Unlike last year, board members of the Northern Virginia Health Systems Agency (HSA) recently heard praise along with criticism of their draft for a Health Systems Plan for Northern Virginia. Comments, both pro and con, were made last week at a public hearing on the 1979 plan, an updated and revised version of the first HSA plan, which drew sharp criticism from the medical community when it was released a year ago.
Betty Adelman, chairperson of the HSA Plan Development Committee, attributed this year's more positive comments to increased involvement of physicians in the project.
"I was much more comfortable" this year, she said after the hearing. "I felt we'd achieved more confidence from the physician community. They now feel they have a say in the planning process."
Some of the speakers at Saturday's hearing praised the agency for its efforts to involve the community in the drafting of the plan.
HSA of Northern Virgina is a non-profit corporation responsible under federal and state law for assessing and developing plans for health care in the region. The 1979 plan covers virtually all areas of medical service, including family planning, preventive medicine and health education. Recommendations in these last areas drew criticism from community members who spoke at the hearing.
Jack Herrity, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, complained that the plan contained " lobbying" efforts. Herrity, who said he was presenting his own views and not those of the board, said he didn't want the health plan to address the use of alcohol or tobacco or concern itself with "moral issues" such as family planning and abortion. He suggested that some of the HSA proposals constituted "social engineering."
Don Harris, director of planning for the Fairfax Hospital Association, also criticized the "lobbying efforts of the HSA," saying it was inappropriate to use tax dollars in controversial areas. "It smacks of a bureaucracy seeking more authority, more regulatory power," said Harris, "instead of a local health planning organization working as a community group to identify and assist in the meeting of this community's needs."
Harris said the association strongly objects to the porposal for reviewing most charges in hospitals and the proposed establishment of a mandatory rate-setting body. Virginia now has a voluntary rate-setting panel.
Mary Finnerty of March for Life, an anti-abortion organization, objected to the scope of the recommendations on family planning services, which include birth control, abortion, sterilization and adoption counseling.
The plan states, "Indigent women should not be denied any service, including abortion services, because of inability to pay."
Finnerty, who opposed funding for contraceptive services and abortions, also criticized the plan's provision for sex education in schools. "It usurps rights of parents" to teach their children about sex. "We must stop making our teens into prostitutes. We must stop shoving contraceptives at them," said Finnerty.
Other criticisms of the plan included:
Questions on the statistical base used, especially population projections for Northern Virginia, which some speakers called conservative.
The need for a shorter, less complex plan. The draft is 636 pages. An 80-page summary of the plan is now being compiled.
Doubts about the financial feasibility of providing the recommended health services. uestions on the effectiveness of technical advisory groups which HSA established in the past year to conduct planning for technical hospital services.
The need for evaluation of the plan are available in libraries and through the HSA office at 7245 Arlington Alvd, Suite 300, Falls Church. The board will consider written comments on the plan received by Dec. 1.
After comments have been considered, board members are expected to approve a revised version of the plan, which will be submitted to U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare and state health authorities.