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From the front lines: Dr. Javeed Sukhera's account of a town hall meeting

Thank you to Dr. Sukhera for writing in. A somber account that should anger all physicians....and make it clear that they need to get involved in this fight.  ________________________________________________________________________

I just attended a Town Hall near Rochester in a suburb of Victor NY for Congressman Eric Massa.

I must say it was one of the most primitive displays of human behavior I have ever seen.

It was truly a disgusting sight to hear the insults and ignorance that permeated the crowd. Rep Massa did his best to point to the facts, for example, when an elderly woman told him that the bill was going to make America a communist country and send the government to take children out of their homes, he pulled out the page of the bill she was referring to, read it aloud and simply told her she was incorrect and that it referred to surveying to minimize medicaid fraud. He did the same to another speaker who told him that the bill would allow the government access to every American's bank account.

Another speaker gave a soliloquy that he had a cancer diagnosis and got timely treatment but that if he lived in Canada or the UK, or "one of those 'other' countries," he would be dead. Instead of making it clear to him that Canada and the UK have better overall health demographics, Massa was more conciliatory and appeased the gentleman's concerns. Instead of talking about the cost of inaction, he appeased every individual who asked questions about the costs of reform and listed his voting record laundry list depicting himself as anything but a "tax and spend liberal."

The atmosphere was so vicious that any attempt at meaningful dialogue seemed to be shot down with horrible heckling including someone screaming that we should have just "dropped a nuke" on Iraq instead of spending 3 trillion there, and someone screaming "give Obama's wife to the Insurance Industry!" On my walk into the meeting I stood next to a guy wearing a t-shirt with President Obama's face and a Hitler moustache. I heard him argue with a WWII veteran who told him he should be ashamed of himself.

I didn't get a question ticket so I left before it ended. We had a group of about 10-15 doctors/medical students that I organized to attend. Several other people who rsvp'd and told me they were coming were turned away because the auditorium filled 15 minutes prior to the start of the event. It seems as though the opponents of reform either don't have jobs or are so well organized that they are instructed to fill the seats as early as possible.

This is what we are up against. I remain hopeful that we can push for meaningful reform, but I must say, what I witnessed was demoralizing. If this is what is happening in New York, I can only imagine what people in some of the red states are experiencing.

Javeed Sukhera, MD

Western/Upstate NY Regional Director, Doctors For America

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