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Johns Hopkins Medicine
Office of Corporate Communications
Media Contact: Kim Hoppe
April 26, 2005
BILL SIGNING HAS SPECIAL MEANING TO JOHNS HOPKINS CHILDREN’S CENTER PHYSICIAN
When Governor Robert Ehrlich signs Senate Bill 129, the "Energy Assistance Program Act," Tuesday morning, the bill will have special meaning to David Nichols, M.D., professor of Anesthesiology/Critical Care Medicine and Pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and attending physician in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.
“As a physician, I’ve been deeply disturbed by the suffering of children who have been horribly burned in fires that result from power disconnection or lack of fuel,” Nichols says. “This legislation is a good first step in protecting Maryland’s children by ensuring that families in need can apply for emergency energy assistance funds.”
The bill as amended adds households with children to a list of groups eligible for an emergency fund to help pay energy bills (all groups must meet income and other requirements). Nichols submitted testimony before the Senate Finance Committee in favor of this amendment, urging the committee to include language that would protect young children from experiencing “danger to health or survival as a result of an energy emergency.”
In response to several recent burn injuries among children from households without power seen at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, Nichols organized a task force at Hopkins to promote actions to protect Maryland children by reducing the use of unsafe alternative heat sources. For the past year, the group of physicians, nurses and public health experts has been meeting with various utility company representatives as well as leaders within the Public Service Commission to advocate changing the current utility shut-off policies for Maryland homes with children under the age of 11.
“Public health data highlight young children as a particularly vulnerable group in the event of power disconnection or lack of fuel,” says Nichols. “The fatality rate in this setting is extremely high, and the survivors have severe and permanent physical and psychological disability, which is difficult and expensive to treat.”
“As we look to next steps for our task force, we commend the Public Service Commission and the utility companies for showing a willingness to discuss measures to protect the young children of Maryland,” Nichols adds.
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