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Health concerns shared at Chambersburg forum

April 01, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Health care and the environment dominated the discussion Thursday night at a forum sponsored by the Pennsylvania Rural Development Council.

"Our mission ... is to help remove the impediments to rural development and rural people's access to social development," Council Executive Director William Sturges told the approximately 60 people who attended the forum in Chambersburg's recreation center.

This was the second of seven forums being held in rural Pennsylvania communities to hear the comments and concerns of citizens and organizations, he said.

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With about 2,500 employees and a $100 million payroll, Summit Health is the largest employer in the county, its president Norman Epstein said. He criticized Gov. Rendell's proposal to cut $382 million from Medicaid, including $138 million in cuts directly related to hospital care.

He likened the proposals to "Third World medicine."

Supporters of Chambersburg Midwifery Services, which recently had its contract with Keystone Health Center terminated, asked for help in getting it renewed. "We really want that as an option in this area," said Kathy Cooper.

Keystone President Joanne Cochran said the collaborative agreement was ended because Keystone physicians were providing prescriptions for patients of the service without having actually examined them. Pennsylvania is one of two states that does not allow midwives to prescribe medications, she said.

Gary Weidman, the director of behavioral health at Keystone, said the area has inadequate access to psychiatric services and Dr. Kevin Hicks of Keystone Dental Care said children in need of pediatric dentistry have to be sent as far away as Pittsburgh for treatment.

Charlene Gingrich, a nurse with Keystone, said some patients must walk long distances for an appointment because there is no public transportation.

DeEtta Antoun of Citizens for a Quality Environment asked the state to reverse its decision to close the county office of the Department of Environmental Protection later this year.

"Franklin County has been and is being shellacked" on environmental issues, said attorney Tom Linzey. Those include factory farms, sewage sludge on farmland and a proposed quarry in St. Thomas Township, he said.

Local governments and citizens could have even less control over the environment with the governor's plan for the protection of Agriculture, Communities and the Rural Environment, or ACRE, he said. The plan would create an Office of Ordinance Review that Linzey said could have the power to overturn decisions by local elected officials.

Information from this and the other forums around the state is to be included in the council's strategic plan and submitted to the governor.

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