Life or death crisis

The Madison County Record Oct. 7, 2004, 6:24am

When is the last time you or a loved one needed a doctor? Did you have access to one?

Access to health care is a basic human right, but sadly, circumstances in the legal, insurance and medical fields have converged to create an environment that has resulted in skyrocketing medical malpractice premiums, which are forcing doctors to leave St. Clair and Madison Counties or stop practicing medicine altogether.

The current health care crisis not only impacts medical specialists such as neurosurgeons and obstetricians-gynecologists, but also family practice physicians. Furthermore, doctors who have never been sued are faced with exorbitant increases in their medical malpractice premiums just due to the locale in which they practice.

All too often in the flurry of finger pointing as to who is to blame for this health care crisis and in the reform rhetoric that is tossed about, an essential victim – the patient – is tragically overlooked.

An incident involving Georgiana Graul of Mascoutah exemplifies the human victims of the Metro East’s health care crisis. She needed emergency surgery due to a tumor on her spine, but neurosurgeons in the Metro East no longer perform this surgery. Efforts were made to find a neurosurgeon in St. Louis or Springfield, but to no avail.

Granted, the factors that precipitated the current health care crisis are complex, but the Illinois Legislature needs to put aside partisan politics to address this issue and enact meaningful and substantive reform, so that Metro East residents will not be denied access to health care. This critical issue is a people issue, not a partisan issue.

Be mindful of this: The next time you or a loved one needs a doctor, it could be a matter of life or death.

Linda Lehr
State Representative
District 114

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