Doctors' protest alarms many

October 03, 2004|by JULIE E. GREENE

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Sympathetic or not with local physicians' plight with skyrocketing malpractice insurance costs, several local residents said Saturday they don't support a decision to stop performing elective surgeries.

"That does not sound very good," said Barbara Burger, 61, of Williamsport. "I know the costs of insurance is very high, but truly, health should come first."

"I'm sure if it affected them or their families, they might think differently," Burger said.

In late September, several Washington County physicians' groups said they will stop performing nonemergency surgery on Nov. 15 because of increasing malpractice insurance rates. It is not clear how long the protest action is to continue.


The doctors are pushing for a special General Assembly session on medical malpractice.

Examples of elective, or nonemergency, surgeries include hernias, gallbladders, breast biopsies and colonoscopies.

"That's their choice. Someone's gotta end this malpractice business ... People have to just stop suing to sue," said Megan Vecchio, 26, of Hagerstown.

"I'm kind of back and forth because I think the insurance rates are so high and people are so quick to sue," said Katie Jarrell, 24, of Boonsboro.

"The doctors are between a rock and a hard place," Jarrell said. "On the other hand, I don't think it's reason to stop doing electives."

Kathy Brenneman, 54, of Boonsboro, said she feels sorry for the doctors.

"In this area, it's hard enough to get a doctor, a good one," Brenneman said. She fears lawsuits and high insurance rates could drive doctors away from the area.

"Then, people will moan and groan because they'll have to go to the big cities," Brenneman said.

Brenneman wasn't the only one worried about losing local doctors.

"I think they ought to have people stop suing" for outlandish amounts because the area could lose some good physicians, said Jane Knode, 77, of Williamsport. "I don't blame the doctors in a way."

The situation isn't good for anybody involved, said Calvin Bailey, 48, who lives outside Hagerstown.

"It's just going to put more burden on the hospitals," Bailey said. "The malpractice insurance, obviously with the skyrocketing, it's going to cost us all money, make our insurance go up."

"I agree malpractice has gotten high, but I don't know. I would think the Hippocratic oath would solve the problem," said Van Conway, 66, of Hagerstown. "But I do agree it's gotten out of hand, the malpractice suits."

Others had little sympathy for the doctors.

"That's wrong, totally wrong," said Jim Duffey, 56, of Hagerstown. "It's their job. How can you just select out people who you feel need surgery and who doesn't? They get paid good money (to) do their job. That's the way I look at it."

"I feel like that's messed up," said Tony Swann, 25, of Hagerstown.

Marilyn Young, 69, of Hagerstown, was shocked to hear of the upcoming stoppage of elective surgeries.

"I think it's terrible, just terrible," Young said.

Darlene Bowman of Hagerstown described the surgeons' protest as sad.

"What are people supposed to do? Go to another state to have things done when they're ill?" Bowman, 43, asked. "Wow."

"I think that's wrong because you do have people out here with problems like that. ... Anything you go in there for, you should get fair treatment," said Robert Mitchell, 42, of Hagerstown.

Joseph Vines, 38, of Hagerstown, said, "They need to get the current doctors to do the right thing so they won't get lawsuits."

Staff writer Tara Reilly contributed to this story.

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