Professionals in Health Care Assess Glynn; Cost of Providing for the Uninsured Is among Issues Listed

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Byline: CAROLE HAWKINS

BRUNSWICK - By any standard, Thursday night's discussion of health care at the Brunswick-Glynn County library was calm and friendly.

But the Glynn County Democratic Party, the event's sponsor, made sure two topics, a national health care plan and the importance of tort reform, were off limits. It also prohibited any debate on national politics.

The panel of six health professionals found plenty to talk about however, as they profiled the challenges that health-care agencies face in Glynn County.

They discussed swine flu shots, uninsured patients, the squeeze on Medicare funds and childhood obesity. Also, 30 percent of Glynn County residents are below the poverty line, which makes access a problem, and local resources are being stretched as federal and state health funding fall behind the needs.

Here is a list of the speakers, the problems they see and their suggested solutions, some of which cost nothing:

DIANE BOWEN

PRIVATE PRACTICE SURGEON, GOLDEN ISLES CENTER FOR PLASTIC SURGERY

Biggest health care challenges: Medicare and Medicaid payments are not keeping up with the increasing costs of giving care. Also, more doctors are forced to practice defensive medicine - ordering unnecessary tests to avoid malpractice lawsuits. The increased costs are forcing private physicians out of business.

Quote: "The trend I see is an increasing number of physicians will not be in private practice, but will work for health care systems instead."

Suggestions: Lower premiums by allowing people to purchase health insurance wherever it is available. Increase Medicare and Medicaid funding. Use arbitration, rather than lawsuits, to settle malpractice claims.

PATRICK EBRI

DIRECTOR OF HUMAN RESOURCES, SOUTHEAST GEORGIA HEALTH SYSTEM

Biggest health care challenges: The hospital writes off 10 percent of its gross income to patients who can't pay. Emergency room waits are lengthened by the uninsured, who have nowhere else to go. Also, region population is growing at a rate of 1.5 percent per year, making recruiting quality health care professionals an ongoing need. …