APRIL 30, 1943
SAN FRANCISCO, Thursday—I wonder how many people have really read the facts published after a survey made by the Office of War Information, of the effects on the civilian population of the extensive depletion of the number of physicians and surgeons in private practice?
The problems brought about by taking forty to forty-five thousand doctors into the armed services, and the inevitable increase which will come as the Army and Navy forces are augmented, seems to have placed almost unbearable burdens on the doctors who remain in many communities. Many of them are endangering their own lives in the effort to meet the demands made on them.
As I read the whole report, certain things stand out.
First of all, we must do all we can in our own communities to meet this changed situation. Older doctors, doctors who for one reason or another have been rejected by the armed services, will try to meet our needs. We must make sure that we will make no demands on them which can not be met in some other way.
Wherever possible clinics should be established both in urban and rural communities, and people should go to them. Where people have not had long experience and have not been trained in simple care during illness, they should at once take the Red Cross home nursing course. All of us should know how to take temperatures and how to follow out the simple orders which a doctor gives us.
One important thing for every woman to know is what constitutes cleanliness which will prevent infection, because cuts, burns and bruises taken care of at once, will be only minor ailments if no infection sets in.
So far, we have tried to urge doctors voluntarily to move into the areas where shortages are acute. This, however, proved an unsuccessful method in Great Britain, and I am afraid we shall make the same discovery. In many cases, organized medical groups have been the stumbling block. Doctors who have gone into the services and given up practices they have built up, sometimes have not wanted them taken over by other young men while they are gone.
Men who have lucrative practices, do not want to move into an area which may need them badly, but which will give them inadequate income and, frequently, an impossible housing problem for their families. County medical societies and other groups have opposed, in many cases, anything which savors of government control, and at times even the sending of public health doctors.
These doctors, as a rule, are sent only in case of emergency or disaster. It looks to me, however, as if the health needs of the civilian population may force us to abandon our volunteer system and to submit to mandatory placement for the duration of the war.