Earlier this month, the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) hosted its annual Capitol Hill Advocacy Day. Over 100 respiratory therapists and patient advocates hit the Hill asking their legislators to support HR 2619, The Medicare Respiratory Therapist Access Act. These tenacious advocates arranged over 325 congressional meetings to discuss the importance of patient access to RTs and the necessity of education for disease management.
Tabatha Dragonberry, a respiratory therapist from Virginia, attended the event and provides her first-hand account below:
“This is the first year that I have gone and the state of Virginia had patients join us. This bill is about the patients and getting them access to respiratory therapists in doctors’ offices and clinics. These amazing patients spoke on why they feel it is important to have access to RTs. They discussed how RTs can assist them in learning more about self-management and taking control of their disease. It was great to have them join us because in the end this bill is all about them and getting them access to RTs.
I learned that one of the patients had used his inhaler improperly for five years because in his care he was never taught the correct use. It is amazing that this happens. If you go to an orthopedic surgeon, it is a given you will see a physical therapist, but for patients with pulmonary disease they do not have access to RTs on the outpatient side. I am sure that if this patient had seen a respiratory therapist at his doctor’s office, he would have learned the proper way to use his inhaler much sooner.
Another difference this year was that I felt was that there were more positive responses from the congressional offices. They know that healthcare is a hot topic and placing a patch here and a patch there is not going to fix the system.”
We thank Tabatha and all of the patients and RTs who spoke out on HR 2619. To lend your voice to increase patient access to respiratory therapist visit the AARC’s Capitol Connection page.