Savannah's changing medical scene

When I came to Savannah, most of us in the medical community had single-handed practices in small buildings scattered around town. We didn't see the world the same way, but we agreed on the need to be friendly and helpful. If you wanted to go to St. Simon's the coming weekend, six physicians would cover for you, but pay-back was hell.

I established a practice downtown because I wanted to be near the Historic District, which was interesting back then, and I wanted to be convenient to poorer people, who might have had a hard time getting care from private practitioners. A lot of human services were rendered in my office at Hall and Habersham for folks with heart failure, high blood pressure, diabetes, abscesses, and pain in bodies and souls. I miss my downtown days.

Recently, two things happened that hurt my practice. I took a great deal of time away to help our country get past the nightmare that descended in the Bush years. I met with folks and shared ideas at barber shops, 7/11s, gas stations and on porches-- in Carolina, Jacksonville and South Georgia. Sometimes with friends, often by myself, occasionally in dangerous circumstances.

Two pit bulls came after me from under the porch of a drug den in Douglas, Georgia. Fortunately, a dog trainer had just advised me in situations like this, it's best to stand still and not to look in the dogs' eyes. But the advice is different if a pit bull ever gets you in a death grip.

Though my sacrifices probably didn't make a difference, it was really great to be part of a movement meant to restore our country.

Just when I thought I could settle back in my medical life, a law firm came into my 100 year old mother's affairs to do her harm. Terrible things happened since, as the firm is so connected, courts where my mother lives refused to protect her. Because so many people grabbed my hands from lighting a candle in the darkness, there were days when I wasn't at my best.

I'm sure I lost patients for the time this struggle took. These are challenging moments for so many people, the employees at Gulfstream who've been furloughed, and the many Savannahians who lost their jobs and health insurance.

I love this city, I love my patients, God knows why, they seem to love me back. I wasn't put here to chase insurance companies, who rate doctors by check marks on a clip board, and not by whether they're conscientious or interested in their patients lives.

There's a new concept called VIP Medicine that forces participating physicians to get rid of all of their patients except those who can afford $1500 a year for physical exams that go on for days. The doctors are allowed only 600 patients, so they can spend a lot of time indulging the important people. 600 patients times $1500 for the mega-physicals gives VIP doctors a pretty juicy salary. But I started my career in the poverty program in Mississippi, so there's no way I could be part of something like this.

I'm on 66th between Waters and Paulsen, an old fashioned street with bungalow like offices made of cinderblock. Inside, I have a large rug on the wall, with intersecting lines, squares and circles of burnt orange, sky blue, chocolate brown and tan. It could be in a art museum, but it's there to block out sound. Down the back hall, we have a giant, white ceramic cat with green eyes, who stands in place of Shasta, my daughters cat, who lived in my office ‘til she went to kitty heaven.

Michael J. Fox would be comfortable down our street because its homey and comfortable and back to the future.

I love Savannah, I love being on this street, where I choose to light a candle for folks without health insurance.


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