Archive for Healthcare

Joel’s Law headed to governor’s desk

By | April 23, 2015 | 0 Comments

Joel’s Law, which enables families to petition courts to review a designated mental health professional’s decision not to detain a person with mental illness, is headed to the governor’s desk after passing both chambers earlier this week.

Joel Reuter

Joel Reuter

Joel Reuter, who died in a shootout with Seattle police in 2013. Reuter had been treating bipolar disorder successfully for several years, but made a turn for the worse after starting chemotherapy for lymphoma. He died after exchanging gunfire with police officers.

His parents, Doug and Nancy Reuter, have been coming to Olympia from Texas for the past two sessions to lobby the Washington State Legislature last year to pass the law. Lawmakers in both parties pledged to get the law passed this session.

The Senate version of the bill sponsored by Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-University Place, passed both chambers this week.

Nancy and Doug Reuter

Nancy and Doug Reuter

“This gives families a voice when it comes to ensuring their loved ones are given the care they need when suffering from a mental health crisis,” said Rep. Brady Walkinshaw, D-Seattle, the sponsor of the House version of the bill. Walkinshaw represents the district where Joel Reuter lived.

Joel’s law is not yet on Gov. Jay Inslee‘s bill signing calendar.

Categories: Courts, Healthcare

WSU can open medical school, under bill headed to governor

By | March 26, 2015 | 0 Comments

For the first time in nearly a century, Washington State University can open its own medical school.

5547979195_e113566c9a_zThe state Senate today approved a bill to remove a 1917 rule that gave University of Washington exclusive rights to train Washington’s doctors. House Bill 1559, sponsored by Spokane Rep. Marcus Riccelli, passed 47-1 and now heads to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk to be signed into law.

It’s one of the ways the state is trying to solve a critical doctor shortage, especially in Eastern Washington, where people in some rural communities must commute for hours to see a primary care doctor.

UW operates a five-state program to train doctors in Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho. It’s called WWAMI, an acronym for the first letter of each state. Right now, the program has enough funding to admit 140 medical students to study within the state each year

To serve people statewide, lawmakers predict they’ll need more than 1,700 new primary care doctors before 2030. “We’re facing a drought. And I’m not talking about a lack of rain,” Spokane Sen. Andy Billig said on Wednesday. “I’m talking about the lack of healthcare providers, and particularly primary care doctors. This bill will help solve that problem.”

Sen. Jamie Pederson, D-Seattle, was the sole lawmaker in the chamber to vote against the bill. He previously said the state has limited resources and should focus on expanding its existing medical program instead of creating a new one.

The bill doesn’t provide funding for WSU’s medical school. It only removes UW’s monopoly on medical, forestry products and logging engineering majors.

Both universities are seeking funding for their respective programs.

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Vaccine exemption bill stalls in state House

By | March 12, 2015 | 0 Comments

Washington parents can still choose not to vaccinate their children after a bill to remove personal belief exemptions missed Wednesday’s deadline to pass off of the state House floor.

14329622976_2ae10f5741_zRight now, the state is one of 20 allowing medical, religious and personal vaccine exemptions for school-age children. House Bill 2009 removes personal or philosophical beliefs as an acceptable reason to opt out.

The measure, sponsored by Everett Democrat Rep. June Robinson, passed out of a House committee, but didn’t receive a floor vote before Wednesday’s 5 p.m. deadline for legislation to pass out of its chamber of origin. That means the bill is unlikely to advance this session.

Washington is one of several states considering vaccine-related measures after a measles outbreak linked to Disneyland sickened more than 100 people throughout the country – including two from Washington.

“A personal belief exemption is sometimes an easy way for parents to not immunize their kids,” Robinson said last month when she called for more pressure on parents to vaccinate their children. “When a percentage of people are immunized, it protects the rest of the people in the community. It can’t transfer from one to the other because so many people are immunized against it.”

Critics argued that removing the exemption takes away personal freedoms. “Ultimately, that decision should be made by the parent and not the state government,” Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, said.

A bill in Oregon to remove religious and personal exemptions was abandoned Wednesday, Associated Press reports. Mississippi and West Virginia are the only states that don’t allow religious exemptions.

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Abortion insurance bill passes state House

By | March 10, 2015 | 0 Comments

For the fourth session in as many years, state House Democrats once again passed a bill that would require Washington insurance providers to cover abortions and contraceptives.

The so-called Reproductive Parity Act passed in the state House, this time with a vote of 51-46.

House Bill 1647 would require health plan carriers to cover abortions if they cover maternity care and to cover contraceptives without cost-sharing.

Rep. Eileen Cody, West Seattle Democrat and prime sponsor, says women should be able to make parenting choices without input from their employers or insurance providers.

“You don’t get to decide for me and I don’t get to decide for you,” she said.

But some Republicans say the requirement would force people to go against their own values, by forcing them to pay for an insurance plan that covers abortions.

“This is an affront to the very foundation of constitutional protections that guarantee the right to exercise our religious conscience,” Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, said.

