NEWLY FORMED WOMEN’S LEGISLATIVE CAUCUS TO SHINE A SPOTLIGHT ON WOMEN’S HEALTHCARE DISPARITIES

Hearing Scheduled for Monday Will Explore Doctor Shortage, Lack of Access and the Contributing Factors Impacting Women’s Health

(TRENTON) — The newly formed, bipartisan, bicameral Women’s Legislative Caucus will hold a hearing next week to explore the increasing lack of access to healthcare services for women.

The hearing will take place on Monday, June 7, at 1:00 p.m. in Committee Room 11 of the State House Annex.

The Women’s Legislative Caucus was conceived as a means to facilitate a productive dialogue among the 34 female members of the Legislature, spanning both parties and both houses, in order to address issues that directly impact women, and their children and families. The caucus is helmed by four co-chairs representing each party and each chamber: Senator Loretta Weinberg, Senator Diane Allen, Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer and Assemblywoman Amy Handlin. At its first formal meeting on April 29, members unanimously decided that women’s healthcare should be its first priority given the abundance of statistics illustrating a decline in access to care for women.

A recent report from the New Jersey Council of Teaching Hospitals indicates that 62 percent of doctors finishing their residency in New Jersey plan to find work out of state. Based on this retention rate, the council predicts that New Jersey could face a shortfall of over 3,200 physicians within the next 10 years. This shortfall may disproportionately impact women in light of the fact that professions such as OB-GYN and pediatrics have the lowest retention rates of any physician subspecialty, with 7 percent and 12 percent respectively.

“As our representation in the Legislature grows, it’s important that we take advantage of the opportunity we have to lend a voice to women, their families and their children,” said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen), the Senate Democratic co-chair. “As the chair of the Senate Health Committee, access to healthcare for women is an issue that is of paramount importance to me. I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues to shine a light on the root of the problem and formulate constructive solutions as we move forward.”

“When I was first elected to the New Jersey Legislature, there were far fewer women serving. It was sometimes difficult to get the legislative agenda to include issues pertaining to women, children and families,” said Senator Allen (R-Burlington/Camden), the Senate Republican co-chair. “While that has been changing over the years, we now, as an active and vibrant women’s legislative caucus, can help set the agenda ourselves. Our first hearing makes it clear that woman’s health is an issue that must be on everyone’s agenda, and that it is imperative that we find solutions to the problems of access.”

“We know that New Jerseyans are facing a healthcare provider shortage, especially when it comes to healthcare given to women and mothers,” said Assemblywoman Spencer (D-Essex), the Assembly Democratic co-chair. “What we don’t know is why this is happening. Working with residents and members of the medical and insurance industries, we hope to find not just the reasons behind the provider shortage but ways to reduce or reverse it.”

“We are a group of legislators who are committed to trying a new approach to doing the public’s business. The issue of healthcare is near and dear to all of our hearts on both sides of the aisle and in both houses. I believe this hearing is an ideal opportunity for the caucus to begin flexing its muscle on behalf of all of the citizens of New Jersey,” said Assemblywoman Handlin (R-Middlesex/Monmouth), the Assembly Republican co-chair.

The caucus hopes to use the hearing as an opportunity to explore, among other things:

  • the impediments to practicing medicine in New Jersey;
  • the disparities in access to care among the different regions of New Jersey;
  • whether the state is optimizing available federal funding for graduate medical education;
  • the competitiveness of New Jersey’s Medicaid reimbursement rates; and
  • the impact that the new federal healthcare reform law may have on health services in New Jersey.

Expected to testify at the hearing are:

  • Dr. Sharon Mass of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists/NJ Section;
  • Dr. Shelley Greenman of the American College of Emergency Physicians/NJ Chapter;
  • Deborah Briggs, Vice President of the New Jersey Council of Teaching Hospitals;
  • Dr. Denise Rodgers, Provost & Executive Vice President of UMDNJ;
  • Geri L. Dickson, Ph.D., R.N., Executive Director of the New Jersey Collaborating Center for Nursing of Rutgers College;
  • Molly Walker from the Horizon Health Center in Jersey City, representing the NJ Primary Care Association;
  • Lonnie Morris, CNM, President of the NJ Chapter of the American College of Nurse Midwives;
  • Georgia Blair, CNM, MSN, Secretary of the NJ Chapter of the American College of Nurse Midwives; and
  • Dina Aurichio of the NJ Chapter of Certified Nurse Midwives.

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