New Secretary of Health Announced

A message from Governor Inslee

Please join me in welcoming Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, as the new Secretary of Health, starting December 21, 2020. Dr. Shah is currently executive director and local health authority for Harris County Public Health in Texas. He has led the nationally accredited Harris County Public Health for the last seven years, managing 700 public health staff serving the 4.7 million residents in the nation’s third largest county. Before working for the county, he was chief medical officer of Galveston County Health District and has served as an emergency department physician at Houston’s DeBakey VA Hospital for over 20 years.

Dr. Shah comes into the position with extensive experience responding to public health crises and will help lead Washington state through the next crucial phase of this pandemic. He has helped lead Harris County through novel H1N1, Ebola, Zika and now COVID-19 and has responded to a variety of hurricanes and other emergencies.

Words cannot express my appreciation for John’s leadership over the last eight years.  And I am confident that Dr. Shah will continue to lead with the same dedication, resilience, and compassion that John has instilled at DOH. We are thrilled to have him on the team.
Thank you, 
Governor Inslee

A Special THANK YOU 

Thank you to Johnson & Johnson (J&J) for understanding the importance of providing unique and timely continuing medical education (CME) opportunities for our KCMS physician members.
J&J is sponsoring KCMS's CME efforts! We look forward to sharing those events regularly as they come up. 

KCMS Election Report

James Paribello, KCMS Lobbyist 

We are now two weeks removed from Election Day and can share some of the local outcomes. 

Here in King County, the KCMS-endorsed Harborview Medical Center Proposition 1 was approved by voters. This new funding package is planned to construct a new medical tower with single-bed rooms, a new emergency department, along with seismic retrofitting and other needed renovations. Plans also call for a new behavioral health facility.

King County ballots also included several charter amendments. Of those, two address the power of the Sheriff’s Office, making the sheriff an appointed position (as it was in years past). Both amendments were brought forth and organized by supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement who believe these measures will provide greater authority and accountability over the department by the council and can lead to greater policing and social service reforms.             

Keeping with the ballot measure theme, a statewide referendum to require the teaching of sexual health education to most students in Washington school districts also passed. Referendum 90 reinforces a bill passed by the Legislature last session. Opponents of the new law gathered enough signatures to get it on the ballot but Planned Parenthood led the effort to support it, and voters ultimately sided with the State by approving the measure 60-40 percent.

The bottom line for control of the state Legislature is: Governor Inslee has been re-elected with close to 60% of the vote and Democrats will retain their majorities in the House and Senate with margins identical to the current makeup. Senate Democrats will maintain a 28-21 majority and House Democrats will hold a 57-41 majority.

Other statewide races include:
Lt. Gov: Denny Heck (D) won over Marko Liias (D) comfortably
Secretary of State: Kim Wyman (R) (incumbent) defeated Gael Tarleton (D).
Attorney General: Bob Ferguson (D) retains his office over challenger, Matt Larkin (R).
Commissioner of Public Lands: Hilary Franz (D) retains her office over her challenger, Sue Pederson (R)
OSPI: Chris Reykdal (D) will retain his office over challenger Maia Espinoza (R).

As far as notable legislative races in King County: 
5th LD Senate seat: Incumbent Mark Mullet (D) leads Ingrid Anderson (D) by less than 100 votes. With votes still being counted and ballots being chased, it may take some time before this one is finalized. 
11th LD House seat: David Hackney (D) upset long-time incumbent Zack Hudgins (D) by a wide margin.

The next step that Olympia watchers like myself have their eyes on is the reorganization of the leadership and committee positions, which the elected members decide for their respective caucuses. When it comes to the House and Senate health care committees, it is expected that the two chairs, Rep. Eileen Cody and Sen. Annette Cleveland, will return to their positions. Beyond that, we may see a few new faces on each and will look forward to introducing them to KCMS and our priorities for the legislative session that begins (virtually) in January 2021.

