To Better Serve Patients and the Community
“Through the years, the practice of medicine has changed and the Polk County Medical Association has evolved right along with those changes. However, the importance of working together, knowing each other, and experiencing a medical friendship still remains the same,” states Dean Shull, MD, a psychiatrist and the current president of the Polk County Medical Association (PCMA).
Dr. Shull gave a personal testimony of his history with the organization. His commitment to the PCMA began when he was a guest physician during his rotating internship at the former Lakeland Hospital-Polk County Hospital Internship Program. He was attracted to the fellowship and solidarity of physicians from Polk County, as well as the new experiences this offered him among like-minded colleagues.
After a tour of duty in the United States Army and when his special training was over, Dr. Shull returned to Polk County to begin his private practice of psychiatry in Winter Haven. From that point Dr. Shull recalls, “I immediately joined the PCMA.”
Like Dr. Shull, hundreds of active and retired physicians in Polk County and the surrounding community have chosen to join as well. When asked about the advantages of being active in the organization, Dr. Shull simply states, “The PCMA offers physicians the opportunity to share complex and ever-changing experiences of practicing medicine.” Dr. Shull adds, “At the local level we offer responses to a number of relevant issues such as cost containment, litigation, control of medicine, increasing numbers of underinsured and indigent patients, and continuing medical education.”
Continuing Its Mission Through We Care
The PCMA continues to make a strong, caring, and lasting difference this year through the We Care of Polk County program. Since the establishment of We Care in 1998, the PCMA has given several million dollars worth of health care to the community.
We Care coordinates with hospitals and medical specialists who volunteer to donate their clinical services in an organized and fair method in order to provide medical care to the undeserved and uninsured. These compassionate and concerned physicians receive sovereign immunity from the Florida Department of Health as a result of devoting their time, skills, and capabilities. The facilities where they volunteer are immune as well. This liability protection helps to encourage doctors to invest their time to patients as a donation and allows the physician to put their focus on the doctor-patient relationship rather than the potential risks to their practice.
A person in need of medical services and currently at two hundred percent below the federal poverty level is considered eligible as determined by the qualifications of We Care. The Polk County government supports the We Care program financially.
The much-needed medical services that We Care of Polk County is able to provide is made possible by the one-half percent sales tax fund that the Polk County government’s health care devotes to this program, and also ensures the continuance of such services.
This year, the PCMA aims to continue this service to the county by recruiting as many specialists as possible for the program.
Continuing Its Mission Through Legislative Involvement
Advocating for legislative change is a role that the PCMA is also involved in at both state and national levels. “We must be actively involved in reshaping the impending national healthcare reform (PPACA, a.k.a. Obamacare) that looms in the future. This issue is relevant to local, state, and national healthcare,” says Richard Hamilton, MD, a local ophthalmologist and president-elect of the PCMA. “Increasing the health of a community is a two-way street that involves effort on the part of both patient and physician. We must try to prevent the government from dictating ‘cookbook medicine’ (a formula of arbitrary standards that may not be relevant to the specific needs of our community).”
The current healthcare bill that was recently passed is a highly controversial issue due to the broad scope that it covers, along with the expedited nature in which it was drafted and mandated. It is a serious matter that must be addressed by physicians and patients alike.
Continuing Its Mission Through the PCPAC
The Polk County Political Action Committee (PCPAC) is a committee made up of individual members whose efforts are to encourage physicians to endure and actively seek an effective part in political affairs.
The PCPAC’s mission is to reach pro-medicine candidates for elective offices at all levels of government. The committee members aim to lobby for doctors of medicine and doctors of osteopathy to represent on matters of tort reform, expert witnesses, prompt payment, and all issues related to Florida’s healthcare.
Ensuring that physicians are adequately represented is an ongoing responsibility for the members of the PCMA, especially during the legislative session. The PCMA advocates for legislative change at state and national levels on behalf of doctors and their patients. Dr. Hamilton states, “At a state level we must continue to bolster our efforts to bring sanity and fairness to the medical liability situation spearheaded by our current president of the Florida Medical Association, Dr. Miguel Machado. We look forward to the annual meeting in Boca this summer where your delegates will aggressively represent your views and concerns.”
Continuing Its Mission with Your Help
Members of the PCMA who would like more input might consider volunteering as a board of directors’ member or perhaps consider assisting as an officer of the PCMA. Many physicians who volunteer on the board or executive committee have attested that it is possible to effectively balance one’s practice and continue a compassionate patient-doctor relationship in the profession, all-the-while being actively involved in the association and giving back to the community.
Dr. Shull concludes, “Now more than ever, the PCMA continues to be a viable and much-needed, professional organization. I invite all physicians who have medicine in their heart to join the Polk County Medical Association and become an active participant.”
story by Dale Bliss