Md. Medical Community Fights Cuts Caused By Sequestration

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WJZ general assignment reporter Mike Hellgren came to Maryland's News...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Maryland’s medical community is fighting back against what they believe are devastating cuts to fund new research and medicine to treat common and rare illnesses.

Mike Hellgren reports on the impact.

This is about sequestration—those federal government spending cuts some believe are necessary—that we’re spending far too much—but at some prominent Maryland medical institutions, they say the cuts will cost far more.

Researchers are working around the clock to make breakthroughs in the treatment of everything from cancer to the flu—breakthroughs that save lives. But in Maryland, federal funding to continue that has been slashed by millions of dollars at Johns Hopkins and by almost $2 billion at the National Institutes of Health.

It angers Jose Maldonado, a stroke survivor, who says that crucial research is why he’s alive.

“We shouldn’t have to be up here. I don’t know what the heck these people are thinking about down in Washington,” he said.

The institutions warn continuing losses that big could stall progress on cancer drugs and treatment of rare diseases.

“We’re deeply troubled by the direction they’re taking us as a nation, a nation that will be judged ultimately by whether or not we have set our priorities in order to try and alleviate suffering,” said Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.

While some in Congress believe the cuts are necessary for a federal government that’s spending out of control, Senator Barbara Mikulski says there are smarter ways to slice: getting rid of tax loopholes, instead of medical research grants.

“Right now, our goal is to fund NIH and cancel sequester so it is not the new normal,” she said. “Most of all, we want to make sure America wants to move ahead.”

“If anybody wants to have a debate about whether sequester is good or not, tell them to come and see me,” Maldonado said.

It’s not only about health but also the economy. Johns Hopkins is tremendously important to Baltimore and NIH in Bethesda supports more than 18,000 jobs.

There are fears young scientists could go to other countries to find work and that institutions could not withstand years of cuts.

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