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.”