Now home in Dayton for me and wherever you are today, the real work begins. We had a strong start at LAC this year in Washington DC with over 400 hill visits, but that is just the beginning. Now comes the grassroots ground effort to obtain more sponsors, gather support, and lobby for a hearing. Whether or not you were at LAC, emergency medicine needs your help!
Write a letter. Take the time to thank those that you met with in DC if you had the opportunity to travel. If you did not make it to DC, write to your legislator and senator and encourage them to support the Access to Emergency Medical Services Act of 2009 (HR1188, SB 468) this year. It does not need to be long. Just tell them the problem of overcrowding, given them a story of their constituents, and the benefits of the bill. For those that may not be as familiar, this bill studies the problem of overcrowding, works to develop and implement the suggested solutions, and provide funding for those that provide emergency care to encourage on call coverage and access to emergency services. A few minutes to write a letter can make significant change! I encourage you to lobby your partners to do the same.
Write to the papers. It is truly amazing how willing the papers are to publish a letter to the editor from a physician. There are standard letters that you can obtain from the ACEP advocacy folks, or write your own. Most have a word count around 250 words, so you can make it short. Just take the time to get the word out.
Talk to your friends/colleagues/administors/etc. Start the conversation on the overcrowding problem. If you suffer right now from overcrowding, use this as a launching point for change. If you are among the lucky few who have not experienced significant overcrowding, work toward a prophylactic solution and get some of the solutions in place.
In the end, the work on DC is only a start, the real work begins at home. Keep up the progress and the hardwork. Make a real effort to build on the success and relationships you have formed. We need to remind those that are going to define health care reform that the emergency department has been and will be the national safety net. We need a seat at the table. That only happens with your support and dedication!