Get Smart

Should there be a doctor in the (State) House?

BOSTON, MA - 4/05/2018: Massachusetts State House (David L Ryan/Globe Staff ) SECTION: METRO TOPIC stand alone photo
David L. Ryan/Globe Staff
Massachusetts State House.

Does the Massachusetts State House need a full-time doctor or other medical professional on the premises, as it once had?

Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives believes such a position is necessary. The Newburyport Democrat says that with the high number of visitors, along with employees, there needs to be a faster medical response rate in case of emergencies.

“To me, it’s common sense,” O’Connor Ives said in a recent interview.


Her main goal is to “ensure that if accidents happen at the State House, and seconds matter, that there’s someone there on site equipped to respond,” she said.

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She cites two recent cases: a visitor who fell in the Senate gallery and a court officer who needed medical attention in the House chamber lobby. O’Connor Ives said that in the case of the injured officer, it took more than 20 minutes for medical personnel to arrive.

Her proposal (first reported by State House News Service) did not receive enough support during recent state budget negotiations, but she remains hopeful. She said several lawmakers support the concept.

The State House once had a doctor on-site, but the position was eliminated more than a decade ago because of budget cuts.

Questions were raised over the necessity of the previous State House physician, Dr. Raymond Gibbs, in the late ‘90s. Gibbs, who earned $93,000 a year, was said to have spent most of his time “dispensing Band-Aids and aspirin,” the Boston Herald reported in 2001.


Many viewed the position as a classic example of government waste, and it was eliminated.

O’Connor Ives’ idea is to have a medical professional, perhaps a nurse practitioner, on site at the State House during business hours. Unlike the previous doctor, who filled a role more similar to an in-house physician for staff and legislators, the new position would be “more of the school nurse model, for triaging individual emergency situations that are happening on a regular basis,” she said.

The medical professional would ideally decide the proper protocol for each medical situation, provide short-term diagnoses, administer first aid, and stay by the patient’s side in the event that paramedics are called.

O’Connor Ives, who said recently she would not run for reelection, said she plans to take up the initiative again later this year by filing an amendment to the supplemental budget.

Margeaux Sippell can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @MargeauxSippell