NCJW Celebrates Year’s Accomplishments

[Archived from September 25, 2009]

[by Shiela Steinman Wallace]

National Council of Jewish Women, Louisville Section’s opening meeting at Jewish Hospital’s Rudd Heart and Lung Conference Center on Monday, September 21, was a celebration of last year’s accomplishments, an invitation to be part of the organization this year and an educational opportunity to learn about health care for the perspective of a medical professional.

Section President Leni Sweet welcomed the crowd of nearly 100 members and reiterated the organization’s history and purpose. “We are a grassroots organization of volunteers and advocates who turn progressive ideals into action,” she said. “Inspired by Jewish values, NCJW strives for social justice by improving the quality of life for women, children and families and by safeguarding individual rights and freedoms.”

She highlighted some of the Section’s most recent accomplishments – a summer camp program for children living with cancer at Gilda’s Club and the recent fund-raiser for the Domestic Violence Intake Center in the Jefferson County Hall of Justice, during which $100,000 was raised to set up and equip the center. Sweet credited the committee conveners, Connie Fox, Diane Graeter, Susan Ely, Glenda Bradshaw, Jane Emke and herself, for recruiting “a huge committee to get the ball rolling.”

Sweet also drew attention to some of NCJW’s ongoing programs: Shopping Spree, help for college students through the Student Loan Fund, support of the Jewish Family & Career Services Meyer Food Pantry and the Home of the Innocents, and the advocacy work of NCJW’s State Public Affairs liaison.

The Nearly New Shop, the Louisville Section’s primary fund-raiser, requires many volunteers, and Sweet pointed out they need gently used donations, especially furs. She also encouraged those present to be among the hundreds of volunteers needed to make this year’s Fashion Encore Sale, coming October 18 and 19, a success.

The Gilda’s Club Camp project was so successful and rewarding for those involve with it that Judy Shapira, the project chair, made a special presentation about it. The slide show of smiling faces left everyone feeling good. The campers, 35 children, age 6-11, “are living with cancer,” she said, “either their own, their parent’s or a sibling’s or with bereavement from the loss of a loved one. They came together to share their experiences and join in some serious fun.”

The camp program included fun and games, doughnuts and other foods, a time to ask questions of doctors and a time to give back to the community by putting together a carnival. Some of their questions were poignant, Shapira reported: “Is it my fault my brother got cancer?’ “Is my mommy going to die?”

The program “helped remind the children that life does go on with its usual demands and that they needed time to bring balance into their lives – because after all, they are still children.”

Shapiro observed the volunteers got as much out of the week as the campers. “Perhaps the best reward,” she said, “was a spontaneous hug and a request to have camp every week.”

The meeting’s featured speaker was Deborah K. Molnar, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s HealthCare. In her address, Health Care – Where Do We Go from Here, Molnar explored some of the details of the health care reform debate.

“Health care,” she said, “must be safe, effective and affordable,” and that is why the issue must be addressed now.

Health care has changed dramatically. Twenty years ago, Dr. Layman Gray performed the first heart transplant. Today, he is working on a patch that will allow the heart to regenerate muscle damaged by a heart attack. In the not-too-distant future, ventricular assist devices that are used to keep patients alive until donor hearts can be found, will soon become temporary bridges used only as patients’ hearts heal themselves.

Advances like this and others are costly to develop. The challenge we face is maintaining the funds necessary for ongoing research and providing equitable, affordable health care for patients.

Molnar set forth a few ideas that might help – coordinating care amongst health care providers so costly diagnostic tests are not repeated unnecessarily and every member of the medical team helping a patient has full information. She advocated storing data on plastic cards so the patient can bring treatment, test and medication information to all providers.

She also called for overhauling the current system of reimbursement that incentivizes hospitals to move patients out quickly and incentivizes primary care providers to keep patients in hospitals longer.

Patients need health care advocates, too, she stated – people who understand “how to maneuver the health care system.” They also have to ask questions.

Today, a heavy burden falls on hospitals, Molnar explained. Last year, Jewish Hospital provided $30 million in charity care. For every Medicare patient the hospital treats, only 78 percent of its costs are covered. For Medicaid patients, the percentage falls to 64 percent. Cutting the reimbursement rates for hospitals, as has been proposed by some, Molnar said, “could be devastating.”

Another part of the problem is the high incidence of chronic illness like heart disease, cancer and diabetes in Kentucky. Preventive care and early treatment can dramatically reduce costs.

Molnar also called for tort reform. Today, the threat of malpractice suits is so great that many physicians either stop doing risky procedures or practice preemptive medicine, ordering unnecessary tests to limit their exposure to suits.

She encouraged those present to become informed on the issue and to become advocates for health care reform.

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