On the campaign trail-- what I am hearing

Erin Zweigart Sep. 15, 2004, 6:05am

As I journey around southern Illinois, I hear various concerns from the people.

However there is one common fear and complaint that resonates with the people regardless of where they are located, and that is the loss of doctors.

I have lived in Southern Illinois for nearly my entire life. I moved to California to attend law school in 1999 and upon returning in late 2002 I was taken aback at the state of affairs in Illinois.

Soon after my return, I discovered that the doctors were plagued by increased lawsuits, increased malpractice premiums, and many of them were retiring early or relocating to other states. I began attending rallies and town hall meetings to obtain more information about the crisis affecting Southern Illinois.

It did not take long to discover Madison County was named one of the top five worst judicial hellholes in the country and that St. Clair County was in the top twelve.

In my travels around Southern Illinois I have heard testimonies of how the medical crisis is impacting the daily lives of individuals, whose doctors are located in Madison, St. Clair, Jackson, and Williamson Counties.

“Hi, Erin,” said a voter who called me personally. "I met you a couple of weeks ago in Benton and I didn’t know who else to call. I have MS and I receive treatment at the hospital in Marion."

“I went in to receive my treatment today and my doctor told me he can no longer treat me because of his insurance, " she explained. " I need a neurologist to give me treatments and I don’t know where to go now. I know you support tort reform. Is there anything you can do?"

The horror stories contine. An elderly woman in Mascoutah died earlier this year because there was no doctor to treat her in St. Clair County and the hospitals in Missouri refused her out of fear of being hauled into court.

There is also the fear of unemployment that resonates with the doctors’ staff.

“I’ve been trying to sell more Home Interiors to make ends meet since our office cut its hours,” sighed a woman who works at Memorial Hospital in Belleville. “I don’t know what I’m going to do if all the doctors in my office leave.”

But, perhaps we are all being selfish by thinking only of the doctors, their staff, and their patients.

Has anyone even considered where the poor trial lawyers will go in search of work?

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