Grassley tours busy Genesis ER

By Deirdre Baker – Quad-City Times – May 29, 2015

As part of his annual 99-county tour of Iowa, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley stopped at a Davenport hospital’s emergency department Thursday and questioned nurses about the effects of the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare.

The longtime Republican member of Congress made a visit to Genesis Medical Center-East Rusholme Street, where he checked out the ER with two trauma physicians, spoke to the nurses, got a quick overview of the $138 million construction project underway on the Genesis campus and hosted a question-and-answer session with hospital employees.

In answer to Grassley’s question about the number of patients being seen since Obamacare became law, he was told that while the numbers remain about the same, the patients tend to be not as sick as before. That is because the thousands more people with health insurance have gained access to more preventative care, it was explained.

Ken Croken, the vice president of corporate communications for Genesis Health System, said that while many more people now have health insurance, some need to receive education on how to use the coverage.

“Lack of this coverage goes back generations in some cases,” he pointed out.

Grassley said he likes one part of Obamacare, a sweeping piece of federal legislation that he generally opposes. That one part is the affordable care organization, or ACO, concept. Genesis is part of one called the University of Iowa Health Alliance.

The senator said he supports teamwork between several parts of the nation’s health care system. He wants them to pull in the same direction with the common aim of keeping patients healthy in the first place.

“That’s opposed to treating only those who are sick,” he added.

The eastern Iowa region is doing well in that regard, Grassley pointed out.

The senator chatted with Dr. Kathryn Dierks, and Dr. David Dierks, a married couple who are both emergency department physicians at Genesis. The Dierkses spoke about the importance of trauma care and how the Davenport ER often treats serious injuries, including victims of shootings.

The senator told the couple he had been in a hospital emergency department just once as a patient.

Grassley visited at about 4 p.m., which Kathryn Dierks called a busy time of day. As she spoke, two different patients were wheeled into the ER from the ambulance bay.

Doug Cropper, the president and CEO of Genesis Health System, told the senator about another concern: a staffing shortfall.

“This is the worst nurses shortage I’ve seen in the 35 years I’ve been in this business,” he said.

On some non-health-related topics:

• Grassley said the response to avian flu has been adequate in Iowa and that there is money to replace the millions of chickens and turkeys that have been lost to the disease this year. He favors restoring the large egg farms, noting that eggs from those facilities are safe to eat and less expensive for consumers.

• The senator declined comment on a statement Wednesday by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., that some of the Republican Party’s foreign policy hawks are the reason why ISIS was able to rise to power in the Middle East. Grassley, however, criticized President Barack Obama’s actions and policies involving Libya, Syria and elsewhere in that region.

“We are now living in a more dangerous world,” Grassley said.