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President Obama Talks Reform in Raleigh

I had the chance to attend President Obama’s town hall meeting on health care reform in Raleigh this afternoon.  It was a delight to have the President here in our backyard.  WakeMed’s Senior Vice President Judy O’Neal was even fortunate enough to sit on stage and get a “President’s eye” view of the crowd.  Afterwards, she personally invited President Obama to visit WakeMed to see how we are tackling the health care challenges facing our country, and we hope he will take us up on that invitation.

It was great to see so many of North Carolina’s leaders, especially former Gov. Jim Hunt, one of our most beloved leaders.  Sen. Bill Purcell, a family doctor from Stanly County, asked about the rising cost of prescription drugs.  He knows firsthand the burden that high drug prices can place on patients.

President Obama also spoke about how our health care system can learn from the success of places like the Mayo Clinic or the Cleveland Clinic.  Those are clearly two of the nation’s most outstanding health care systems and there’s no doubt that we can learn a lot from them about how they successfully deliver quality care and control costs.

But there aren’t many health care organizations out there that compare to the Mayo Clinic.  Most hospitals and physician groups simply don’t have the same type of resources or funding that you find at large academic medical centers.  In fact, most hospitals across America look a lot more like WakeMed.  We are a hospital with humble roots that has grown into a regional health care provider because of hard work, a commitment to equal access and a position for excellence.  We care for every kind of patient you can imagine, including many of those who slip through the cracks of our current local, state and national health care environment.

As one of the largest “safety net” hospital organizations in North Carolina, we see the need for reform every day.  And we work hard to find creative ways to do our job better and more efficiently.  That’s what the thousands of community hospitals across our country do.  We find a way to treat the patients who are depending on us, regardless of whether they can pay.

In many ways, WakeMed is the type of hospital that President Obama is describing when he talks about the future of health care in America.  We hope to have the opportunity to bring him here and show him that if we can make health care reform work at a place like WakeMed, we can make it work anywhere.

Update July 30, 2009: After the town hall meeting, I had the opportunity to speak with Julie Henry at NBC and Rob Christensen at the News & Observer. See more of my comments in the following articles,”President Obama Brings Pitch For Healthcare Reform To Raleigh” and “Obama attacks insurers.”


2 thoughts on “President Obama Talks Reform in Raleigh

  1. Dr. Atkinson,

    You repeatedly have said that healthcare reform is necessarily, that it must happen. Which leads to the predictable questions: why and how?

    While I don’t expect you to be able to answer all of the questions on this blog, I’m left to scratch my head on one particularly important point. The fundamental question here, as far as I can see it, is if healthcare is a fundamental right? Do I have the right to be treated for every ailment and complaint? Our lawmakers seem to consider it a foregone conclusion.

    It would seem to me that anyone in our profession would be able to see this and say, “absolutely not.” If I have a fundamental right to healthcare, then you have a fundamental responsibility to treat me. I have a claim to your time, your energy, a portion of your life. They don’t belong to you, if I have this fundamental right, they belong to me.

    Shouldn’t healthcare reform start with government getting out of the way of doctors and hospitals to find their own ways to treat the community? Making the best goods and services widely available, after all, truly is the hallmark of the free market.

  2. Jeff,

    Thank you so much for asking a question that has surely been on the minds of many. Since this topic has such a wide appeal, I actually posted the response on the blog itself. I appreciate you reading and taking the time to comment. I hope you’ll stay engaged in the discussion!


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