- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 14, 2004

MinuteClinics questioned

The Target stores medical clinics highlighted in “With you in a minute” (Business, Aug. 30) are reported to promote themselves as “a low-cost, quick alternative to family physicians.”

Though MinuteClinic executive Tom Charland describes the company’s services as limited, he is paraphrased as saying this “eliminates the potential for misdiagnosis.”

MinuteClinic staff may send patients whose symptoms don’t fit within a narrow category of conditions to physicians. However, many symptoms for that narrow category also are symptoms for other, more serious, conditions. A family physician with whom a patient has an established record and who knows the patient’s medical history, family and work situation has far more information on which to make an accurate diagnosis. I won’t make the blanket statement that visiting the family physician will eliminate the potential for misdiagnosis, but it certainly will minimize it and provide the patient with a more accurate and personal medical plan of action.

Family physicians also understand that the average person has a busy, hectic schedule and wants to be able to schedule an appointment with a doctor within a reasonable amount of time. Recognizing that same-day service for even routine physicals will keep patients happier and healthier in the long run, American Academy of Family Physicians members have adopted “open access” as their goal. Open access is an open scheduling model for patient visits that offers flexible and expanded office hours.

Patients who visit MinuteClinics are missing the personal, integrated health care family physicians provide. These clinics should not be used as alternatives to visiting your family physician.

DR. MICHAEL O. FLEMING

President

American Academy of Family Physicians

Shreveport, La.

Secure the homeland

I’m writing in response to comments made by Department of Homeland Security Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson (“Rounding up all illegals ‘not realistic,’ ” Page 1, Friday).

It’s true, the American people may be surprised at the cost incurred in tracking down the 8 million to 11 million illegal aliens in our country today.

But although making America safer and securing our homeland is not a cheap proposition, it’s certainly a worthwhile one. It wouldn’t cost more to defend our borders than it costs to have our troops in Germany. With those troops scheduled to come home early, why not send them to the border?

The public also may not want to uproot millions of people, but is that desire greater than our government’s inability to support the thousands of illegal aliens streaming into our nation every day?

The American people have a right to know who these people are and be given the reassurance that not a single one of them is a terrorist.

They also deserve to know that the 400,000 illegal aliens who have been told to leave the country and cannot be found (80,000 of whom have criminal convictions) are going to be apprehended and deported. Most important, the American people need to not hear our leaders answer tough questions simply by saying, “Gosh, it’s just too hard; we can’t do it.”

REP. CHARLIE NORWOOD

Washington

Nuclear waste at Yucca

Ed Feulner writes that the safety of the Yucca Mountain repository already has been determined, so we should eschew “politics” and “get Yucca Mountain open” (“Wasting a good solution,” Sept. 6). He’s wrong.

By law, the Energy Department must yet demonstrate Yucca’s safety in a three-year trial before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Mr. Feulner absurdly claims, “[T]he water table at Yucca is contained, so if there’s a leak, it won’t contaminate the water supply anywhere else.” Great. It will kill only Nevadans: The water below Yucca supplies the entire Amargosa Valley, the nation’s largest organic-farming region and the source of 80 percent of Nevada’s milk, to say nothing of its future value, being only 75 miles from Las Vegas, the fastest-growing metropolitan area in the United States.

In June, a federal appeals court ruled that the government had “unabashedly rejected” sound science in setting the safety standard for Yucca, ordering it to meet the standard required of every other repository program in the world.

It is the nuclear industry and its Heritage Foundation allies who want to force-feed a “political” solution because porous geology makes Yucca too leaky to meet the standard. A less repugnant result than sacrificing Nevadans would be to leave the waste stored safely where it is until a suitable new site is found.

BRIAN SANDOVAL

Nevada attorney general

Carson City, Nevada

Anesthetic caution

The otherwise informative article “Alert anesthesia” (Life, Sept. 7) unfortunately perpetuates the myth that patients “don’t get to pick … even the particular anesthesiologist in attendance.”

Anyone who doesn’t exercise at least the same diligence in picking and insisting on a particular anesthesiologist (or certified nurse anesthetist) that he or she does in choosing the surgeon is making a big mistake. Surgical mistakes most often can be corrected; anesthesia misadventures frequently are permanent if not fatal.

Just ask any operating-room nurse whom he or she would prefer. I always do. Accept potluck, and that’s what you may get.

ROB ROSS HENDRICKSON

Boyd, Benson & Hendrickson

Baltimore

The D.C. parking crunch

Although “Playing favorites” (Editorial, Sunday) was right to condemn the haphazard annexation of parking spaces near the Washington Convention Center, it might have added that the orderly renting of street parking spaces to private operators would have much to commend it. The present system of limiting most meter parking to periods of 30, 60 or 120 minutes results in persistent shortages of the valuable commodity of on-street parking space.

If groups of meter spaces could be rented to the highest bidders for long periods — say, for years at a time — the renters would have incentives to operate street parking space in a commercial manner. They might, for example, vary the prices by time of day and aim to ensure the availability of vacant spaces in their areas at all times. Fixed time limits then could be abolished. High prices at parking meters would encourage high turnover and the provision of additional off-street parking.

One even can envisage homeowners paying an annual fee to allow them to collect money from the meters in front of their homes and have the option of hooding their meters when they need the spaces for themselves, their friends or their customers.

As for the bottom line, the commercial renting of street parking space may well increase the revenues to the District and reduce the current excessive enforcement costs.

GABRIEL ROTH

Chevy Chase

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