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Patients protest doctor's dismissal from Hancock health center

Administrator won't comment on firing of Hahn, recipient of Maryland's Outstanding Rural Health Practitioner Award

Administrator won't comment on firing of Hahn, recipient of Maryland's Outstanding Rural Health Practitioner Award

May 14, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HANCOCK -- Patients of a popular doctor known to make house calls are protesting his dismissal from the Tri-State Community Health Center in Hancock.

"We've been putting the word out and asking people to let members of the board know how much Dr. (Matthew) Hahn and his practice mean to the community," said Sinclair Hamilton, a Hancock councilman who has helped generate an e-mail campaign.

Hamilton and Larry Springer, both patients of Hahn, said he was given 90 days when he was dismissed about a week ago before he has to leave his job.

Hahn, the center's medical director, declined to comment Tuesday.

Leslie Colbrese, the center's executive director, wouldn't comment on why Hahn was dismissed. She said the board expects to release a statement about the situation either at the end of this week or early next week.

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"There's a plan to get information out to patients, to be responsive," board member Nancy Forlifer said. "If anything will affect patients' care, they will get a letter."

Several other board members didn't respond to phone messages left Tuesday afternoon.

The federally funded Tri-State Community Health Center serves Hancock; Morgan County, W.Va.; and Fulton County, Pa.

Hahn, a Berkeley Springs, W.Va., resident, has worked at the clinic for about eight years.

He came to Hancock through the National Health Services Corps, which brings doctors to underserved areas. He was required to spend at least four years, but said recently he didn't plan to leave.

Hahn was a finalist for the 2008 Family Physician of the Year Award given by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

His supporters describe him as unusually devoted and compassionate.

Springer said Hahn drove him to Washington County Hospital when he needed help and visited him at home to check on him.

Another time, Springer said, Hahn's perceptive diagnosis might have saved the hearing in his left ear.

In October 2007, Hahn received Maryland's Outstanding Rural Health Practitioner Award. An award announcement said Hahn has "a large geriatric and chronic disease population and actively provides care to home-bound and hospice patients in his community ...

"He was also among a group of entrepreneurs who helped create an electronic medical records system geared toward family physicians. His office has also become a popular ambulatory care rotation for students from Georgetown University, where he has become known for his weekly jogging lectures, in which he lectures his students on a broad range of primary care topics while running."

Hahn helped create the annual Health Olympics, in which people pledge to exercise and improve their diet for about two months, and the Walk Across Maryland, covering about 1.7 miles from Pennsylvania to West Virginia.

Hahn's dismissal by the board came shortly after this year's Health Olympics kicked off with a Walk Across Maryland on April 25.

Hahn said then that he espouses preventive medicine, so he won't have to continually hand out pills to make people better.

"He's like everybody's dream of what the head of a rural health clinic should be," Jeanne Mozier, who owns the Star Theatre in Berkeley Springs, said Tuesday.

"When Tri-State suffers its inevitable decline if not demise from this - and there is no better word for it - STUPID and shortsighted decision of yours, I hope all fingers point in your direction and you are individually and collectively prepared to carry the burden of your actions forever," Mozier wrote in an e-mail to board members.

Hamilton said Hahn makes other contributions to the community.

Hahn, who sings and plays guitar, has performed at fundraisers for the Hancock Arts Council and Morgan County Public Library.

A few months ago, he released a CD called "The Real McCoy: Matt Hahn and Friends Perform the Music of Joltin' Jim McCoy."

McCoy, who owns the Troubadour Restaurant and Lounge in Berkeley Springs, hopes Hahn, his doctor, can keep his job.

"We're praying that it might get resolved," he said.

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