- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 7, 2004

Republican signs stolen in Northern Virginia

Laura Bland, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Democratic Party, says she hasn’t heard “any reports of Bush campaign folks complaining about their signs being stolen or desecrated.” Obviously, she has not been to Northern Virginia lately (“Campaign signs face partisan ire,” Metropolitan, Wednesday).

Saturday evening and night, I placed two such signs on Williamsburg Boulevard in Arlington, and they were ripped off; Sunday morning, I planted a third, which finally was left alone because it was out during the day and probably also because it was a green “Bush-Cheney Farm Team ‘04” sign. Imagine that in Northern Virginia.

Republican signs have been stolen in past elections in North Arlington, and some of us have had signs taken from our yards. Usually, a call to the police, who then increase patrols, puts a stop to the criminal activity.

Ms. Bland ought to know that this bad behavior is being exhibited in highly Democratic areas with large concentrations of party activists who are used to getting their way.

Because President Bush faces challenges and makes tough decisions during unprecedented times, these people are ill at ease with crediting him with success.

JAMES CALLAN

Arlington

Grim realities on Iran, North Korea

As Tony Blankley points out in his Wednesday Op-Ed column, “2005: Annus Horribilis,” nuclear weapons in the hands of fanatics who clearly have no intention of backing down from their plans to compile an arsenal is indeed a “grim reality” that, no matter who is elected president, we will have to face in the coming year.

Like Mr. Blankley, we are also interested in knowing what contingency plans both candidates have in the event that diplomacy with Iran or North Korea fails. Will they allow both countries to continue developing nuclear arms and wait for someone else to stop them? Or will they bring the country into yet another ugly confrontation?

Both men owe voters the answers to these questions before the polls open Nov. 2.

ALIX BOUCHER

Associate editor

Alliance for Democracy in Iran

Washington

Di Lellio not a U.N. appointee

You note in an editorial that the Independent Inquiry Committee’s communications director has resigned (“Questions for Kofi,” Tuesday). That is correct. Anna Di Lellio recognized that any controversy about her views relating to comments she made in a post-September 11 interview could complicate our investigation and so took the initiative to tender her resignation, which the committee accepted.

Mrs. Di Lellio, by profession, is a writer and freelance journalist. She never was a career U.N. official.

As to her recruitment, her contact with our committee this summer was entirely at the initiative of a committee member who had heard favorably of her work. References strongly confirmed the value of her work. No U.N. official was contacted or involved with her appointment.

Your editorial also makes an assumption that Mrs. Di Lellio was a U.N. appointee. This is incorrect. Mrs. Di Lellio was hired by the inquiry committee, which takes very seriously its independence from the United Nations. With the exception of three administrative staff members on loan from the United Nations, all IIC staff have been recruited independently.

REID MORDEN

Executive director

Independent Inquiry Committee

Into the United Nations

Oil-for-Food Programme

New York

Maryland’s physician conundrum

Your article on Maryland’s physicians and malpractice suits doesn’t mention it, but by January, many obstetrics-gynecology physicians in Maryland will be forced to stop caring for pregnant patients (“Maryland faces 40 percent loss of physicians,” Page 1, Wednesday).

Professional liability premiums will increase, again, by at least 50 percent, making them unaffordable for doctors throughout the state. To avoid giving up the practice of medicine, doctors have considered “going bare” — practicing without insurance — or charging an administrative fee directly to patients to offset these premium increases. Other doctors are exploring the possibility of forming a union to increase their bargaining power with insurance companies. A doctor in Southern Maryland plans to stop practicing obstetrics and open a spa.

More disturbing is that medical students no longer view obstetrics as a desirable specialty because of professional risk and an unappealing lifestyle. Just 10 years ago, almost 10 percent of medical school graduates wanted to practice obstetrics. Now, fewer than 4 percent of graduates pursue a four-year OB-GYN residency program, making it difficult to find qualified young doctors to fill these positions. The combination of early retirement by current practitioners and declining interest in obstetrics, creates the possibility of a “nuclear winter” in which access to these services could be compromised for many years to come.

So, how did we reach this crossroads? Efforts to achieve tort reform at the state and national levels have gone essentially unheeded, as the general public believes this is a battle between rich doctors and richer lawyers. Companies that provide professional liability insurance have been hurt by losses in the secondary insurance market since September 11. Companies providing employer-sponsored health coverage, as well as state and federal health-insurance programs, have reduced, or not significantly increased, payments to doctors and hospitals.

As a result, services provided by doctors and hospitals to our most vulnerable populations have been compromised, as many doctors have seen declines in real income even as malpractice insurance costs have increased exponentially.

The malpractice insurance crisis is an acute symptom of more pervasive and harmful problems in our health system. The American public’s apathy and disenchantment with our health-care system has been heightened by many reports, notably one by the Institute of Medicine, regarding the high incidence of adverse events compared with other high-risk industries.

The lethargy of our health system in addressing issues of patient safety has not endeared us to the public. Though we may have the most technologically advanced health system in the world, the organization of these resources is poor and highly inefficient. Not only does this compromise care, but it also places the quality of life of all people in danger, especially those least able to afford it. We are the only industrialized nation in the world that does not have a public health-insurance system covering all its citizens.

Many health-policy analysts have suggested ways to fix our health system. However, until we have a clear national health agenda that establishes affordable basic health care as a right of every citizen, a lasting solution will remain elusive.

Perhaps a national commission composed of a public-private partnership of the Department of Health and Human Services, the Institute of Medicine and the American Public Health Association should be entrusted with the necessary resources to evaluate this agenda. The American public will trust the health system only if it believes that system is being held accountable for improving health outcomes.

In this context, the issue of access to health services, especially obstetric services, presents a real danger to women’s and children’s health. It may be necessary to consider government financing of increases in malpractice insurance premiums to retain our current cadre of practitioners.

Even this intervention would be too late for some, and it does not solve the problem of shortages of OB-GYN doctors entering the profession. While this measure, along with other tort-reform measures, would not restore trust in our health system, it might buy the time we need to restore primacy to our nation’s health.

DR. RAYMOND L. COX

Director, OB-GYN services

Prince George’s Hospital Center

Cheverly

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