Rebecca Talbot Bluechel, Registered Nurse at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center, testifies before the House Committee on Health Care and Wellness in support of House Bill 1321 (Declaring the intent for all Washingtonians to have health care coverage by 2020) – she shares how a lack of insurance makes preventing illness and injury so much harder for her patients:
My name is Rebecca Talbot Bluechel and I’m a nurse in the operating room at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center. I’m a member of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, our union of 26,000 nurses and healthcare workers statewide. I’m here today to urge you to pass HB 1321, the bill stating our intent to cover all Washingtonians with quality, affordable health insurance.
Harborview is Seattle’s Trauma 1 and safety net hospital. We have always seen many uninsured patients. Since the Affordable Care Act, we have seen fewer, but if even one person in our community is putting off needed care because they don’t have insurance, that’s too many.
I believe in prevention. I work in the OR, so I often don’t know much about what my patients experienced before they came in for surgery. I also don’t know which of my patients do or don’t have insurance. What I do know is the conditions I see every day on the operating table. Many of my clients wouldn’t be there if their situation had been appreciated earlier.
For instance, we see a lot of diabetes patients who are facing the loss of a limb or worse. While I don’t know what brought them to this point, I do know it’s avoidable. Patients who have access to good primary care can have earlier interventions and plans to manage their diabetes that would prevent many of these of surgeries. Diabetic amputations begin, 85% of the time, with a toe ulceration. The toe goes, then half the foot, then the whole foot, then we progress to a BKA. All of these result from high blood sugar. Control the blood sugar, with monitoring,
The same goes for some of the obesity-related surgeries we see. If these patients had access to early intervention, motivation, education, someone to help them keep tabs on exercise, we would see fewer high-morbidity obesity patients, and a decrease in healthcare costs with higher quality of lif.
I’m a third generation nurse, and my father is a doctor. I grew up with the values of the Hippocratic oath as a mainstay. I work at Harborview, because I believe everyone, from the homeless drug addict to the governor deserves the best health care we can offer. I believe that we are more alike than we are different, and that everyone has a story.
Covering everyone would make this state a better place and would allow more people to live full and fruitful lives. It could also make productive citizens from non-productive ones. Prevention is so much less expensive, both in dollars and in personal cost than curing things is. Everyone needs access to life saving preventative and primary care.
Thank you for hearing this bill today, and I urge you to pass HB 1321.