AFT presses Senate to boost public health funding

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee held a full committee hearing on Nov. 12 regarding the federal response to the Ebola outbreak and the Obama administration’s request to Congress for emergency funding. The AFT, which represents 112,000 health professionals, including 84,000 registered nurses, submitted testimony urging the lawmakers to approve the request for $6.18 billion in emergency funds to fight Ebola.

“Preparedness and capacity have been a central focus of our healthcare members and leaders in the wake of the outbreak,” AFT President Randi Weingarten noted in the written testimony. The outbreak “highlights the need for greater investment in the U.S. public health infrastructure in order to strengthen the capacity of state and local public health departments to respond swiftly and effectively to developing emergencies.”

Funds that would help public health departments, hospitals and communities prepare for threats to public health have been slashed over the last decade; the shortsightedness of these divestments has complicated local efforts to respond effectively to crises as well as to ensure that nurses and health professionals have the training and equipment they need to keep themselves, patients and their communities safe.

In her written testimony, Weingarten also took the opportunity to once again urge the Senate to confirm Dr. Vivek Murthy as surgeon general. “In times of crisis, strong leadership is essential. As the ‘nation’s doctor,’ the surgeon general provides the public with clear evidence-based information and helps us discern fact from fiction during complex and emotional public health crises.”

Healthwire, Winter 2014
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