FRANKLIN — "Let the children go first."
Those were the words of Franklin VNA & Hospice Executive Director Tabitha Dowd as she kicked off the question-and-answer session of the organization's first Meet Your Representative event.
State senators Harold French and Bob Giuda spoke to the students and the audience about their role in government and some of their plans for the upcoming legislative season.
In addition to the Belmont High School students and other constituents, there were many health care professionals present, including Meg Miller and Cheryl Barnes, administrator and director of nursing for the Peabody Home, and Tabitha Dowd and Elaine Cartier, Franklin VNA & Hospice's executive director and hospice director.
Sen. French told students, “As you know, health care is one of the largest industries in this country for today and it’s continually growing. From what we’ve read, New Hampshire’s population is aging and that’s where a lot of the health care money goes right now. “
Dowd said of the event, "I wanted to open a door between our health care experience and knowledge and their desire to craft strong health care legislation. These events are a beginning of that."
When asked about possible pay rate increases for the Choices For Independence Program, to attract more people willing to provide in-home care that would allow seniors to remain in their own homes and out of nursing homes, Rep. Giuda said, "I sponsored a bill last year to try to raise the rates. It’s always a constant battle…. I think there’s a much better chance of something coming this session."
He encouraged attendees to attend hearings and testify.
As they discussed the high cost of emergency-room visits and frequent 911 calls that would pay for months of Choices For Independence Program options for those same individuals and free up resources for true emergencies, Giuda added, “We have to highlight that and say, look, here’s a much better way to spend that money. Now you’re seeing an interaction, where someone has identified a problem and a solution so now you’re going to see a couple of guys go to work and try to get it fixed.”
Speaking about the changes in law that require licensed practical nurse instructors to have a master’s degree and what the effect will be on the ability to hire instructors for LPN programs, Rep. French said, “That’s the hand-in-hand. We are your representatives in the Senate…. I don’t know if this rule is bad for you or not, unless you call me.”
The senators capped off the event by accompanying two Franklin VNA & Hospice nurses to a patient visit where they saw home care in action.
Patients are being discharged from health care facilities with more and more complex health needs, including chest tubes, vacuum-assisted closure of wounds, total nutrition given though intravenously — all now being treated in the patient’s own homes.
“We wanted to show the New Hampshire senators the real challenges facing home care,” said Dowd. “How can they make informed decisions on these issues without really seeing the people affected by them?”
After their visits, Sen. Giuda was so struck by the dedication of Registered Nurse Cindi Payne, the nurse he accompanied, that he asked, "You love what you do, don't you?"
"To the core," she replied.