Healthcare reform items for safety committees to review

Hospital Safety Insider, May 13, 2010

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As the initial waves of the newly passed healthcare reform law begin to ripple out, safety committee members should consider how the changes could affect EC and occupational health concerns.

“To the extent you believe the healthcare reform law will increase the demand for services, it could certainly have the effect in the near term of straining the resources of hospitals … [and] that would affect [managers] who are overseeing the safety and health of employees,” says Bradford Hammock, partner at Jackson Lewis, LLP, a law firm in Reston, VA, where he heads the workplace safety compliance practice group.

The law will provide coverage to about 32 million uninsured people and offer tax credits to about 4 million small businesses to help cover the cost of insurance for their employees.

According to experts and industry observers we talked to, the following three reform-related areas may be worth adding to your next safety committee meeting agenda:

Monitoring more patients and visitors. When it comes to the physical security of hospital buildings and the well-being of workers, healthcare reform may bring increased traffic into the nation’s EDs.

EDs are among the top locations in medical centers for violence between patients and staff, generally because EDs act as funnels into the rest of the facility. “You have overcrowded emergency rooms right now,” says James Blair, FACHE, president and CEO at the Center for Healthcare Emergency Readiness in Nashville. “You’re going to make 30 million people eligible [for insurance]. They won’t be coming hat in hand.”

In other words, someone who is accepting charity medical care is likely to have patience while waiting in an ER.

But when people believe they have a right to medical care—“and that’s what the rhetoric has led everyone to believe, that everyone in America is covered,” Blair says—some individuals may be difficult to physically control when they find out at the ER that they have to wait until certain provisions for covering the uninsured kick in over the next four years.

That dilemma puts ER nurses, physicians, and security officers on the battleground of dealing with potentially upset, confused, or even violent patients who don’t fully understand the healthcare reform laws passed in March.

To read more, read Briefings on Hospital Safety or subscribe here.

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