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No Good: Deregulation of Respiratory Therapists in Texas

Monday, June 30, 2014

Last week, I learned of a recent recommendation by the Texas Sunset Commission that Respiratory Therapists (RCP's) in Texas should be de-licensed or, as they stated, be "discontinued". 

According to San Antonio's News4, "The Sunset Advisory Commission reviewed the Department of State Health Services advisory programs and found the agency's regulatory functions are 'unmanageable' because of the expansion of regulatory responsibilities and shrinking resources. The commission recommends eliminating 19 regulatory programs because they 'duplicate existing safeguards... and could be safely eliminated.'"

I found out about this issue last week when a Texas CF Foundation (CFF) chapter's Executive Director turned to me, in my position of the CFF's Northeast Texas Advocacy Chair, to see what we could do.  Apparently, a Respiratory Therapist who works at a north Texas hospital with CF patients had originally contacted her to see if she and the CF Foundation could help fight this recommendation.


Having not yet heard of this movement to deregulate the very vital Respiratory Care Therapists that my son uses at the CF Clinic, I contacted the CF Foundation's Public Policy team to see what they thought.


Within 24 hours, I received a call from the CF Foundation's Public Policy team asking if I could attend a very important meeting in Austin the next day, in order to speak on behalf of the CF Foundation and the CF community it represents.  The CF Foundation was very concerned about the potential of de-regulating Respiratory Therapists and the potential harm it would do to the health of CF patients.


Although I wasn't able to attend, a Respiratory Therapist who works at for Dell Children's Hospital in Austin went on our behalf.  She read a letter from the Foundation (see below) and was able to get the CFF's strong opposition to this suggestion on record with the committee.  


I have included the the letter that was read at the Advisory Commission meeting on Wednesday, June 26 in Austin:








A few of the important statements to note include:

"We [the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation] are greatly concerned that the Sunset Commission’s 
recommendation will have a negative impact on patients relying on RCPs.

"Medical mistakes are a major 
cause of mortality in the US. The complexity of the current healthcare system, the speed with which new drugs and treatment options reach the market, the technical expertise required of RCPs demands that multiple layers of oversight exist. The only consistent oversight required of all RCPs occurs through licensure/regulation by the Department of State Health Services (DSHS). 


"Our [the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's] recommendation is not to deregulate RCPs’, but for the Respiratory Care Practitioners program to either remain with the DSHS or to be transferred to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR)."


Several years ago, I volunteered to be a part of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's Advocacy program.  Each Spring, I meet with other Advocacy Chairs in Washington DC to help lobby for the needs of those with Cystic Fibrosis.

But, it wasn't until this specific situation that I observed just how vital the CF Foundation's Advocacy program is to our CF Community.  Despite how amazing our Public Policy team at the CF Foundation is, they cannot stay on top of all of the very small changes that are happening on the state-level with regard to healthcare.  This is why CF advocates are vitally important.


As CF parents, our eyes are on our children's health and on the potential life-changing medications that continue to move out of the labs and through clinical trials.  For me, there is a tendency to think that that's all to which we really need to pay attention.  


But with continued changes in the healthcare laws, as CF parents and CF advocates, we must also pay attention to the small changes that are happening in our government as they have the potential to dictate much change for the way our children undergo care.


Thankfully, due to strong representation of Respiratory Care Therapists in support of licensure, the commission is planning to hold the recommendation to de-license until further review.  Apparently, there will be a subcommittee lead by Representative Four Price, to research licensure options outside of DSHS.


I will continue to follow this on-going issue that would have a significant impact on CF patients in Texas.  


But I encourage CF families and advocates in other states to pay attention to similar changes happening in their states.  Michigan has seen a similar proposal in their state.

And, for those who have not already signed up to receive updates through the CFF's Advocacy Action Alerts, I encourage people to sign up here.  We need more eyes and ears caring for our CF community.

Last weeks' meeting is evidence that our voices do matter.

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