Of course you could debate how profitable it is to run a hospital in city like, say, New Orleans. Almost four years after Hurricane Katrina broke the citys levees, four major hospitals in New Orleans remain closed, and the citys population only recently rose past 300,000, compared with the 450,000 people who lived there before the August 2005 storm. The Pendleton Memorial Methodist Hospital in New Orleans East will have 80 beds when it reopens in 2012, down from 253 before the storm, and is expected to get most of its $130 million in renovation funds from federal, state and municipal sources.
But consider: In 2007, Brocks RAM emergency relief clinics treated 17,000 patients with a total budget of about $250,000. (Although at least one audience member carrying a sign reading We Cant Wait
noted that much of the physicians time and supplies used by RAM are donated.)
Many of the attendees left after Brocks speech and went straight to one the most-anticipated sessions of the weekend: Achieving Health Care Reform in 2009: Opportunities and Obstacles, where expanding healthcare access was a key discussion point.
Speakers predicted during the June 8 session that the two weeks following the conference would see a great amount of new activity in the reform debatea prescient, if not overly risky, prediction to make on June 8.
Kathy Curran, senior director of public policy for CHA, advised attendees on how best to lobby their local lawmakers, with a key recommendation being to come to the legislative meetings with a simple set of talking points. And key among them should be expanding access, with particular attention to the vulnerable and the poor. As much as Stan Brock is wonderful, we have to put him out of business, Curran told the audience members.
Lobbyists and CHA officials putting on the session struggled to contain their reform update to a 75-minute time slot and still have enough time to take questions from the audience, some of whom were clearly skeptical. I dont call what you have described reform at all, this one plan coming out of Congress to expand access through a public insurance option, one executive said as other attendees in the room began clapping in agreement.
CHA Senior Vice President Michael Rodgers had just reported that providers are likely to have to pay part of the cost of reformincluding but not limited to the expansion of access. The options we have seen are a lot more than just access, Rogers responded to the reform critic. I think it goes a lot farther than just access. There are a lot of moving parts.
Emphasizing that point, the CHA is putting together a public information campaign with several goals, chief among them was to not lose the public momentum that has led so many stakeholders to the brink of reform. The campaign is centered on the theme We Cant Wait, and features online video and photos of patients, hospital workers, executives, priests, soldiers, kids, business owners and others holding hand-written signs describing why the reform movement is important to them personally.
In an effort to make the campaign go viral online, CHA organizers handed out branded disposable cameras and pre-printed signs reading We Cant Wait
and encouraged attendees to have the signs filled out, photographed, and sent in to CHA.
Viewers said the video and photos already submitted, which can be seen at www.ourhealthcarevalues.org, were far more touching than your average media campaign. In the video, an apparently pregnant woman smiles at the camera and holds had sign reading, I cant wait until I have a job with health insurance. A physician holds a sign declaring, I cant wait to help anyone and everyone who needs it. And a woman in a suit and a hospital ID badge holds a sign that says, I cant wait for the system to make some sense.
And outside a meeting room where the video was publicly shown for the first time, two bins of the disposable cameras were decidedly half-full.
Joe Carlson covers not-for-profit hospitals and health systems and human resources issues, including staffing, labor and management. He also covers regional healthcare business news in Florida, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
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