Submitted by Washington State Medical Association.
The Washington State Medical Association (WSMA), representing more than 11,000 physicians, physician assistants and medical students across Washington, is severely troubled by a proposal pending before the Pierce County Council to terminate the Interlocal Agreement between the City of Tacoma and Pierce County that established the joint Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. The first hearing on the resolution is Dec. 7 with a planned final vote scheduled for Dec. 15.
This action, contemplated during a public health state of emergency, is deeply concerning and part of a pattern we’ve seen across the state and the country, where public health professionals are becoming embroiled in differences of political opinion. Such actions distract public health officials from focusing their attention on the most significant health care crisis facing our communities. Public health professionals, physicians, nurses and other medical professionals have been on the frontlines of the worst pandemic in more than a century, with many of them experiencing intense political pressure and personal attacks.
The professionals at the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department are public servants seeking to do what their mission states – “to protect and improve the health of all people and places in Pierce County.” They use science and medical expertise to make their decisions. The WSMA commends the TPCHD and other public health professionals around the state for their tireless efforts to keep our communities safe.
We are all tired and weary after months of dealing with COVID-19. We are anxious and concerned for the viability of our health care system as we see a frightening surge in cases. We understand that millions of Washingtonians are struggling economically, and that mental health concerns are very real.
But if we are to get through this pandemic together, we must be guided by science and rely on the wisdom and leadership of those who have the medical expertise to best protect the public health. The Tacoma/Pierce County Health Department has been protecting the health of Pierce County’s residents since 1972.
The ordinance being considered by the Pierce County Council is hasty and poorly timed and could have negative consequences on public health. The WSMA strongly agrees with the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s response that “efforts that divide our attention from this critical public health response are an unfortunate distraction.”
In the upcoming state legislative session, we look forward to engaging with lawmakers to ensure that physicians and other health care professionals are adequately represented on boards of health, and that their operations are guided by public health principles and appropriately insulated from political influence.