Opinion Columns & Blogs

Why are Ga. lawmakers denying cancer patients great care right here in our own state?

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You never know how much you value life until you are faced with something as heavy as a cancer diagnosis — especially a stage IV cancer diagnosis when a doctor tells you to find your hospice care because he says there is nothing else he can do.

With a strong faith and confidence there was still treatment available for my complex uterine cancer, I was one of the blessed ones — one of the 35 percent of Georgia patients admitted to Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Today, I am about to celebrate eight years as a cancer survivor and remain under routine observation at the Newnan hospital.

Due to a little-known law called Certificate of Need, most Georgia cancer patients don’t have the chance I had to seek treatment at this highly specialized cancer facility. That law says 65 percent of the hospital’s patients must come from outside of Georgia. That means most patients travel from far away to receive the high-quality and compassionate care the center offers.

Thankfully that may change as the Georgia Legislature is considering a proposal to abolish this unfair Certificate of Need law and remove the requirement that the cancer center take most patients from other states. It’s a great step toward giving patients in areas like Columbus access to more specialized cancer care

Because my cancer was complex, local hospitals in Columbus and even in Alabama could not prevent my cancer from returning. After chemotherapy and radiation, I did not feel encouraged or optimistic they could help me beat this disease.

It is by God’s grace that I had the opportunity to go to Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Unfortunately, too many other Georgia patients don’t have that choice. No law should prevent you from being treated at the hospital of your choice. This is life or death.

Unfortunately, a few of our Columbus lawmakers do not see the value in giving patients options to choose where they want to be treated for cancer or other health conditions. That’s why it’s important for our community to urge them to support House Bill 198 and Senate Bill 74 so patients like myself have the opportunity to go to the hospital of their choice.

Almost every one of us knows someone who has had cancer. I thank God every day I was one of the few Georgia cancer patients who had the opportunity to be admitted to the cancer center. But I also pray for the health of those who didn’t get that chance because of this ridiculous law.

I believe the state Legislature should remember this is first and foremost about patients – human beings who want a shot at getting to birthdays, weddings and other family milestones. As I mentioned, a cancer diagnosis makes you realize that life is truly a precious gift -- and one I treasure every day.

Linda Glenn is a 64-year-old retiree and Waverly Hall resident.