While a version of the bill has narrowly passed the state House every year, it has never made it to the Senate floor. A bill passed out of a Senate committee in 2012, when Democrats controlled the chamber.

WSU could open new medical school under bills approved in both chambers

By | March 10, 2015 | 0 Comments

Washington State University is one step closer to opening its own medical school after the state House and Senate passed bills this week removing a rule that prevented the school from training doctors for nearly a century.

5694651210_f124b7cb96_bSince 1917, the University of Washington has had exclusive rights to operate a medical school within the state. Spokane lawmakers Sen. Michael Baumgartner and Rep. Marcus Riccelli sponsored bills to remove the restriction. Both measures passed, 81-17 in the state House and 45-4 in the state Senate.

The push is one way Washington is trying to address a critical doctor shortage, especially in underserved rural communities on the eastern side of the state. Right now, the state’s only medical school struggles to train enough doctors with limited funding to admit 140 students to study within Washington each year.

WSU wants funding to hire staff and secure accreditation for a new medical school while UW wants to expand its existing program. The bills passed this week would allow for both, but don’t provide funding for either.

House Bill 1559 and Senate Bill 5487 remove UW’s sole right to train Washington’s doctors, as well as other majors including forestry products and logging engineering.

Baumgartner, Spokane Republican and prime sponsor of the Senate version, say it’s a small, technical fix, but will go a long way toward providing more doctors in the state.

“Most states have more than one public medical school,” Baumgartner said. “This allows for a tremendous amount of innovation, provides more research and provides more doctors.”

Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, spoke against the bill. Instead, he said, the state should focus on loan repayments, residency programs and expanding UW’s program to answer the doctor shortage.

“I don’t think it’s a wise use of our limited resources,” Pedersen said.

The bills now move to the opposite chamber for consideration. Republican leaders said Tuesday either bill could be used as the vehicle to become law.

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Nurses would receive meal, rest breaks under bill

By | March 9, 2015 | 0 Comments

Hospitals would be required to provide nurses with uninterrupted meal and rest breaks, under a bill narrowly passed Monday in the state House.

Democrats say breaks are important for nurses to provide quality care. Republicans say that bill is a mandate and unfairly burdens health care institutions.

House Bill 1732 would require breaks for nurses in most cases and expands state law against mandatory overtime to include more healthcare employees.

Meal and rest breaks could be interrupted, the bill says, “where there is an unforeseeable emergent circumstance or a clinical circumstance that may lead to patient harm without the employee’s specific skill or expertise.”

Rep. Chris Reykdal, Tumwater Democrat and prime sponsor of the bill, says a nurse’s job is life or death.

“When they’re not rested and they don’t have meals, errors occur,” he said.

But Republicans say hospitals – not the government – are responsible for ensuring mistakes don’t happen.

“Hospitals don’t want to provide poor care, because they’re going to have to pay for it,” Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, said. “This would put an undue restriction on those hospitals.”

Rep. Mike Sells, who says his son was in the emergency room overnight Sunday for surgery on a blood clot, said meal and rest breaks would improve the quality of care provided by nurses.

“When we have nurses come to us over and over and over again, who can’t get a meal or rest break, you wonder what kind of care your family members will have,” the Everett Democrat said.

Republicans said the cost is too high.

“This would impose a significant burden on health care entities who would have to hire staff to cover those rest breaks,” Rep. Jay Rodne, R-Snoqualmie, said.

The bill passed 52-46. It now heads to the Republican-majority state Senate.

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Tuesday recap on ‘Legislative Review’

By | February 18, 2015 | 0 Comments

Here’s our 15-minute recap of Tuesday’s legislative activities on “Legislative Review.” We have highlights from the debate over a bill that would end a parent’s ability to exempt a child from vaccines for personal or philosophical reasons. Plus, a measure that would allow people with PTSD to use medical marijuana, and a bill that would allow fathers to terminate legal responsibilities for a child that he can prove through DNA does not belong to him.

“Legislative Review” airs nightly at 6:30 and 11.

 

Categories: Healthcare, TVW

Vaccines debated as lawmakers consider eliminating personal belief exemption

By | February 17, 2015 | 0 Comments

A House committee held a public hearing Tuesday on a bill that would end a parent’s ability to exempt a child from vaccines for personal or philosophical reasons.

Rep. June Robinson, D-Everett, said she introduced House Bill 2009 in response to the recent measles outbreak. “These are diseases that were eradicated and are now coming back largely due to the fact that people are choosing to not immunize their children,” she said.

Children in Washington must be vaccinated for school unless they are exempted for medical, religious or personal reasons. Last year, 3.6 percent of school-age children were exempted from vaccinations for non-medical reasons.

Some Washington schools have exemption rates as high 40 percent, said Kathy Lofy of the state Dept. of Health. She worries those schools will serve as “tinderboxes” for diseases that are easily spread through crowds.

Kathy Hennessy of Bellingham said her child caught pertussis from an unvaccinated classmate in preschool. “I’m frustrated that so many people are choosing not vaccinate their children based on misinformation and pseudoscience,” she told legislators.

