter the hospital as a stranger, like a family member, providing comfort, support and compassion.
So with the start of the 2016 legislative upon us, I hope that all parties involved in the budget process can adopt a patient-focused perspective in the weeks and months to come.
Connecticut is home to a number of excellent hospitals and they employ thousands of truly dedicated women and men. A hospital nurse does more to help others in a few shifts than most folks do in a year. I also recognize that our hospitals are multi-million dollar operations that are putting more time and effort into crunching numbers and analyzing data and less into the scrutiny of the compensation of their executives.
But the vast majority of the residents in Connecticut do not have time to study Medicare reimbursement rates or the labyrinth that is the financial structure of a hospital and the healthcare field. They just want to know that they or their loved ones will be accurately diagnosed, provided with timely access to intelligent medical professionals, treated with kindness and understanding, charged accurately and fairly for the services rendered, and communicated to with respect by their insurance company.
I’d like representatives from Connecticut’s hospitals — the executives and administrators, the Connecticut Hospital Association and the lobbyists for the multiple interest groups engaged in this discussion — to carry with them in their pocket or in their mind — a photo of someone they love who may need high quality medical care five years from now in a world where Connecticut has far fewer resources available for healthcare. Think about the stress and anxiety of having to drive an extra hour to get to a hospital for an emergency or having to wait weeks longer for a critical operation, follow-up treatment or a visiting nurse for home care.
And I’d like our governor and his associates to carry with them — in their pocket or in their mind — a photo of someone they love who benefited from high quality medical care within the past six months. Someone who had their life saved, prolonged or eased through the efforts of a nurse, a pharmacist, a physician’s assistant, or physician.
How about if the next negotiating session takes place in any hospital lobby located in Connecticut? Participants could try to read the minds of parents, family members and friends coming in and out of the building before launching into their next less-than-constructive criticism of the other side.
A more personal point of view on both sides could help find more common ground in the approach to quality accessible healthcare.
Emmett Riley is a state representative from Norwich.
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