The extended COVID-19 public health emergency revealed numerous cracks in the state’s health care infrastructure – from tangible brick-and-mortar components such as the state’s public health laboratory, to intangibles like disease surveillance, investigation, and response.
Throughout the current legislative session, the Texas Medical Association has been committed to patching those cracks, which had largely been caused by funding cuts to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) during previous sessions.
“Investing in the state’s public health infrastructure not only avoids considerably higher future costs, it also ensures the economic prosperity of Texas by having healthier people who can work at their fullest capacity,” John Carlo, MD, a Dallas area public health physician, past chair of the Texas Public Health Coalition, and member of TMA’s Council on Legislation, told TMA.
The Texas House of Representatives is scheduled Thursday to dive into Senate Bill 1, the upper chamber’s version of the biennial budget.
TMA is calling on both chambers to make no reductions to DSHS’ base budget and to restore the 5% cuts requested for the 2022-23 biennium.
In addition, TMA’s legislative recommendations to gird and rebuild the state’s public health infrastructure include:
- Support critical infrastructure needed to maintain infectious disease testing, surveillance, lab capacity, and support to local health departments.
- Expand rural/frontier public health services in remote areas of the state.
- Assess and improve data registries that collect important information on EMS/Trauma, blood lead, birth defects, and infectious diseases.
- Ensure the state’s personal protective equipment (PPE) stockpiles are adequately maintained and establish a plan for equitable distribution of PPE to private practice and hospital-based physicians.
- Expand Regional Advisory Council capabilities and personnel to manage local trauma systems, and include private local physicians in their focus.
- Retain epidemiologists, laboratory specialists, contact tracers, and other staff needed during a public health crisis.
- Support up-to-date statewide electronic case reporting systems for notifiable conditions to easily identify outbreaks of disease.
- Require laboratories to include race, ethnicity, gender, and other key demographic information in their reporting data to help guide state response.
In addition to the budget hearings, Dallas pediatrician and medical informaticist Joseph Schneider, MD, testified on Wednesday in support of House Bill 4272, by Rep. Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth), which would streamline the state’s immunization registry system. The TMA-backed bill would make it easier to ascertain who has been vaccinated, which is critical in times of public health emergencies. TMA encourages you to contact your state representative to voice your support as well.
TMA Urgently Needs Your Expert Help
Fewer than six weeks remain in the 2021 legislative session, and the time to add your voice in support of medicine’s priority bills is now. Time-sensitive Action Alerts are an effective and efficient way for you to share your concerns and support with legislators. TMA strongly encourages you to add a personalized story or anecdote about how the proposed legislation will affect you, your patients, and your practice. Respond to Action Alerts via email, our Grassroots Action Center, or the VoterVoice mobile app.
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