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Supporters press Tri-State health center board to keep Dr. Hahn

May 20, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

McCONNELLSBURG, Pa. -- Supporters of Dr. Matthew Hahn on Monday demanded answers from Tri-State Community Health Center's board of directors about why he recently was dismissed from his job.

Ramani Pillai, the board's vice president, told the audience the board couldn't discuss Hahn's situation.

The board set aside time at the start of its regularly scheduled meeting in McConnellsburg for the public to talk about Hahn. Board members declined to answer audience questions.

Out of a roomful of about 50 people, around 10 spoke in favor of Hahn. Only Dennis Fandl of Warfordsburg, Pa., criticized Hahn and said he supported the board's decision.

The board dismissed Hahn, the center's medical director, more than two weeks ago. A May 5 letter from Executive Director Leslie L. Colbrese says Hahn won't be seeing patients "after July 2008."

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Colbrese said in an interview last week that the board probably would release a short statement by early this week, possibly Monday or Tuesday.

However, board President Cordelia Carson said after Monday's public comment period she didn't know if or when the board might have a statement.

The federally funded Tri-State Community Health Center has clinics in Hancock, McConnellsburg and Cumberland, Md. Patients with low incomes pay for care on a sliding scale.

Hahn, who joined the center eight years ago, didn't attend Monday's meeting.

Several who spoke said Hahn is a caring, devoted doctor.

Brenda Hutchinson, a Morgan County commissioner, said Hahn's willingness to make house calls is "almost unheard of in this day and age."

Larry Springer said the last time a doctor paid him a home visit before Hahn did this year was in 1948.

Jerry Berman of Great Cacapon, W.Va., said Hahn represents the health center's virtues and has established roots, so removing him from his position "seems counterintuitive to this community."

Sinclair Hamilton, a patient of Hahn and a Hancock town councilman, gave the board a petition with the names of 172 people who want Hahn to keep his job.

In a phone interview Monday afternoon, Ruth Taylor of Hancock said she and her friend Shirley Cubbage gathered names for the petition.

Taylor, who didn't attend the meeting, said she's confined to her bed because of a knee replacement that "didn't work."

She said she's worried to lose Hahn, who visits her at home twice a month to check on her.

"I just hope and pray, you know, that everything goes OK," she said.

The only negative comment about Hahn at Monday's meeting came from Fandl.

Fandl, who uses canes to walk, said he was unable to get a scooter while Hahn was his doctor.

During the meeting, he said he represented other people with complaints about Hahn.

Asked by Hahn supporters to list other problems, Fandl said they're explained in letters submitted to the board. Some patients are afraid to speak badly about Hahn in case the board reinstates him, he said, a comment that drew derision from audience members.

Hamilton urged the board to hold another public session on Hahn in Hancock, so others could speak out.

"This is only the tip of the iceberg for people who support Matt," he said. "This problem is not going to go away until we know why he's being fired and if it's a good reason."

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