Inslee Announces Statewide Restrictions for Four Weeks

Nancy L. Belcher, Ph.D. CEO, KCMS
Yesterday, WA confirmed a record 2,000 COVID cases in a single day. This explosive and exponential growth of the virus compels the Governor to act. KCMS does not take lightly the impact these restrictions will have on our physician members and local businesses, many of which have already endured major sacrifices and setbacks in 2020. 

Additional restrictions will go into effect in all WA counties, from midnight Monday, Nov 16 until Monday, Dec 14, 2020. Restaurant restrictions will go into effect at midnight, Tuesday, Nov 17, 2020. Access to medical services is imperative to maintaining the health and welfare of all our residents, so that our residents do not forego medically necessary care unnecessarily and put at risk their safety and welfare.
Governor's Covid Restrictions

‘No One Is Listening to Us’

More people than ever are hospitalized with COVID-19. Health-care workers can’t go on like this.

In the months since March, many Americans have habituated to the horrors of the pandemic. They process the election’s ramifications. They plan for the holidays. But health-care workers do not have the luxury of looking away: They’re facing a third pandemic surge that is bigger and broader than the previous two.

Why COVID-19 Might Get Worse in Winter, Just Like Flu

Risk and severity of infection, the host and the environment could all play a role.

Grandma's adage that you can catch the flu from the cold weather is not without merit. This association is undoubtedly evident for COVID-19, whose incidence is predicted to continue to increase exponentially as winter approaches.
MedPage Today Article

Doctors Are Quitting Under Covid-19 Stress

An Article from Sermo

For many physicians, the pandemic has tipped the scale of work stress to an unbearable level. Medical practices are swiftly closing—as doctors and nurses choose to retire early or shift to different careers.

The New York Times reports, “Thousands of medical practices have closed during the pandemic, according to a July survey of 3,500 doctors by the Physicians Foundation, a nonprofit group. About 8 percent of the doctors reported closing their offices in recent months, which the foundation estimated could equal some 16,000 practices. Another 4 percent said they planned to shutter within the next year.

Other doctors and nurses are retiring early or leaving their jobs. Some worry about their own health because of age or a medical condition that puts them at high risk. Others stopped practicing during the worst of the outbreaks and don’t have the energy to start again. Some simply need a break from the toll that the pandemic has taken among their ranks and their patients.

Another analysis, from the Larry A. Green Center with the Primary Care Collaborative, a nonprofit group, found similar patterns. Nearly a fifth of primary care clinicians surveyed in September say someone in their practice plans to retire early or has already retired because of Covid-19, and 15 percent say someone has left or plans to leave the practice.

The clinicians also painted a grim picture of their lives, as the pandemic enters a newly robust phase with record case counts in the United States. About half already said their mental exhaustion was at an all-time high. Many worried about keeping their doors open: about 7 percent said they were not sure they could remain open past December without financial help…

The coronavirus crisis has amplified problems that doctors were already facing, whether they own their practice or are employed. ‘A lot of physicians were hanging on by a thread from burnout before the pandemic even started,’ said Dr. Susan R. Bailey, the president of the American Medical Association.

In particular, smaller practices continue to have difficulty finding sufficient personal protective equipment, like gloves and masks. ‘The big hospitals and health care systems have pretty well-established systems of P.P.E.,’ she said, but smaller outfits might not have a reliable source. ‘I was literally on eBay looking for masks,’ she said. The cost of these supplies has also become a significant financial issue for some practices.

Doctors are also stressed by the never-ending need to keep safe. ‘There is a hunker-down mentality now,’ Dr. Bailey said. She is concerned that some doctors will develop PTSD from the chronic stress of caring for patients during the pandemic…”
King County Medical Society is thrilled to announce the, “Racial Disparities in Practicing Medicine” CME.

Join us on December 12th for a virtual CME that will provide you with an informative panel of speakers, the opportunity to learn about the racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare, and ask questions.

For more information, visit our website or email us at 
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