Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pre-School in Keokuk, Washington and Thornburg

It has been far too long since I've written. Since our last trip across the state, we have been busy in Des Moines finishing up the bills that the Governor had to sign. And once that was done, my husband John and I took a few days off, and headed down to one of our favorite vacation spots - Honey Creek Resort at Lake Rathbun.

But now, we are back at work, and this week, we hit the road to highlight preschools.

But before we could leave, I went to the funeral of a dear friend and mentor - Ed Campbell. Ed and his wife Bonnie have been great friends and supporters throughout my career, and its hard to imagine democratic politics without him. The service yesterday was a fitting tribute to him. It featured former President Clinton and many other speakers who payed tribute to this larger than life Iowan, and I know his legacy will last long after he is gone.

After the funeral, we went southeast. And after another good nights stay at the Kingsley Inn in Fort Madison, we began our day with a stop at Hawthorn Preschool in Keokuk, where I helped the students read a book about a precocious groundhog and his love of fuzz. (Before leaving the children and I had also decorated ourselves in green fuzz.) We then went to Washington, where I read a book to the kids while they ate lunch. And finally, at Tri-County Schools in Thornburg, I helped students during their "centers" time and watched as they did educational activities.

I have visited about 20 preschools in the last six months, and let me tell you, I have seen growth in the four year old students during that time. These kids are smart. Each time I walk into one of the classrooms, I am amazed at what comes out of these little four year olds mouths. I learn something new everytime.

Now, some foks are saying that we should cut this program and use that money to give tax breaks to corporations.

Well, I think they need to get out to schools like Keokuk, Washington, and Tri-County to see the great work that is going on.

I can tell you, that as long as Chet Culver is Governor and I am Lt. Governor, we will always fight for the necessary funding to ensure that every child has access to quality, affordable preschool.

Well, after another good trip, its back to Des Moines. Next week, the Governor and I are kicking off our announcement tour, and I'm sure I will have a dispatch or two from the road.

Until next time,


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Perry - Healthcare at the Dallas County Hospital

Our next stop brought us to Perry and the Dallas County Hospital. This was my first time at this facility, and I must say, it is very impressive.

This is the last of our stops as part of our tour this week, and I have been really impressed with the excitement and passion that people have for this issue.

Every community in Iowa has a story to tell and the story here in Perry is one of progress. Five years ago, the hospital completed a new addition that is helping to meet the health care needs of the community.

Last fall, I traveled up here to celebrate the new DMACC Perry Campus that is helping students receive a quality education.

Everytime I am in Perry, I am always impressed with how this community is moving forward, and I can see why Perry is a great place to live.

Now Perry is in the rear view mirror but we don't get to go home yet. Tonight, I am being honored by the Iowa Public Health Association as their Public Health Official of the Year. I am truly humbled to receive this award, and I will be accepting it on behalf of everyone in state government and on the local level who have helped achieve the health care successes we have seen in Iowa.

After that, its going home, and to bed. We will be hitting the road next week - this time talking about another subject near and dear to my heart - renewable energy.

Until next time,


Boone - Healthcare at the Boone County Memorial Hospital

We are just leaving Boone after a very enjoyable visit.

We got to town with some time to spare, so we went grabbed a bite to eat at a restaurant called the Giggling Goat. I had a very delicious, healthy salad.

After lunch, we still had some time, so we visited a very nice antique shop called Iron Horse Antiques. It is owned and operated by a former state employee who retired a few years ago. I was able to pick up a few Haviland bowls that match a pattern I am collecting, and even Troy found something. Unfortunately, our trooper, Mike, who is with us on this trip didn't find anything - because he didn't go in. Apparently he is allergic to antique stores. Oh well, he doesn't know what he is missing.

With our treasures secured safely in White Beauty, we moved on to our event at the Boone County Memorial Hospital.

Rejoining the tour was Tom Newton, who skipped this morning for the Public Health Conference in Ames. And meeting me in Boone was Rep. Donovan Olson, another hardworking member of the legislature who has been a great partner in our health care efforts.

We did our event in the main entrance to the hospital, and in the atrium were about two dozen little chairs all painted and decorated differently. I asked what they were for, and they told me it is a fundraiser they are doing, and they are calling it a "CHAIR-ity". Some of them are really cute, and I thought about bidding on one but unfortunately, I had to hit the road.

But this fundraiser and all the little chairs symbolize the community support that rural hospitals enjoy. Community hospitals are critically important to the health of our state. As someone who used to work in a small, rural hospital, I know that these facilities are a source of pride for a community.

It is not easy for these hospitals. They often times have a hard time finding and funding qualified staff. And it is often difficult to make ends meet.

That is why the Governor and I have worked hard to prevent cuts in medicaid reimbursements, which are vitally important to supporting these institutions.

And with federal health care reform, there is some hope that we will be able to address the problems of Iowa's chronically low federal medicare reimbursement rates.

