By Colin Allen, published on January 1, 2003 - last reviewed on January 23, 2015
If you're in need of surgery, West Virginia is not the place to be
today, where 39 surgeons from four different hospitals are on strike to
protest the rising cost of malpractice insurance. As a result, the
Wheeling-based hospitals have been forced to either transfer
surgery-bound patients to hospitals outside the city or postpone
procedures for non-life-threatening problems. While state legislators try
to formulate a solution, patients can only wait until the strike is
"Their surgeries are going to have more complications," says Susan
J. Nathan, Ph.D., a health psychologist and surgery preparation
specialist. "[The strike] will cause an increase in anxiety and fear,
which will in turn cause the body to produce more stress
Postponing a scheduled surgical procedure ratchets up stress in an
already nerve-racking event. "More blood is lost during surgery, patients
need more pain medication and afterwards there are more complications.
It's not a good thing," explains Nathan.
"Everything works against you when you are anxious and fearful,"
Nathan continues. She recommends that patients who are awaiting the
strike's end use relaxation techniques such as meditation or breathing
exercises. And to further help lower anxiety, she suggests talking to a
pre-surgery therapist or using audio therapy, which is essentially
listening to relaxing music.
West Virginia is not the only state in which rising insurance rates
have threatened public health care. A similar strike was averted in
eastern Pennsylvania on Wednesday, January 1, when Governor-elect Ed
Rendell bailed out the state's hospital industry by allocating $220
million worth of funding to temporarily cover escalated malpractice
Did you know that music also helps you recover from surgery?
More information on Susan J. Nathan and audio therapy can be found