Rounding, Sept/Oct 2018

How does your hospital engage lawmakers at your facilities and what impacts have you seen from this engagement?

Parkland Health & Hospital System, Dallas
Katherine Yoder
Katherine Yoder
Vice President, government relations

Parkland Health & Hospital System welcomes site visits from legislators, their staff and agency officials at any time. During the interim between state legislative sessions, Parkland regularly hosts these visits at our hospital. Our goal is to provide a better understanding of the complexities of a large, urban safety-net health system with one of the busiest emergency departments in the country. 

When visiting Parkland, our guests talk with C-suite leaders to gain insight into our innovative practices and protocols as well as tour the emergency and trauma departments, psychiatric services, labor and delivery and the burn center, which is the only verified burn center in North Texas.

By opening our doors to policymakers, we have enhanced relationships with elected officials in Austin and Washington D.C., and as a result have been called upon at times to serve as subject matter experts on various health care-related topics.

Gabriela Saenz
Gabriela Saenz
vice president, advocacy & public policy

At CHRISTUS Health, we find in-person visits with our lawmakers to be a powerful and effective way to communicate. Not a month goes by that we don’t welcome policymakers into one of our facilities. As a 24-hour operation, and often the largest private employer in the Texas communities we serve, CHRISTUS Health is an important constituent of local lawmakers. The stories that unfold daily inside our hospital walls need to be told and influence lawmakers’ actions as they represent us. When we can share those stories and have lawmakers meet with our patients, physicians, health care workers and their other constituents face-to-face, they can see the real-life examples of what’s critical to our sustainability. 

For example, 80 percent of the kids we treat at the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio have Medicaid coverage. Those are numbers, but putting a face to those numbers often is what is needed to help lawmakers understand the impact we have. People like 15-year-old Jarcari and his mother help illustrate the lives we touch. Recently, Jarcari and his mother met with South and Central Texas lawmakers to humanize the importance of appropriately funding Medicaid. 

Our politicians can read statistics and fill up their calendars with official meetings in board rooms and conference centers, but, when we welcome them into a CHRISTUS facility, they can translate those numbers into real people and truly experience what we do. We often let them pass by a nursery to see the new lives we’ve brought into the world or introduce them to invaluable nurses who help patients navigate to better health. By having a meeting in a hospital, hearing the hospital codes, observing the clinical staff in action, they can truly understand us, and we build a working relationship with these leaders and their staff. On-site visits help lawmakers understand our patients and their role in helping provide health care for those patients.

Tenet Healthcare, Dallas
Webb Cochran
Webb Cochran
senior director, government relations

Leadership of Tenet’s hospitals are engaged with their elected officials at all levels of government. We encourage all our hospital leaders to regularly meet with their elected officials to establish and maintain relationships even if there are no burning issues to be addressed. This helps us keep lines of communication open so when a local issue arises or when a bill in Austin is moving that we need to provide input on our hospital leaders have an avenue for relevant discussion. Our lobbyists in Austin are hardworking but often can’t match a call to a legislator from his/her local hospital executive.

To maintain this level of interaction, Tenet hosts a “Tenet day” at the Texas Capitol during the legislative session where hospital leadership are asked to meet with their local legislators and talk about legislation, state budget issues and what’s going on back at home. This event sets the tone for our leaders to be able to reach out to legislators in the waning weeks of session when things become quite hectic and bills move quickly. 

During the interim, our leaders host elected officials at their hospitals to discuss the previous session and upcoming issues and then tour the facility. Recently, The Hospitals of Providence Transmountain Campus hosted the El Paso delegation who heard from hospital leaders about the mission and growth of the hospital and legislative matters and followed with a productive Q&A section that allowed for a robust discussion of health issues.

The result is an open dialogue with our elected officials where we can advocate for matters important to us and to the entire hospital industry in a meaningful way. Conversely, legislators are able to reach out to their hospital leaders for issue education or constituent matters. Opening up lines of communication is most certainly a benefit to our hospitals, their leadership and the elected officials who represent them.