• U.S.

Medicine: Servants of the State

3 minute read

During the War (1916) municipal health officers throughout Great Britain decided to admit the fact that they were no longer professional men but civil servants. They formed a Medical Practitioners Union primarily to protect their civil service rights, but otherwise they kept aloof from the political and economic activities of other British trade unionists. Last week 3,847 members of the Medical Practitioners Union decided to take the final step. They joined the British Trades Union Congress, equivalent of the American Federation of Labor. With the Union Practitioners went the dozens of health officials who belong to the National Union of County Officers. It was as if the American Public Health Association and the Conference of State & Provincial Health Authorities of North America had unionized all their members.

To quiet the alarm which followed last week’s unionization, Dr. A. W. Elpley, secretary of the Medical Practitioners Union, vowed: “We are bound by our own rules never to strike where the sick are concerned.”

The British Government supports a system of medical insurance which President Roosevelt blessed last month (TIME, Nov. 26). Individuals (18,000,000), their employers and the Government contribute to a fund which imburses doctors and druggists for minor ministrations to the insured. The system pays for confinements, but not for operations, hospital care or services of specialists. For these the insured must pay, or go to charity clinics. Half of Great Britain’s 36,000 doctors have voluntarily listed themselves on insurance “panels,” similar to the jury panels of U. S. county courts, from which any insured person may pick his personal physician. The panel doctor averages a steady year-round income of $40 a week.

So Dr. Charles Brook, a London County Councilor, shocked no one last week when he declared: “The time is not far distant when the present panel system will be brought within the scope of the State medical service, and when those now engaged in panel practice will become full-time servants of the State.”

Last week a committee of the Bronx County Medical Society begged New York State for a complete socialization of Medicine. What they wanted was a system whereunder every citizen would get free medical attention and every physician would get a steady State job. The Bronxmen have seen colleagues go hungry and vacate their offices because onetime patients, no longer able to afford private practice, now go to free clinics and hospitals. No one has ever counted how many U. S. doctors work for wages or calculated how much it would cost to hire them all. The Bronxmen figured that New York State’s bill for medical charity now runs to $110,000,000 a year. Let the taxpayers provide $165,000,000 more a year, the Bronxmen urged, and private doctors’ bills throughout the State would become a thing of the past.

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