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Doctors plan to join protest



Published: Mon, April 28, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Part of the group plans to go to Harrisburg to lobby for legislative reform.

By HAROLD GWIN

VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU

GREENVILLE, Pa. -- Doctors in Mercer County will participate in a statewide "Code Blue" protest of what they feel is a medical malpractice crisis, but they won't be going on strike.

Some doctors may close their offices for a day or several days during the protest, which will run from Wednesday through May 6, but they will make sure their patients have adequate coverage with other physicians, said Dr. James Perry, president-elect of the Mercer County Medical Society.

"This is not a work stoppage. It is not a strike. We're not putting any patients at risk," he said.

The society has 135 members and all will participate in the protest in some fashion, he said. Some may go to Harrisburg to lobby state legislators about the need for medical liability reform while others may hand out information on the subject to their patients, he said.

The number of licensed practicing physicians in Pennsylvania has dropped by 1,100 since 2001, Perry said, citing a survey by the Federation of State Medical Boards.

Increase elsewhere

Meanwhile, the number of licensed doctors in New Jersey jumped by 1,900 and the number in Maryland increased by 2,500 during that same period, he said, pointing out that both states have enacted legislative malpractice reform.

Malpractice insurance costs vary according to a physician's practice and where that practice operates, Perry said.

Some neurosurgeons and obstetricians could be paying $200,000 a year for insurance, he said.

Perry said local physicians did get notices from local hospitals reminding them that they must provide adequate coverage for their patients during the protest.

The caution was "redundant," Perry said, pointing out that physicians always make sure their patients are covered when their offices are closed.

Statewide, thousands of doctors are expected to participate in Code Blue.

Doctors want a $250,000 malpractice cap placed on damages for pain and suffering, but a state task force studying the malpractice crisis has suggested further study is needed on that issue.




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