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Opinion >  Guest Opinion

Dr. Michael Van Dyke: State has opportunity to improve Medicaid for children in trauma

By Dr. Michael Van Dyke Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital

I’ve had the opportunity to study and travel outside our state, but I’m a Washington kid. When I was wrapping up my medical training, I was excited that my hopes of returning to my home state would be possible when I saw an opening at Sacred Heart Children’s.

I was especially happy to earn the position because it would allow me the opportunity to focus on the area of care for which I am passionate: complex care of kids anywhere from newborns to teenagers. By working with our extensive medical team, I have the opportunity every day to provide care for kids and their families during what for many of them is the worst, most challenging experience of their lives.

The commitment to these vulnerable patients in our pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) should be reflected in public policy. We are proud of our excellent patient care and relentlessly dedicated to the well-being of our patients and believe our state has an opportunity to adjust our Medicaid system to better support how we provide care.

In Olympia, our state House and Senate have just released their budget proposals, which both include funding for this important adjustment. I am hopeful this approach remains included in the final budget for Governor Jay Inslee’s signature. Increasing the support of Washington’s Medicaid system will also help attract leading medical professionals to our community and allow us to upgrade our equipment sooner.

If a child is in our intensive care unit, their lives are already severely disrupted either by sudden trauma like a motor-vehicle collision or a chronic illness like asthma. A child in a car accident may have serious damage to their head and brain, multiple fractures in their body and a lung injury. This child is likely going to need several days of care in our hospital unit, maybe even require brain surgery, breathing assistance and long-term medical management once their health is stabilized. Our team is dedicated to supporting both the child and their family during this very challenging time and an adjustment to the Medicaid system that reflects the level of care needed for kids in our PICU will help us to sustain this work well into the future.

A traumatic injury is hopefully only a narrow window in the lives of the kids we see at Sacred Heart Children’s, but the committed work of our unit is an everyday, multiyear effort. Increasing the support for the Medicaid care we provide will allow us to make annual improvements to technology by upgrading our ventilators and monitoring equipment or increasing the number of physicians available to support kids and families on our all-star medical team.

I do not envy the intense policy debates that state lawmakers grapple with in Olympia. But I am hopeful we can find a way to increase support for Washington’s Medicaid system this year so we can continue to improve primary care in pediatric intensive care units across our state well into the future.

Dr. Michael Van Dyke is the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit Administrative Medical Director at Sacred Heart Children’s. Born in Chehalis, Dr. Van Dyke has practiced in Spokane for five years.

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