DR. MYERS ON GMA: DELTA POOR WITHOUT HEALTH CARE
By Barbara Harris
Jackson Advocate News Service
December 13, 2005
TCHULA – Mississippi native Robin Roberts’ interview with the Rev. Dr. Ronald V. Myers Sr. has been rescheduled for broadcast Tuesday, Jan. 18, during the second hour of ABC’s “Good Morning America,” which airs from 7-9 a.m. CST.
The interview, which addresses Dr. Myers’ efforts to maintain operation of four medical clinics in the economically depressed Mississippi Delta, was rescheduled due to ABC News’ extensive coverage of the South Asian tsunamis.
A “Good Morning America” producer said Tuesday the interview would air Jan. 18 “unless there is another catastrophe.”
Dr. Myers was forced to close clinics in Tchula, Greenville, Belzoni and Indianola on Jan. 1, after the state-sponsored Mississippi Medical Assurance Co. refused to continue his malpractice coverage though he is apparently a good insurance risk.
“I have never been sued for medical malpractice for my family medicine office practice during my entire 17-year medical career,” he points out.
MMAC said it discontinued the malpractice insurance because of Myers’ insistence on treating chronic pain sufferers who are former patients of Dr. John McFadden of Tupelo, whose license was revoked.
“Chronic pain patients deserve good health care, too,” Myers, a medical missionary and president of the American Pain Institute, insists.
MMAC had already refused coverage to Dr. Myers for his now-defunct Tupelo clinic, which closed late last summer.
Consequently, Dr. Myers believes MMAC’s position is much more sinister than it admits. He said the company took issue with his testimony before a Mississippi legislative committee and is now perpetrating “a medical malpractice lynching” upon him.
He calls MMAC’s actions “medical malpractice racism, medical malpractice social engineering and medical malpractice redlining.”
Myers, 48, is a member of the shrinking pool of doctors in this country who still make house calls to accommodate shut-in patients and those who have no transportation from remote areas.
He battles inclimate weather, nearly impassable roads and other difficult conditions at considerable personal sacrifice of time and expense.
A noted jazz musician, Myers also organizes fund-raisers and performs for worthy causes.
Dr. Myers contends MMAC’s risk management department made unreasonable, unethical demands when it asked to review patient records.
He contends a state-run company has no authority to override longstanding court-mandated doctor-patient confidentiality privileges.
“The policy of the Myers Foundation Christian Family Health Centers will only allow you to review the medical records of those patients who give us written permission,” he wrote in an Aug. 9 letter to MMAC.
Observers and supporters believe Myers’ controversial position on a number of issues makes him a prime target for retaliation by Mississippi power brokers.
He is founder of the National Juneteenth Medical Commission and has for several years led a campaign to make Juneteenth a national holiday observance. He is also a supporter of the national campaign for reparations for descendants of slaves.
The Mississippi Medical Assurance Co. has drawn the ire of numerous Myers supporters, including doctors and lawyers from across the nation. Several media outlets have also covered Myers’ story.
“The out-pouring of support from around the nation is a Godsend,” Dr. Myers declares. “The sad reality, however, is that I have patients who are suffering that I can’t treat.”
Myers said Tuesday that National Medical Association president Dr. Winston Price plans to visit the Delta later this month to assess the situation. Dr. Price was unavailable for comment Wednesday, but more details about his trip will be forthcoming.
Myers also said Price has consulted with former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher, who is aware of Myers’ struggle as well.
Dr. Satcher’s background makes him uniquely qualified to evaluate the health care crisis in the Mississippi Delta. He is a native of Anniston, Ala., former president of Meharry Medical School in Nashville and former chairman of departments of medicine at UCLA and Morehouse College, from which he graduated in 1963.
Dr. Satcher has also worked in a number of capacities with the CDC and other government agencies, and as administrator of the Sickle Cell research project at UCLA’s King-Drew facility.
The National Medical Association represents the nation’s African American doctors. The Mississippi Medical and Surgical Association, currently headed by Dr. Hursey Davis Sullivan, is this state’s wing of the organization.
In the interim, National Juneteenth Medical Commission chairman Dr. Frank McCune is circulating a survey to MM&SA members across the state in order to determine how many are experiencing problems maintaining their malpractice coverage.