Newsroom

During call with Washington state health experts, Senator Murray highlighted her Public Health Infrastructure Saves Lives Act, and efforts to include major public health investments in Democrats’ Build Back Better budget

Earlier this year, Murray also chaired a Senate hearing looking at the need to rebuild our public health infrastructure in light of the pandemic

Senator Murray: “There is a saying in health care: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This last year and a half should be a reminder for all of us—this absolutely is the case for public health as well. I’m doing everything I can to make sure we take that lesson to heart, and finally end the cycle of crisis and complacency in public health funding.” 

***WATCH VIDEO OF THE EVENT HERE***    

(Spokane, WA) – Today, as COVID-19 patients continue to fill hospitals across Eastern and Central Washington and state health officials are requesting federal help to address health care staffing shortages, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, held a press call with public health officials and health care professionals from Spokane and Yakima on the current state of COVID in Eastern and Central Washington, and the critical need for sustained public health investments.

Senator Murray was joined by Andre Fresco, Executive Director of Yakima Health District; Dr. Martin Brueggemann, Chief Medical Officer, Yakima Valley Memorial hospital; Dr. Francisco Velázquez, Health Officer at Spokane Regional Health District; and Dr. Daniel Getz, the Chief Medical Officer for Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Providence Holy Family Hospital. During the call, Senator Murray stressed the urgent need for everyone who is able to get vaccinated in order to combat the ongoing COVID crisis in Washington state, and highlighted the critical public health investments she is working to include in Democrats’ Build Back Better budget to support public health officials, hospitals, and health care workers.

“Our health care system is facing enormous stress as COVID cases remain a challenge, the more dangerous Delta variant is filling up hospitals, and misinformation continues to undermine the vaccination efforts we know are critical to ending this crisis,” said Senator Murray. “While the vaccines have given us a way to get through COVID, we also have to learn from this pandemic and make sure we are better prepared for the next public health emergency. That means finally making—and maintaining—the kind of bold investments in public health I have been pushing for, for years.”

As a senior member of the Senate Budget Committee, Senator Murray has played a pivotal role in negotiating and advancing investments for public health in the upcoming Build Back Better budget. As Chair of the Senate HELP Committee, Senator Murray is leading the Democratic Caucus in shepherding through key priorities, which includes building on the largest expansion of health care since the Affordable Care Act.

“There is a saying in health care: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This last year and a half should be a reminder for all of us— this absolutely is the case for public health as well. I’m doing everything I can to make sure we take that lesson to heart, and finally end the cycle of crisis and complacency in public health funding,” Senator Murray continued.

“A rapid infusion of dedicated public health funding is critical for the Nation’s Governmental Public Health System to nimbly respond to the needs of all of our communities, during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond,” said Andre Fresco, Executive Director of Yakima Health District.

“COVID merely exposed how inadequate our health care system is at keeping our population healthy. At the same time we struggled with surges of COVID patients, we also faced a hospital at capacity, filled with patients suffering from other, preventable diseases. COVID may be the tip of the iceberg, but the patients hospitalized at Yakima Valley Memorial because of obesity, hypertension, diabetes, gun violence, and psychiatric disease form the vast bulk of the challenge to America’s health care system. This can only be addressed by a robust and sustained federal investment in public health infrastructure,” said Dr. Marty Brueggemann, Chief Medical Officer, Yakima Valley Memorial.

“Public health has been an integral part of our communities for many, many years. Its impact felt in many areas, some that go somewhat unnoticed,” said Dr. Francisco Velazquez, Health Officer for Spokane Regional Health District. “When the COVID-19 challenge arose, those who serve in public health answered the call. In looking at the past many months, there is no question that the value of investments in public health have yielded an incredible return.”

“Healthcare’s response to the pandemic has been epitomized by a team of heroes who, at all levels, have gracefully served their communities with steadfast resolve despite incredible challenges. Senator Murray has been a tireless advocate for public health infrastructure and Providence thanks her for this life saving support,” said Dr. Dan Getz, Chief Medical Officer for Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Providence Holy Family Hospital in Spokane, Washington.

During the call, Senator Murray highlighted her Public Health Infrastructure Saves Lives Act (PHISLA), legislation that would establish a core public health infrastructure program to strengthen the country’s public health system—including the nation’s ability to respond to the COVID–19 pandemic—through grants to State, territorial, local, and Tribal health departments and increased investments at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The bill also supports development and implementation of national public health accreditation. The program would be aimed at specifically addressing eight core capabilities:

1.     Public health assessment

2.     Preparedness and response

3.     Policy development and support

4.     Communications

5.     Community partnership development

6.     Organizational competencies

7.     Accountability

8.     Equity

A one pager on the Public Health Infrastructure Saves Lives Act can be found HERE.

###