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Greed, Ego Propel Health Center Plan

August 30, 1992

UC Irvine's plan for a Center for the Health Sciences, a "National Institutes of Health, West," is, indeed, a lofty and noble plan. With the help of the private, biomedical industry, such a center should be very successful in bringing great profits to the private medical sector, and, at the same time, boost the status of the elitist Medical School professors. Once again, greed and ego prevail.

There are two great problems in health care today. The maldistribution of care, limiting access of large numbers of uninsured and indigent to adequate health care, is absolutely criminal. The outrageous cost of our health care system is also a problem which must be immediately addressed if we ever hope to provide universal medical care.

One of the greatest factors causing escalating health care costs is the very technology that UC Irvine wishes to promote. The two primary goals of medicine are to prevent premature death and to maintain quality of life. The biomedical advances of recent years, including medical imaging, intensive care, newer drugs, innovative surgical procedures and, parenthetically, innovations in managed care, have produced very little improvement in either life expectancy or quality of life. This technology has, instead, reaped great profits for the biomedical industry.

UC Irvine's insensitivity to the really important issues in medicine is well exemplified by a recent attempt, on my part, to refer two indigent patients in need of tertiary level services offered by UCI Medical Center. These were patients who should not have been treated in our primary level community hospital. After numerous telephone calls and days of delay, I finally received a call from the professor in charge of the service, who refused to accept the patients, based on the fact that they did not have adequate teaching value for his residents, and that UCI Medical Center is not a "charity hospital." He did agree that these patients should not be treated at our primary level hospital. After further discussion, his solution was to dump these patients on a closer "boutique" hospital.

This nation needs only one National Institutes of Health. What we need now is leadership in solving the great problems that face our health care system. Our university should be leading that charge.

DON R. MCCANNE, M.D., San Clemente

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