WINDSOR, Vt. — What do you do if you are running for office, not knowing a whole lot about the health care industry, and you find yourself surrounded by health care issues? If you are Zach Ralph, you start looking for answers from the same group of people who are asking the questions — the voters.
The candidate for a seat in the state House of Representatives held an open forum downtown Thursday evening on the subject of health care.
Ralph, who wants to represent Windsor's first district, said that while canvassing for support (under both Progressive and Democratic banners), he kept running into health care as a top concern.
"This is the number one issue people bring up at the door," Ralph explained. He decided to hold a forum in downtown Windsor to give people a chance to not only meet him, he said, but to have a frank discussion about their concerns and what state government could do about them. "This is a complicated subject," he said. "I want to hear from people here in the community."
With short notice and little promotion, however, only two persons came to the forum other than a friend of Ralph's and his campaign manager. Still, Ralph's questioning of the audience led to a lively discussion.
Is it true, the candidate asked, that hospitals are overcrowded and nurses overworked? Beth, one of the two independent individuals in the audience and a health care worker herself, told him there is indeed a shortage of nurses in Vermont right now, and even a shortage of physician assistants and other health care professionals.
"You have to depend on traveling nurses?," asked Andrew, who recently moved to Vermont from New York. Yes, Beth said. Both nurses and doctors, she added, are leaving the profession, fed up with the influx of drug-addicted patients, some of whom assault them with violence.
The cost of health care, they all agree, is part of the problem, what with new treatments and the rising cost of education.
And what about malpractice insurance, Ralph asked. Doesn't that contribute to the cost? Sure, the others agreed. But "there has to be something" to hold health works accountable, Beth said.
The discussion continued, touching on other topics, such as fee-for-service and universal health care. Nothing was decided, but it was an opportunity, Ralph said, to get what he wanted: information from the community.
The other candidates in Windsor 1 are incumbent John Bartholomew (P, D) and Wesley Raney (R)