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WHA 2015 Advocacy Day: Part 1

Jeannie Cullen Schultz

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Wisconsin Hospital Association (WHA) Advocacy Day. The 2015 version of the annual event far exceeded my expectations for a number of reasons that I look forward to sharing with you.  Advocacy Day is an annual event that brings together healthcare employees, volunteers and trustees to advocate and educate individuals on healthcare issues that affect their organizations and the healthcare system in Wisconsin.

The first was related to the group of nearly 1,100 people that traveled from all over the state of Wisconsin to attend.  The shear numbers alone are impressive as just 20 years ago only 225 people attended the event. There is a wide variety of professionals that attend Advocacy Day, which creates an atmosphere that cultivates learning and a strong sense of industry pride and commitment. One might find a local hospital’s CEO sitting at a table with nurses, facilities teams, volunteers and even design and construction personnel, like myself.  It is clear that everyone in the room is not only committed to making his/her facility and teams better and more effective; but also, the group is focused and determined to improve Wisconsin’s healthcare system as a whole. This commitment and dedication was displayed throughout the day and it was exciting to be a part of the event.

Almost as impressive as the group of people advocating for the healthcare industry was the content of the program and the guest speakers. Over the years we have all been at conferences or programs that lack the luster to engage and excite the group. Advocacy Day is not one of those programs and this was evident from the get go as Tucker Carlson, national political pundit and journalist, started the morning off with a bang. Regardless of your political preferences, it was hard not to like Tucker as he brought excitement and energy as well as a national perspective on both healthcare and the future political climate. Tucker praised the group for its hard work and efforts as he stated “you are representing something that is a major benefit to America and the people themselves…you are saving lives.”

Up next was the legislative panel which included two State Senators and two State Representatives being peppered with questions from WHA president Eric Borgerding and the audience.  The topics included the exchange program and reimbursement rates; the importance of Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs); the future of nursing and medical technician professions, both in terms of attracting people to the industry and closing the skills gap; and policy changes that will significantly impact the healthcare industry such as reimbursement rates, the Worker’s Comp program, and physician licensure. The range in questions provided the state legislators the opportunity to speak both in a global sense in terms of how these issues affect the entire state but also they cited examples of how these issues are impacting their communities. While there were two democrat and two republican leaders on the panel, my takeaway was that these four along with the rest of our state government, for the most part, are working together to improve our healthcare system and the lives of Wisconsin residents.

Once again this year, Governor Walker offered the key note speech to the group. The message that Gov. Walker wanted to convey was THANK YOU. He thanked the healthcare systems and the individuals in the room for the quality of care and facilities that we provide throughout Wisconsin. This is a key element to the quality of life we are able to enjoy. He praised the industry for its impact on the state’s economy as our healthcare organizations are some of the largest employers in the state. It is important to note that these organizations are not just providing jobs but well-paying careers. Lastly, he commended the group for their positive impact on Wisconsin’s economic growth and development. The high quality of life and care that Wisconsin can provide enables businesses to attract and retain talent.  This cannot be understated as new businesses look to put down roots in our communities.

The final piece to the success of 2015 Advocacy Day was the legislative visits. The group found strength in numbers as over 600 people traveled up the street to the State Capitol to meet with their legislators. With a group of roughly 10 advocates, I met with a State Senator and two State Representatives. Here we had the opportunity to discuss how the state’s policies can either hinder or improve the healthcare system. With the help of WHA, we focused on three major issues and found that our legislators were receptive and interested in hearing our voices.

This excerpt is meant to highlight the topics and discussions of the 2015 WHA Advocacy Day and help you to understand the importance of not only the event but also what our healthcare systems and professionals mean to the State of Wisconsin. This cannot be understated and I hope through programs like Advocacy Day the state can continue to work together not only to maintain our current high level of quality care but to continuously look to improve.

Stay tuned for part two of this blog series where I will cover the rest of my takeaways from the 2015 WHA Advocacy Day.

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April 9, 2024