First National Forum on Sepsis Keynote Address – Senator Charles E. Schumer

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Below is the transcript of the keynote address given by Senator Charles Schumber at the First National Forum on Sepsis: Defeating the Killer, held in Washington DC, September 17, 2014.

“Hello everyone, thank you for being here today to discuss this extremely important topic on this historic day. Today is the first national forum on Sepsis and we are all here to forward this cause and press for action.

I am pleased to be here with Patrick Conway of CMS, Dr. Nirav Shah of Kaiser Permanente and former New York Health Commissioner, Dr. Frieden of the CDC, and all of the doctors, professionals and family members who have worked tirelessly to raise awareness about an issue that affects more children and adults than any of us could have imagined.

I want to especially thank Ciaran and Orla. I will talk more about this amazing family later, but, knowing them as I do, suffice it to say that I am not surprised to find such an impressive gathering of medical and public health leaders and professionals here to address our sepsis challenge.

Their tenacity, and passion, and intelligence is matched only by the depth of their selflessness and humanity. Thank you both for all you have done for this cause.

Now, I want you all to listen to a few numbers:

Each year, about one million people in the United States develop sepsis. In the past decade, sepsis has killed over four million Americans.

Not only is this a deadly disease, it is a costly one. According to the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the U.S. spends about $24 Billion – that’s billion with a “B” – each year on treating patients with sepsis, making it the most expensive cause of hospitalization in the country.

Too many families – far too many – are impacted by a loved one developing this devastating condition.

For too long – far too long – the only people beating the drum on sepsis awareness are the people in this room. That must change. That will change.

And it is already starting. At the insistent and inspirational prodding of Ciaran and Orla Staunton, New York has taken the lead in this fight and last year passed Rory’s Regulations, named after the beautiful boy you all saw earlier who tragically died from sepsis.

A word of praise here goes to Dr. Shah and to Governor Cuomo, who were courageous, bold and decisive when presented with the challenge of what to do to confront sepsis.

They didn’t study the problem to death; they took action to save lives and they promulgated Rory’s Regulations.

Rory’s Regulations require health care providers in New York to develop and implement protocols to rapidly diagnose and treat sepsis infections.

There’s no two ways about it…this will go a long way improving the rate at which we catch sepsis in its early stages. And for those of you who are familiar with the condition, early detection is one of the most important factors in treating, and ultimately curing, the illness.

We are trying to do the same at the federal level. My colleagues and I in Congress are working with stakeholders, as well our hosts the Rory Staunton Foundation, to do our part in combating this serious illness.

CMS has been engaged on this issue, as you have heard from Dr. Conway, and they are working on addressing the sepsis challenge. But like New York, we need real action, we need clear across the board protocols, and we need better methods of identifying and treating sepsis before it threatens lives.

I will also be working with CMS to ensure that they incorporate sepsis detection and reduction goals into their pay-for-performance programs.  (like Value-Based Purchasing and Accountable Care Organizations)

On top of a clear national protocol modeled on New York’s regulations, I believe that awareness, simple awareness, is such a crucial piece of the puzzle.

Ciaran and Orla have already done extraordinary work on this front. By telling the world their story – as unfathomably painful as that is — they have exponentially increased awareness of the lurking dangers of sepsis, and in so doing they have already altered and saved lives. They will never know those people, but the gift that their activism and passion have bequeathed to others is infinite.

And we must carry forward this message in a more coherent way. We must all do our part where we can.

That’s why I am introducing a resolution to designate September as “National Sepsis Awareness Month.”

It is my sincere hope that my colleagues will work with stakeholders in the Administration to help educate the public, doctors, hospitals and clinics about the early signs of sepsis so that no family has to experience the unfathomable loss of a loved one stolen too soon.

So I am going to push the Senate Appropriations Committee to direct some of the CDC’s funding to go specifically to sepsis awareness, outreach and education activities.

Again, we need real goals and deadlines and action to drive awareness and knowledge into every corner of the American health care system.

To close, I commend the efforts of the Rory Staunton Foundation for their tireless dedication to the issue.

I know this is personal for them. I can’t imagine how hard it is for them. But I wholly believe that their efforts that brought us all here today will save lives.

Rather than curse the darkness, Ciaran and his wife Orla chose to light a candle. And those of you who know Ciaran and Orla know that they are not just a candle, they are a beam of light. And their foundation, the Rory Staunton Foundation, is a beam of light for this cause.

It’s time we take up their cause at the federal level: to help increase awareness of sepsis nationwide; to establish clear national standards for early identification and prompt treatment of sepsis; and to dedicate more resources and energy to the implementation of early detection and treatment protocols. That will help save countless lives.

So we will continue pushing and we will continue working together, in honor of Rory, and the countless others who were unnecessarily lost to this devastating illness, to stop preventable deaths from sepsis.

Thank you again.”