Many of the 50 non-profit clinics providing health care to 500,000 people in the Appalachian coalfields may be forced to close because of financial losses suffered by the United Mine Workers' health and welfare funds, clinic operators warned yesterday.
The operators asked the funds' trustees to restore clinic subsidies that were eliminated July 1, when the trustees, faces with an impending deficit in the health funds, slashed benefits to miners and their families.
Without the so-called "retainers" used to subsidize the high cost of outpatient care that the clinics offer as an alternative to hospitalization, many of the facilities will be forced to shut down within a few months, said Don Conwell, the group's spokesman.
Conwell, administrator of a clinic in New Kensington, Pa., said the trustees expressed concern about the situation and said they would respond by the end of the week.
Meanwhile, wildcat strikes - which coal operators cite as the principal cause of the funds' financial problems - continue to idle about 32,000 miners in West Virginia and Kentucky, according to the Associated Press.
And in West Virginia. local union officials voted to march on Washington at some future dates to protest the cutbacks, the AP said, quoting one union official as saying, "If the homosexuals in this country can get recognition, so can the coal miners."