Tester, Baucus Recruit Health Specialists to Libby

By Beacon Staff

U.S. Senators Jon Tester and Max Baucus introduced legislation last week to recruit health specialists to Libby, which was declared a public health emergency in 2009 because of the former W.R. Grace and Co. vermiculite mine.

In the last decade, nearly 300 people have died and many more sickened because of asbestos that was once mined near Libby. The proposed bill would bring trained specialists to Libby to work for two years and in return, the government would help pay their student loans. The National Health Service Corps currently provide such assistance for primary care providers, but not specialists.

“The high costs of medical training can often keep these folks away from rural areas. This bill is a win-win that would encourage healthcare specialists to come and help address our community’s unique challenges while also creating great new opportunities for medical professionals to help an underserved population alongside leading doctors and researchers,” said Dr. Brad Black, director of the Center for Asbestos Related Disease in Libby.

Tester and Baucus introduced their bill the same week they proposed a resolution to designate the first week of April 2013 as “Asbestos Awareness Week.” This is the seventh year in a row the pair has introduced the resolution.

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