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Sorensen's listening tour to medical centers stops at OSF St. Joseph in Bloomington

A group of people in business attire stand together in the hallway of a hospital in front of a sign that reads OSF St. Joseph Medical Center
Lauren Warnecke
U.S. Rep. Eric Sorensen, center, met Friday with hospital administrators at OSF St. Joseph Medical Center — part of a listening tour to medical centers in the 17th Congressional District that includes parts of Bloomington and Normal.

Worker welfare and access to care were key takeaways for U.S. Rep. Eric Sorensen, who visited OSF St. Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington Friday as part of a listening tour of medical facilities across his district.

A key priority for Sorensen is increasing access to care, particularly for underserved communities.

“We need to make sure that more people in central Illinois have access to insurance so they can be seen,” said Sorensen, a first-term Democrat from Moline, whose district includes much of Bloomington-Normal.

Five people in business attire stand in circle talking to each other in an emergency room.
Lauren Warnecke
Sorensen's key takeaways from a visit to OSF Medical Center include access to care, including insurance, and the uptick in violence against health care workers.

Sorensen acknowledged there’s no simple solution to challenges within the health care industry.

“It’s going to take an all-of-the-above approach,” he said.

Sorensen toured OSF’s Emergency Department and met with hospital administrators, who noted an uptick in violence against health care workers.

According to the CDC, threats and verbal abuse have contributed to high rates of burnout, anxiety and depression among health care workers. Sorensen said mental health care for both patients and health care workers is one priority he'll take back to Washington.

“One thing that is congruent across this district is the fact that we need better access to mental health care,” he said. “We need to make sure that people have the ability to seek out and be connected to mental health care before there’s a crisis.”

Budget impasse

New health care initiatives cannot proceed, however, until Congress passes a budget. A second short-term spending bill this month avoided a government shut down, with key deadlines looming again in early March.

“We need to make sure we fund the government so we can appropriate the funds to our local projects,” said Sorensen. “I can’t do that right now.”

Sorensen pledged to work with Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson, who lauded concessions from Democrats in passing the recent stop gap measure. He has faced strong objections from members on the far right, who ousted the previous speaker, Kevin McCarthy, from the job.

“Eighty-five percent of members of Congress are there to do the right thing,” Sorensen said. “What we’re seeing today, unfortunately, are politics eroding our ability to get the job done.”

Israel-Hamas conflict

On another issue, key sticking points relate to immigration and military aid to Ukraine and Israel. Sorensen reiterated his support for Gaza as President Joe Biden faces increasing backlash from the far left about funding Israel’s response to the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas.

“Hamas must be taken out,” said Sorensen, but not at the expense of Palestinians. “We need to make sure that they have a state of their own,” he said, adding Palestinians are entitled to land, prosperity and a future.

The International Court of Justice recently chastised Israel, finding it “plausible” that its assault on Gaza violates the Genocide Convention.

“Secretary of State Blinken has done a masterful job in making sure that our American interests are sought out there,” Sorensen said.

Aid for Ukraine

Sorensen also is in favor of continuing to support Ukraine in its protracted war with Russia in order to avoid Russian encroachment on neighboring NATO allies.

“The is an investment in democracy,” said Sorensen. “If we’re to abandon Ukraine and allow Russia to just go through, Russia will go to Estonia. I as a member of Congress want to do everything I can to prevent American troops from having to fight against a nuclear Russia.”

Lauren Warnecke is a reporter at WGLT. You can reach Lauren at lewarne@ilstu.edu.
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