The Maryland Injury Lawyer Blog received today the following comment from an emergency room doctor in southern Maryland regarding my blog post on the alleged shortage of doctors in Maryland:
“You are guilty of not supporting your assumptions with data as well. I practice emergency medicine in St. Mary’s County and Southern Maryland DOES have a doctor shortage problem. I know, I work here. I have many patients that cannot get into a primary care physician or a specialist. Talk to any hospital CEO at Civista, St. Marys, or Calvert Hospital and they will all tell you the same thing. While the shortage may not be evenly distributed about the state, the shortage is real and affects real people. You mentioned that you do not know anyone that has not been able to see a doctor. I imagine that in your nice neighborhood, your friends from the club, your colleagues have all been able to find doctors. You are out of touch with the rest of Maryland. If you are waiting for ‘one person to tell you they cannot find the medical care they need’ come visit me in St. Mary’s county and I will introduce you to many. Maybe that will convince you. By the way, I am not a member of MedChi, have not attended any MedChi meetings and have no other motive to respond to your comment other than your gross misstatements that are baseless.”
First, I appreciate the comment. I publish every comment I get, even those that, unlike this one, insult me personally. This blog is obviously slanted towards plaintiffs and victims because I am slanted that way. But I try hard to make this a forum where I am writing as a human being who sees the world as I do, not as a plaintiffs’ lawyer’s manifesto.
As it turns out, this was not the only disparaging comment I received on this blog. I received a couple of emails and a telephone call from my father echoing Dr. Tucker’s sentiment. I think my father may have even mentioned southern Maryland as an example.
First, I stand by the premise of the article. Last month, CareFirst BlueCross told the Maryland General Assembly that rather than a shortage of doctors, Maryland enjoys an adequate supply of physicians, fourth best in the United States. Supporting their argument with facts, CareFirst said that, based upon company records, there are approximately 16,500 full-time doctors practicing in Maryland.
MedChi’s estimation was approximately 10,000. You can drive a Mack truck through the difference in these numbers. Would this article have come out if 16,500 doctors was the number MedChi used in its calculations? As to who is telling the truth, I don’t know, but I can tell you I do not trust Med Chi’s numbers.
They have always shown a willingness to collect and report numbers that are misleading, in an effort to vilify medical malpractice lawyers and/or insurance companies. So, I do continue to believe that Maryland has plenty of doctors even if “fourth best in the nation” is a CareFirst exaggeration.
What got me into trouble with some readers was the flip “find me someone who cannot find a doctor” comment. I felt comfortable saying this because it is true and I felt insulated from Dr. Tucker’s “your friends at the club” jab because we have a lot of clients with limited means throughout the state of Maryland, and I do not recall anyone having trouble finding a doctor who would see them.
I saw Doc Hollywood almost twenty years ago, and I get the idea that rural areas do have shortages of doctors, at least in certain specialties. I should have qualified my words more than I did because my experience of patients looking for and finding doctors in rural areas of Maryland is limited to the kinds of doctors patients typically see after trauma caused by negligence, which clearly leaves out many areas of physician specialties.
If the problem exists in rural areas of Maryland where successful medical malpractice lawsuits are as frequent as cicada sightings, Med Chi should focus on presenting ideas that can be used to recruit doctors to areas suffering from a shortage of physicians, such as public subsidies, scholarships and other incentives, instead of continuing to beat the drum that every problem faced by Maryland doctors involves either the insurance companies or the lawyers who sue them.