Published in the June 2009 issue of Today’s Hospitalist
SHE’S NOT A PHYSICIAN and has no form of medical training. She’s never worked in a hospital and has no corporate experience. But before the term “hospitalist” was even coined, Myra Rosenbloom launched a persistent campaign to change the way U.S. hospitals operate, particularly when it comes to having physicians in-house.
The 85-year-old from Munster, Ind., has spent more than 15 years campaigning for a law that would require hospitals with more than 100 beds to have a non-ED physician available to handle inpatient medical emergencies. It’s an issue she has been passionate about since her husband died in a hospital ICU 16 years ago.
She’s told her story hundreds, if not thousands, of times: After her husband was admitted to the hospital for an MI, he began experiencing chest pain. When she begged the nurse to find a doctor, she was told that there was no physician available to see her husband.
It was a Saturday night, and there were no physicians on-site. A code blue was eventually called, but Ms. Rosenbloom says that hours passed and help came too late.
She was shocked and then outraged to learn that hospitals weren’t required to have a nonemergency physician on staff at all times. To honor her husband’s memory, Ms. Rosenbloom made it her mission to help pass a law that would change that. Initially, she focused on passing legislation in a handful of Midwestern states and saw a version of her bill passed in Indiana. But Ms. Rosenbloom found a national ally in Rep. Janice Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who sponsored a federal version of the bill.
While the Physician Availability Act of 2008 never made it out of committee, Ms. Rosenbloom notes that the bill has been re-introduced into Congress this year as H.R. 2388. She spends most of her time giving interviews and telling her story to anyone who will listen, convinced that her experience will open up doors. Over the years, she’s talked to countless legislators, and some “but not all “have embraced her cause.
While Ms. Rosenbloom knows that the bill faces stiff opposition, she’s characteristically optimistic about its chances of passing. “Without physicians,” she says for emphasis, “hospitals are nothing more than expensive medical motels.”