Friday, August 14, 2009

Reality Check on Health Care Reform: Message from the Director and Health Officer of Contra Costa Health Services

Below is an All Staff Message from Dr. Walker:

Over the last few years, I’ve devoted a number of my messages in the monthly Director’s Report to the issue of health reform. I’ve been alternately optimistic and pessimistic about the chances of success for a variety of state and federal proposals.

For those of us working in an organized health system like ours, it isn’t hard to see how the United States’ broken health care non-system affects us all - most recently people losing their jobs and their health coverage. As the Health Officer for Contra Costa County, I know how critical it is that Congress agrees on a solution to the health care crisis. What we have now is a non-system that leaves millions without adequate quality care,increases the stress on safety net providers like Contra Costa Health Services and impacts on the health of all residents.

The safety net that each of us supports is ripping more each day.

It is understandable that people are worried about what the solution will be. Health reform is a complicated issue with many moving parts. I spend a number of hours each week on phone conferences with my colleagues across the country discussing strategies and solutions and realize that rational and civil debate is critical to identifying the best strategy for the years ahead.

It worries me to see so much misinformation about options being considered. From my discussions with health leaders around the country, I know many of the “facts” being used to frighten people are false.

I think it is important for those of us who work in a public health system providing high quality service through a myriad of programs speak up and describe how our system works. It is also important that the voices of those benefiting from government-run health programs are heard so others can learn from their experiences. And those being harmed now, who have lost their jobs and their health coverage, should also be encouraged to tell their stories.

Above all, we should encourage people to get information from objective sources and not rush to judgment. Please share my podcast (available at about this topic with others and let
them know they can get more information at these sites:

I know this is a very complex and confusing discussion at the present time. Let’s all do our best to keep informed and help others to stay informed. And I will do my best to keep you up to speed with current information.

William B. Walker, M.D.
Director and Health Officer, Contra Costa Health Services

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