A healthcare forum, hosted by the York O.C. of Put People First – PA in partnership with the York NAACP and Centro Hispano Jose Hernandez of York, was held on September 27, 2016 at the Crispus Attucks Community Center. Nearly 40 residents of York County across the spectrums of age, race, ability, gender, orientation and socioeconomic status gathered to share stories about everything from being “talked down to” in more ways than one as a patient in a wheelchair to difficulties with translation in the emergency room. Here are some reflections and takeaways – with an emphasis on next steps – from some of the PPF members who participated in the forum.
One consistent theme of the night was preventive treatment. Not all provider offices are fully set up to actually prevent illnesses from becoming chronic or life threatening. And not only that, I hear many folks share how devalued they feel as a patient.  That providers are not fully listening to actual need of patients. They just jump straight to the conclusions and treatments. What we fail to understand as healthcare professionals is that it really doesn’t matter what “we” think when being in front of a patient. But it’s all about hearing what the patient has to say. So many patients head to the ER where their need is heard and met quickly.
Affordability was also a key theme. Folks cannot simply afford the treatment these days. They cant afford prescriptions to help prevent illnesses.
Language barrier was another. There isn’t enough to bilingual staff to accommodate Hispanic people. This causes a mistrust with the Hispanic community because they don’t feel understood.
Also, the paperwork that providers ask patients to fill out are overwhelming. Many patients can’t understand how to fill them out.
Overall, there is a lack of communication regarding the medical services that are provided in our community. Continuity and communication are big issues.
– Shane Moore

Exorbitant drug costs, insurance companies changing formulas at whim, and the need for time and skill for advocacy to battle with gatekeepers all seem to be shared concerns.  People seemed to appreciate the chance to voice their grievances. I look forward to the opportunity  to give greater emphasis to the call for universal health care and single payer solutions. That message must be spoken and heard.  So few people even consider it as a possibility!  

I could see us looking for more opportunities to hear health care concerns, e.g. in combination with the PPF surveys, at malls, at market, and at community events. We could work more with the Latino community and providers to help them work towards possible solutions in terms of patient comfort. We could also do some training for volunteer advocates to take on the insurance gatekeepers on a case-by-case basis.

In  T.R. Reid’s book The Healing of America it is stated repeatedly that we need to “lay bare the moral question at the heart of our troubled system, dissecting the misleading rhetoric surrounding the health care debate”.  I believe we try to do that.  I think we must do more to create the political will for universal healthcare.  We really must engage everyone in the conversation that it is not only possible, but morally imperative AND our right to demand universal access to adequate care.
– Val Kater

The forum was covered further in the York Dispatch.

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