We are going to keep on doing whatever we can to help support these community hospitals and ensure they continue to meet the health needs of Iowans.

Well, we have one more event in Perry before our conference in Ames this evening.

Until next time,


Another Sign of Spring!

We are driving in rural Boone County, and we just saw our first corn planter in the field. With the mercury at 75, the sun shining bright, and now this, Spring really is here!


Webster City - Healthcare @ Hamilton Hospital

Our second stop today brought us to Webster City and a visit to Hamilton Hospital.

It was great to be back in Webster City, and visit with folks there. Joining me was my good friend Senator Rich Olive, who has been a great voice for the people of this state.
One of the things Rich was instrumental in helping to pass was the Healthy Kids Act.

We have a very serious problem with childhood obesity in our country. For the first time in history, the life expectancy of our children is shorter than the generation before it. And we are starting to see Type II diabetes in kids, which was just unheard of a few years ago. When I was studying nursing (more than a few years ago!) Type II diabetes was known as an old persons disease. But today, because our kids diets are so bad, it is now developing in children.

So, as a former nurse, I am very concerned about this problem and have worked to try and reverse these trends. I was so proud when we passed the Healthy Kids Act two years ago.

This legislation removes the soda and junk food machines from our schools. I believe its time that we stop buying new scoreboards for our schools with the profits from feeding our children junk food.

The Healthy Kids Act also requires that kids get a certain amount of exercise each week. This legislation is helping to teach children the value of healthy living, and it is one of the things I am most proud of during my time in office.

Well, after leaving the current Hamilton hospital, we drove by the new hospital being built here in Webster City. Its always great to see new hospitals being built in a rural community. These buildings are more than just health care facilities. They demonstrate the commitment of the community to their health and well-being.

We are back on the road. This time to Boone.

Until next time,


Mason City - Healthcare @ the Cerro Gordo County Free Clinic

The second day of our two day swing through North Iowa started in Mason City. And we started at a place that is doing some great work - the Cerro Gordo County Free Clinic.

And joining me for a second time on this tour was Sen. Amanda Regan. Amanda is one of the hardest-working members of the legislature, and has been a great partner with me and the Governor in our efforts to improve the health of Iowans. So, I was happy to have her join me again this morning.

Several years ago, some local citizens, led by city council member Scott Tornquist, recognized there was a lack of medical services in the community for those without medical insurance coverage and an over use of the hospital emergency room as a medical provider. So, they did research to see what needs existed, and in the end, decided the community needed a free clinic.
After years of hard work, the clinic finally opened its doors last November.

This clinic is a real Iowa success story. Family practice doctor Lori Lindstrom donated the office space. Mercy Hospital and other providers donated supplies. Eleven doctors volunteer their time every Saturday. And the media has helped spread the word - including Amy Fleming, a member of the clinic's board of directors and an anchor on local station KIMT. The community has really come together to make it a success.

As a result of their work, many citizens in Mason City and Cerro Gordo County who don't have health insurance not only have a place to meet immediate medical needs, they now have a "medical home." This is an old, yet new, concept in medicine. It is the idea that everyone should have a clinic or a doctor that is the same time and time again. By doing so, it helps bring greater continuity to medicine, and improves service and care.

This clinic is really filling a void that exists in this community, and I was happy to come and see for myself the work they are doing.

Well, the show keeps on trucking. Next stop - Webster City.

Until next time,


Monday, April 12, 2010

Charles City - Talking Healthcare @ the Floyd County Memorial Hospital

We just left Charles City after a visit to the Floyd County Memorial Hospital.

It was a great way to end the day, with a nice chat with the staff and administrators of the hospital.

When I was a nurse, I worked in a hospital that wasn't all that different from FCMH. For a dozen years, I worked at the Monroe County Hospital, a small 50 bed hospital in my hometown of Albia.

It was a challenging, yet rewarding job. And in the years since I left, nursing has remained a rewarding career, but it unfortunately has become more challenging. Nursing salaries have remained unchanged in Iowa for years, leading to fewer people entering the profession, and fewer people able to fill these critically important roles.

So, two years ago, the Governor asked me to lead a task force to look at nursing issues. And at the end of that process, we produced a roadmap for addressing the problems facing Iowa's nurses.

We are slowly making progress in implementing this report. The economic recession has certainly made that process more difficult. But I am proud to say that this year we passed legislation creating the nursing workforce center at Iowa Workforce Development. This center will help collect data, and make sure that lawmakers have the information they need to help tackle this problem.

Iowa's nurses are some of the most important public servants in our state. I know this. The Governor knows this. And we will not stop working to see that the quality of life for our nurses improves, and that they are paid the wages and shown the respect they deserve.

Well, we are now heading west to Mason City for the night before we head out for another day of travel. Check back tomorrow for more of my adventures from the road.

Until next time,