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Letter to the Editor - Feb. 7

February 06, 2012

Retiring doctor seeks medical care as public utility


To the editor:

Retirement from active medical practice is emotional. I owe much to my patients’ families, who participated in the healing process with me. I could not enjoy any sense of accomplishment without their confidence. Our interactions over 40 years have, I hope, produced effective and meaningful outcomes. I will miss them all.

Primary care medicine has been a tough, labor-intensive “business.” The physician can make it lucrative only by working 80-plus hours per week. Patients demand and deserve enough time during encounters to have their questions answered in a manner that makes technical and frightening information understandable. Anything less frustrates the process. In medicine, as in business, the consumer comes first.  Meaningful dialogue cannot take place with one hand on the doorknob.

The last two decades produced even more disturbing changes. Since the health insurance companies gained ascendency over the financial aspects of medicine, any profits flowed into the pockets of high executives and not into treatments, procedures or therapy, and definitely not invested in research. The relationship between consumer and provider has been turned on its head. Primary physicians really hold the system together, but they are under fire with little aid. No wonder patients complain about access.  Fewer new physicians are encouraged to tackle the difficult and take diminishing rewards with meager satisfaction.

My parting advice to health consumers (we are all health consumers) and providers alike is this: Promote primary and preventative care medicine, eliminate health care companies and make medical care a public utility.

M. Douglas Becker, M.D.
Hagerstown

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