I reached Bruce Siegel, MD, MPH, on his cell phone as he walked in Washington D.C., and in our 20-minute conversation, we probably used the term "safety net" more than any other, referring to the far-reaching oversight of the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems where he is incoming CEO.
Oh, those safety nets, tattered and torn: amidst economic recession, budget cutbacks, and many more patients in need. Dr. Siegel, are the nets going to hold?
Well, maybe. Surely if Siegel has his way, the safety nets will definitely hold, and become stronger, but there is a long journey ahead and he's just beginning. He is soon to become head of the group that represents 140 metropolitan hospitals and health systems under the NAPH umbrella, which provides "high volumes of care to low income people, the uninsured, the underserved, regardless of ability to pay." In taking his new position in October, Siegel will become the first African-American to lead a major hospital association and, in his words, be a "tireless advocate" for safety net hospitals.
Siegel comes to NAPH from George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, where he served as director of the Center for Health Care Quality and as professor of health policy at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services.
"It's exciting and it's a little intimidating," Siegel told the GW Hatchet, the campus paper. "The only thing I can say is I'm going to do the very best job and I'm going to do it for the patients.
Siegel says one of the biggest tasks he faces is the challenge imposed by the upcoming 23 million Americans who potentially may join the health insurance rolls in the wake of healthcare reform. While expanding health insurance is terrific, the access won't be enough, he says. Unless there are available doctors for them in the community, Siegel says, noting the lack of primary care physicians, for instance, it's not going to mean much.