News From Terre Haute, Indiana

April 20, 2013

READERS’ FORUM: April 20, 2013


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Harrop column lacked research, requires response

On March 29, the Tribune-Star published a column about nurse practitioners written by syndicated writer Froma Harrop. I feel some of the more outlandish comments in the article call for response:

1. For a “routine checkup,” she wonders whether a patient needs “a full-fledged MD with all those certificates and perhaps a God complex?” First of all, in 35 years practicing medicine, I’ve found that the “routine” check-up is seldom routine. The implication by Ms. Harrop that anyone with a stethoscope can assure the patient that he’s perfectly healthy or not is naive.

I will say here that I do not think, as Ms. H. seems to, that nurse practitioners are just anyone. She writes a column praising them, but seems to also be saying they’re only good enough for “shoot[ing] the breeze” and sending you to specialists. I work with many nurse practitioners and have found them to be very professional and knowledgeable, and the good ones know when to consult their physicians. And they do seek that consultation from their own physicians first instead of just doling people out to specialists, as Ms. H. suggests.

As for the comment about the doctor having “a God complex,” I think this is a catty, nasty remark that serves no one well, especially patients. While there are some to whom this may apply, most of us are honest, hard-working people who just want to help our patients stay healthy.

2. She says Americans “overuse expensive specialists.” A couple paragraphs before this, she bragged that her nurse practitioner readily sends her to specialists when the problem is beyond her expertise. So specialist care is OK for her but the rest of us need to curb medical costs. Typical of those who think they are so much smarter and wiser than the rest of us.

3. She says we run off to GI specialists to have scopes “shoved down [our] throats when our primary care providers could have prescribed Tums.” Wow! That’s a great idea! Why didn’t we think of that? Tums! I guess we’re all just too stupid and would prefer having scopes shoved down our throats.

No, in reality, those patients have typically already been on Tums and every other thing available to them for years, trying to quell that misery Ms. H. calls “simple heartburn.” Simple to her, I guess. We don’t “shove” things down people’s throats, the scope slides down quite comfortably under very light sedation, and those patients have usually had years of symptoms before being referred for endoscopy. And that “simple heartburn” can lead to numerous complications, including cancer, and may not even be heartburn at all, but a mimicking condition.

4. She implies that physicians, the “AMA” and governmental bodies are conspiring to prevent N.P.s from realizing the full scope of their capabilities. On the contrary, we are going to need them more in the era of health care rationing that’s coming to all of us. When Ms. Harrop’s buddy Obama paralyzes health care with 20,000 (so far) new regulations, these physician-extenders will be quite important to all of us.

Maybe Ms. Harrop should research her columns a little more before putting them into national syndication. I realize her columns are just her opinion, but when she presents something as fact, I would hope that it would be.

— James E. Stephens, M.D.


Perplexed by gas price fluctuations

For the last week, gas has been going down, but why is there such a price difference in the north end and south end of Terre Haute?

There is a 25-cent difference. Oh wait, I’ve got it. There is higher demand in the south end of town, and one chain of gas stations never have the save prices. They get their gas from the same place in Robinson, Ill.

So why is it so high?   

— Butch King

Terre Haute