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Retired doctor continues dedication to children

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Since 1964, when he became Carroll's first pediatrician, Dr. Karl M. Green has been caring for the county's children.

Although he retired from his Westminster medical practice in June, his dedication to local children continues through his work with the Carroll County Children's Fund. Dr. Green started the fund in 1983 to help pay for the medical needs of uninsured and underinsured children.

Since its inception, the fund has donated more than $145,000 to 154 county families who needed help to cover their children's medical expenses.

Over the years, the fund has paid for such medical necessities as medicine for a child with cystic fibrosis, a wheelchair lift for a van and surgery for a child with a cleft palate.

On Wednesday, at the fund's annual meeting and fund-raising dinner at Martin's Westminster, Dr. Green will be named the next president of the organization, a position he held during the fund's first two years. The event will also serve as an occasion to honor Dr. Green upon his retirement from the practice of medicine.

Dr. Green said he's looking forward to becoming more involved with the organization he founded 12 years ago.

"I think it will be exciting," he said. "I'll have more time to give to it now and raise more money."

The development of Carroll County Children's Fund grew out of Dr. Green's involvement with the county chapter of the March of Dimes. Part of the money raised by the local chapter had always been set aside to meet the medical needs of county children. But in the early 1980s, Dr. Green said the policy was changed so that all money raised went to the March of Dimes central office.

"One of the administrators at Carroll County General Hospital said, 'Karl, why don't you start your own charity,' " Dr. Green recalled. "And I said, 'Well, by-damned, I will.' "

"We knew there were a lot of families out there who were not eligible for medical assistance or other aid, but did not have adequate insurance coverage," Dr. Green said.

Currently, 9 percent of county residents fall into this medical gray zone, according to Dr. Janet Neslen, the county's health officer.

"Karl has always been very devoted to children, and he's always seen to it that children who need help get it," Dr. Neslen said.

The fund will consider requests for help paying medical bills for children under 19 when health insurance and other sources of financial aid have been exhausted, or when insurance doesn't cover the needed treatment or medicine.

Not covered by insurance

"As a pediatrician, I know that when a child has a chronic illness there are a lot of ongoing costs for things not covered by insurance," Dr. Green said.

Diana and William Francis, of Hampstead, have insurance through Mr. Francis' employer, but their 9-year-old son, Billy, suffers from an immune system disorder that causes seizures and other medical problems.

"On any given day last year, we had over $5,000 of unpaid medical bills," Mrs. Francis said.

The Children's Fund gave the Francis family almost $2,000 to help cover the costs of medications and other expenses not covered by insurance. The family had a $1,500 bill, just from the accumulation of a year's worth of $10 insurance co-payments for Billy's medicine.

"They got us out of the clutches of so many collection agencies," Mrs. Francis said of the fund. "They realized we were doing our best, but sometimes things don't work out like you plan."

Requests for help are screened by the fund's eligibility committee to determine if families meet the fund's income guidelines. Eligible cases are then submitted to the board of directors, and payment is approved depending on the money available in the Children's Fund account. All cases are considered anonymously.

The fund is generally used to pay for surgeries, medications and medical equipment. Most doctors agree to waive their fees for cases associated with the fund, Dr. Green said.

"There aren't many private local funds like this, certainly in the state, and probably around the country," said Dr. Elizabeth Ruff, director of maternal and child health with the county health department.

Danita and Wendell Bly of Winfield turned to the Children's Fund when they were faced with an unexpected bill for surgery to correct their 2-year-old daughter's cleft palate.

Aubrey's first two surgeries had gone well, and doctors were optimistic about the final and third surgery. But Mrs. Bly said the hospital wouldn't perform the third operation until the cost of the $10,000 second surgery had been paid in full.

'In a predicament'

Surgeons were anxious to complete the third operation as scheduled, before Aubrey's bone structure developed any further.

"We were in a predicament where it was going to take a while to get the money together," Mrs. Bly said. "We have four kids and it's not easy to come up with extra money all of a sudden."

Mrs. Bly said their insurance company had initially agreed to pay for the entire surgery, but then refused.

After an extended battle, the insurers agreed to pay 80 percent ** of the bill, but the Blys still owed $2,000.

After prolonged haggling with the insurance company over the bill, Mrs. Bly was surprised to hear that the Children's Fund had approved payment of the remaining $2,000 on the surgery bill two days after her request for help.

"Because of the Children's Fund we were able to stay on 'D schedule and go ahead with the third surgery," Mrs. Bly said.

The Children's Fund is counting on Wednesday's fund-raiser to increase its bank account, which has become dangerously low.

"The requests are up and the donations are not," Dr. Green said.

The Children's Fund has no office and relies solely on volunteers to handle administrative work, fund-raising events and publicity.

Rising health care costs have meant that the medical bills handled by the fund have become significantly larger over the years.

"We used to be asked for $200 or $300," Dr. Green said. "Now we're asked for thousands of dollars."

In fiscal 1995, the fund spent $22,500 to help 25 children. About $7,000 remains in the fund's account, said outgoing president Bob Schilling.

"It we have a $5,000 case, it would be a real strain," he said.

Tickets to the Carroll County Children's Fund dinner Wednesday are $30 per person. For information about ticket sales, call

Patrick McHugh at 857-1794.

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