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IS SOCIALIZED MEDICINE A CURE?

To the editor:

I had to chuckle while I read the recent front page article, "Many doctors fleeing their feverish field," in which Dr. Richard Price comments about the number of medical doctors leaving their profession.Just two nights before, in dinner conversation with a local nurse who had worked her way up to a top administration position, I had remarked that she was lucky to be a nurse instead of a doctor. At least she could realistically appraise her contributions to nursing and desire to remain in the field.

Most doctors are so locked in by their elevated status and immense monetary compensation that they're stuck fast - no matter how inappropriate their "marriage" to medicine might be. She fully agreed, commenting that "surgeons are the worst."

A few comments on the good doctor's observations are in order. I'd like to meet that young physician who gave up medicine for auto mechanics. Although the similarities between the two fields are probably greater than Dr. Price would care to admit, a man/woman who would willingly give up the almost guaranteed $100,000/year minimum a big city doctor can earn to take a mechanic job in this economic climate is a unique individual indeed.

Price's concern about overregulation by government and insurance companies is legitimate. Doctors have done a terrible job of regulating themselves. Last week, the Deseret News reported that only 750 doctors in the whole country for the whole of last year were censured in any way by their peers.

Am I supposed to pit the poor doc slaving away 16-18 hours per day? If Dr. Price lived in a poor rural county, I could maybe believe those hours. There are plenty of people there who really need a doctor's services. But how many doctors who are in it "for the right reasons - to help people" choose to practice in those areas?

Dr. Price might keep in mind that Americans as a whole are working substantially harder and longer these days, just to stay even.

That old retort about 10-12 years of training also brought a smile. It's doctors themselves in this country who designed and continue to insist upon this unnecessarily lengthy training period (substantially an attempt to keep the supply low and the demand for their services high).

And far from weeding out the greedy ones, as Price supposed, this elongated process seems to encourage even the more altruistic to get out there and make up for lost time financially when they finally do start their practice. It also bears to keep in mind who pays the lion's share for their extensive and expensive education - the taxpayer.

The medical profession in the United States has lorded over the health-care field for so long, it's understandable that they're taken aback by the cheeky insurance companies flexing their muscles and trying to put a collar on runaway health costs. Socialized medicine would serve them both right.

Tracy Wise

Salt Lake City