More than a dozen opponents testified Tuesday, asking lawmakers to keep the personal exemption in place.

Grant Keller said the people who oppose vaccinations are “not conspiracy theorists,” but often well-educated parents with high incomes. “They are capable of reading and digesting scientific information, and they are making informed decisions regarding the health of their children,” he said.

Other parents who testified say they are not immunizing their children because they worry about a negative reaction to the vaccine.

Josh Swenson said drug allergies and sensitivies run in his family, and he worries how vaccines could affect his children. “I’m not wiling to sacrifice my children’s health and future for the good of all,” he said.

If the bill passes, Swenson said his only choices would be to take his children out of public schools or move out of state. “You cannot force me to hurt my child,” he said.

Proposal would amend state’s Death with Dignity Act

By | February 12, 2015 | 0 Comments

Doctors would be required to discuss possible cures and life-extending treatments with terminally ill patients when they seek medically-assisted suicide, if a state Senate bill passes.

Voters passed Washington’s Death with Dignity Act in 2008. Since then, patients with less than six months to live are able to end their lives with the help of a doctor.

Now, Sen. Jan Angel is sponsoring a bill to make the first change to the initiative. Current state law requires doctors to discuss pain control, comfort and hospice care when patients request life-ending medicine. Senate Bill 5919 would also require doctors discuss possible cures and life-extending treatments.

It’s a small change – not even a full sentence – but both supporters and critics say it makes a big difference.

Terminal patients need to know about every possible option, Angel told a Senate committee Thursday. “Doctors can be wrong,” the Port Orchard Republican said. “There can be mistakes, there can be new cures. There is hope.”

Dr. Kenneth Stevens says he’s seen patients live for years beyond what other doctors tell them to expect. The Oregon doctor, who testified remotely, is part of Physicians for Compassionate Care, an organization that opposes Washington’s law and others like it. “Life expectancies aren’t exact,” he said.

But critics say the bill would complicate an already-tough process.

Arline Hinckley works with Compassion and Choices, a Seattle-based end-of-life resource center. Death with Dignity, she says, is already used “rarely and cautiously.” Of the 51,000 statewide deaths in 2013, she says 119 were medically-assisted.

Doctors often overstate life expectancy, Hinckley said, and some patients already wait too long to start the process. “To raise the issue of cure is unfair to patient, who is already accepted the fact that they’re terminal,” she said.

No action was taken during Thursday’s hearing.

Categories: Healthcare, initiatives

WSU, UW propose fixes to doctor shortage

By | January 27, 2015 | 0 Comments

The state’s top two universities have different ideas about how to train more doctors, but both agree: Washington State University can establish and operate a new medical school if it’s not at the expense of the existing University of Washington program.

Washington faces a dire shortage of primary care providers, particularly in underserved rural communities on the eastern side of the state. The state’s only medical school struggles to train enough doctors with only enough funding to admit 140 students to study within the state each year.

Both universities have different proposals to improve healthcare access. WSU wants funding to hire staff and secure accreditation for a new school while UW wants to expand an existing program to accommodate more students. Spokane lawmakers have introduced a bill that would allow both.

The University of Washington has since 1917 had exclusive rights to operate a medical school in the state. Now, state Sen. Michael Baumgartner and Rep. Marcus Riccelli have introduced joint bills to remove the restriction and allow WSU to create its own program on the other side of the mountains. The bill also removes UW’s sole rights to medicine, forestry products and logging engineering majors.

UW doesn’t mind giving up its exclusive rights, but worries about the financial impact for its existing program, spokesperson Genesee Adkins said. WSU last year announced it was withdrawing from WWAMI, a doctor training program operated in partnership with the University of Washington’s School of Medicine. WWAMI trains doctors for Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho. It’s an acronym for the first letter of each state.

In 2013, WSU accepted nearly $6 million in state money to help support existing students at the Spokane branch of the WWAMI program. Now, WSU plans to reallocate the funding to pay for its own program.

Adkins says UW does not want the money reallocated. “Do not explore this one concept at the expense of another,” she told the House Higher Education committee on Tuesday.

UW wants $8 million to expand the WWAMI program in order accommodate 80 students in Spokane per year by 2017. “The need for expansion of medical professions is absolutely clear and we recognize that need,” University of Washington President Michael K. Young told lawmakers on Thursday. “Our program is scalable.”

Washington State President Elson S. Floyd says the two programs don’t have to be mutually-exclusive. “We are not duplicating what already exists,” Floyd said. “The teaching model at the University of Washington can continue. It is our hope and desire that it would be augmented.”

WSU wants $2.5 million to launch a community-based medical school, using partnerships with medical facilities instead of building its own research hospital. Michigan State and Florida State universities – as well as UW – use similar models.

The university hopes to welcome its first class of 40 students by 2017 and grow to accommodate 120 by 2021.

House Bill 1559, which only removes the restriction and doesn’t provide funding for either program, has more than 60 bipartisan sponsors signed on. The bill needs only a simple majority to pass the chamber of 98 lawmakers. Senate Bill 5487 is a companion.

Categories: Education, Healthcare