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Letters to the editor

December 13, 2004
(Page 3 of 4)

I listened with interest as he described reforms, which he and his colleagues will be enacting in the areas of tort reform, financial relief, liability premiums, reimbursement and physician accountability. I then heard him knock down questions from the audience regarding specifics within those areas, giving the pat excuses as to why Good Samaritan laws and other reforms were not feasible. I think that there are a few things that he needs to understand.

I am one of seven surgeons who for years have been providing emergency vascular service through the Emergency Room at Washington County Hospital. This includes treatment of ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysms, in which time is of the essence. Fifty percent of the people who have a ruptured aneurysm do not arrive at the hospital alive. Of the others, there is in the area of a 50 percent mortality rate. There is not a lot of time to manage these patients.

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As I said, there have been seven surgeons performing this service in Hagerstown. As of Jan. 1, there will be three. This is directly associated with the liability crisis. In nearby Frederick, a group of five surgeons will close its doors on Jan. 1. Funding a stopgap measure as the only significant reform will not solve this problem. Three years from now, we will be sitting here having the same conversation.

There is no need to reinvent the wheel. There is no reason to make excuses for tried and true solutions, which have worked in other states including Indiana and California. Lives will be lost as a result of inaction by the state Senate. Caps on economic and noneconomic damages, expert witness qualification, Good Samaritan protection, and a health-care court have all worked in other states and will work here in Maryland if the Senate will put aside its partisan self interests and act on behalf of its constituents in good faith.

When it starts hitting the newspaper that lives are lost because the Senate has not acted, Miller and his colleagues will need to look in the mirror and say out loud, "It's my fault."

If the intent is to dare the physicians in Maryland to act, many doctors will be lost to other states. In our city alone, one general and vascular surgeon are leaving the state and another is retiring as a result of these events. If Miller does not act aggressively and show leadership, it will be too late for the citizens of Maryland to continue to receive the extraordinarily fine level of health care that they now enjoy. The citizens of Maryland have 24/7/365 coverage, even in small cities like Hagerstown, for most specialties in medicine. This will change Jan. 1 if Miller and his colleagues fail to act. I would hope that he would not let down the people who have elected him to office and showed great confidence in him over the last 30 years.

Daniel J. Weinberg
Hagerstown




Drug users are the problem


To the editor:

I read with interest the article featuring Police Chief Arthur Smith, and his on the drug problem in Hagerstown. A person must be living in a dream world to think that education is the key to alleviating the drug problem that this entire country is facing. The drug users in this town, and in the whole country, use illegal drugs because they like the feeling of being high, and for no other reason.

Yes, some are physically addicted, but long before that, they are psychologically addicted to the feeling that these substances give them - or maybe even just the peer pressure that makes them feel cool.

Oh sure, you can probably take teenagers to see the 40-year-old addict suffering from liver failure, or the 20-year-old comatose casual user who got a bad batch. But not enough will be scared straight, as these images will fade quickly when the next party opportunity comes along.

Proper law enforcement is the key to eliminating a major portion of the drug problem, but it must also be supported by the entire criminal justice system. I find it interesting that the police chief states that as long as there are people who want to buy drugs, there will always be a supplier. That is exactly right. So why does the government spend so much money prosecuting the drug dealers? It would make more sense to penalize the users.

Unfortunately, there are so many people using drugs that the prisons would not be able to hold them all. I used to picture the illegal drug user as a person lying on the sidewalk, living day to day, and fix to fix, unable to hold a job or function daily in life. As an employee in the health care field, my picture of a drug addict has changed drastically. I now realize that the casual users, such as your next door neighbor, your lawyer, your store clerk, salesman, accountant, secretary and even your teenager, are the ones who keep the dealers in business.

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