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Indian American Doctor Wants Healthcare Reforms

Chicago: An Indian American physician, who is president-elect of the Chicago Medical Society, has said that doctors should take the lead and work with lawmakers in the US on healthcare reforms that should include a reduction in fines to be paid in cases of medical negligence. //

Shastri Swaminathan, a psychiatrist who has served as president of the Illinois Psychiatric Society, will take over as Chicago Medical Society president June 3.

Foremost on his agenda, he said, would be to mobilize physicians to work towards a better health system that would include reducing medical malpractice premiums that have to be paid by doctors in cases of negligence.

"Something must be done before physicians start leaving Illinois. For the specialties most affected - neurosurgery and obstetrics and gynecology - the malpractice premiums have gone sky high," Swaminathan told IANS.

"Moreover, Medicare reimbursements are a concern. So, as a physician, you are hit with a triple whammy - the overheads are going up, malpractice insurance is going up, while the reimbursements are going down," he said.

Swaminathan said physicians had been "left off the table" in the current struggle for healthcare reforms.

"The key to working towards healthcare reform is for physicians to work with the legislators. Today physicians (in the US) are isolated. There is a need for them to be politically involved and be better connected to legislators," he said.

"I think physicians have been left off the table (in the debate on healthcare reforms). But if we physicians don't look after the patients' interests, who will? It is we who have to shepherd the flock."

According to him, there was also the need for better patient safety and better interaction with consumer groups.

"We cannot push for medical reforms without working for better patient safety. And patient safety involves working to eliminate judgment errors an
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