Senate leader attacks Kerry at DHMC event

by Alix Cody | 10/19/04 5:00am

Senate Majority leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., visited New Hampshire on a campaign visit for President George W. Bush yesterday against the backdrop of Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry's unveiling of a comprehensive plan to tackle the current national flu vaccine crisis at a campaign stop in Florida.

Frist focused on healthcare during his speeches at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in the morning and later in Concord at a convention focusing on children's health.

Democrat John Kerry's plan, Frist said, "is a ... government-controlled program that results in a tax increase of a thousand dollars a family. It takes us in the direction of Washington and bureaucrats making decisions, rather than doctors and patients."

He also said Bush proposal on litigation reform "will eliminate the litigation lottery, which is hurting patients, drumming doctors out of the practice of medicine and decreasing access to health care today."

Kerry's new plan to prevent flu vaccine crises in the future hinges on stopping price-gouging by vendors.

The candidate added that if elected, he would provide incentives to manufacturers to encourage more suppliers to produce enough vaccines for the nation.

Attempts by the Young Democrats and the New Hampshire Democratic Party to protest Frist's speech at DHMC were thwarted by the Secret Service and DHMC security guards, who said the protesters could not be there because the DHMC campus is private property, according to Kathleen Strand, press secretary for the New Hampshire Democratic party.

Protesters had planned to dress up in coats, hats, scarves and gloves and carry boxes of tissues and cough drops in addition to signs protesting Bush's policies that they allege led to the shortage.

Senior citizen protesters in Concord had better luck. Strand echoed some of the worries of the seniors.

"They are obviously concerned about the thousands of seniors without a flu vaccine," Strand said. "Once again, President Bush hasn't put the healthcare of the country first."

Dr. B.J. Entwisle of Concord rallied Kerry supporters at the protest about what many see as a major crisis. She explained how the shortage could happen.

"How are we supposed to trust Bush against a bio-terrorism threat when the nation is not even safe against a vaccine shortage," Strand said.

The national flu vaccine shortage resulted from the closure of a factory in Liverpool, England that was expected to supply half of the influenza vaccines the United States normally receives.

According to the Democratic Party, the Food and Drug Administration knew a year ago of the Liverpool firm's safety problems but relied solely on information from the manufacturer to determine the status of the supply, instead of on an independent agency.

In addition, Strand said the General Accounting Office issued reports warning of the significance of a shortage as early as 2001, which she said Bush ignored.

Kerry said his plan would also require reporting of vaccine supplies, encourage donations of vaccines, increase the national stockpile of lifesaving anti-viral medications, establish a strategic reserve of the flu vaccine and fund research on faster vaccine production.

This new plan comes on the heels of a new Slate.com poll showing Kerry ahead with 272 electoral votes and Bush with 262 as of Oct. 18.

Friday's poll had showed Bush ahead 270-268.

The change was due to a New Hampshire poll showing Kerry pulling ahead.

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