Thursday, March 25, 2010

Don't Treat our Women Like Dogs*

I was on the phone this morning for about twenty minutes with Robert Horne, health policy advisor for U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey. He called me in response to my message of outrage that Rep. Gingrey, an ob/gyn, not only voted against insurance reform which women in his district so desperately need, he also made such an outrageous comment after visiting our clinic (see my 3/6/10 note). I told Mr. Horne some of the stories of the many women who have called us and are unable to afford a Pap smear. I told him that our public health departments in Georgia are denying appointments to patients who have had a history of an abnormal Pap smear, leaving many women with NO health care resource. NOTHING. This is not an issue that can wait until the fights over health care reform are over and more women become insured. We need this now, Dr. Gingrey. NOW.

I told Mr. Horne that this Saturday (3/27/10) our clinic is going to provide Pap screening for the C.A.R.E. clinic in Atlanta where hundreds, if not thousands of patients are expected. But, we haven’t found anyone as of yet to help pay the $24.50 per woman for the lab cost of the Pap. Millions of dollars are flowing into Georgia for cancer research, cancer treatment, cancer training and cancer buildings and cancer centers. ZERO dollars appear to be available for cancer prevention. If a woman is lucky enough to get a Pap smear, she is then SOL if the Pap comes back abnormal. Health care has priced itself out of reach of ordinary folk (all of the uninsured) and women cannot afford the colposcopy to see why her Pap is abnormal. Or she can’t afford treatment for an abnormal Pap smear. She has to wait until she gets cancer and then she gets Medicaid. This situation is outrageous.

I expressed to Mr. Horne my indignation over Rep. Gingrey’s statement that women could get their health care at a Right to Life clinic. Mr. Horne actually tried to defend that statement, even while admitting that there are no health care providers at such clinics. Apparently, it is OK in Dr. Gingrey’s office for a provider of 'health care' to have no health care training.

Two years ago I said “Cervical cancer is entirely preventable and the majority of women who get this disease have not had a simple pap smear in the previous five years. In Georgia, “only” 120 women died last year from cervical cancer. It should be unacceptable in Floyd County, which has the highest per capita number of doctors in the state to see one single case of invasive cervical cancer. Yet, we continue to see vast over-screening and over-treatment for insured women and under-screening and long waiting lists for pap smears for those women most at risk for cervical cancer. “

Rep. Gingrey, when you left our clinic, I put all the information I collected for you in a folder. We have no fancy stationary, so I gave you one of my prized Dollar Store folders with the cute little beagle on it. I told you when you looked at it to remember that women should not be treated like dogs. You are an ob/gyn and you have a special responsibility to the women in your district. We demand that you help our women right now. Not later. Not when it is convenient or profitable for your campaign or an insurance company. We expect your help Right Now.

* re: 'Don't Treat our Women Like Dogs' it is just a saying for emphasis, I love dogs.

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