Doctors asked to donate health care System in trouble due to budget cuts

November 24, 1992|By Jonathan Bor | Jonathan Bor,Staff Writer

The Maryland medical society is asking doctors to donate preventive health care to the public to help patch gaps created by state budget cuts.

Leaders of the Medical and Chirurgical Society of Maryland said yesterday that they have no illusions that doctors volunteering time will compensate fully for a $20 million reduction in state aid to local health departments.

But they said each immunization given or AIDS patient counseled will benefit a patient who otherwise would be turned away.

Dr. Joseph Fastow, chairman of Med-Chi's governing council, was optimistic that doctors would rally to the call, although he declined to predict how many of the society's 7,000 members might respond. But even the most robust response, he said, would amount to a "patchwork" job on a public health apparatus that is crumbling in the face of the budget cuts.

Under the plan drawn up, health officers and doctors' organizations in each jurisdiction will work together to determine the greatest needs facing the locality and how physicians can best help out. They could either encourage doctors to offer services in their private offices or in county health clinics.

"You can't have the nation's medical problems solved by physician volunteerism," said Dr. Martin Wassterman, county health officer of Prince George's County and chairman of the Maryland Association of Health Officers.

"But on a case-by-case basis, sure we can help," he said.

Local health departments have derived anywhere from 20 percent to 80 percent of their funds from state government.

State aid to health departments has been slashed from nearly $48 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 1990, to $14.6

million in the current budget year. That reduction includes a $20 million cut in this budget year alone.

The latest round of cuts will seriously hinder the ability of local health departments to dispense preventive services such as childhood and adult immunizations, AIDS counseling and evaluations of sexually transmitted diseases, according to Med-Chi officials.

The Med-Chi council voted Thursday to issue the call for volunteers, having already received a favorable response in preliminary meetings with local health officers and with leaders of county and city medical societies.

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