The City-County Health Department is expanding the medical clinic it shares with the Utah Medical Assistance Program in response to private physicians' refusals to accept new Medicaid patients.

Dr. Joseph K. Miner, director of the department's board of health, told board members Monday that in Utah County only FHP and one other doctor will take Medicaid patients, while the Provo Pediatrics Clinic accepts only children who qualify for Medicaid.Miner said there are not enough alternatives for other patient groups, and the state Medicaid office has pressured the county to provide more services for the area's 257,000 residents.

As a result, a clinic in the state government office building in Provo opened in Room 1100 Wednesday for general medical care patients. Any patients with more complicated problems will be referred through the clinic to specialists.

"Doctors in the area will accept Medicaid referrals," Miner said, "and FHP, as a federally subsidized program, will always be available. But it's a real problem."

Board members Donald N. Wright and Leonard H. Foote, a physician, said reimbursement levels aren't the only reason.

The two agreed many doctors don't take Medicaid patients because it's "too much hassle, too much paperwork, and doctors are penalized too harshly for honest mistakes."

Dr. Stuart W. Slingerland of the Provo Pediatrics Clinic said every doctor, particularly pediatricians, should pitch in and help.

"If everybody does their part, spread around the charity care, it would help. I get very upset with pediatricians who refuse to treat Medicaid patients. It's not the child or the baby's fault, whatever circumstance the parents find themselves in," he said.

Slingerland also questioned the health department's figures on the number of doctors who refuse patients.

"There are a couple of doctors who've closed their practices but for the most part, I believe they are accepting new Medicaid patients," he said.