Two national stories grabbed the headlines this week: The release of 2012 Medicare data regarding physician reimbursements, and the revelation that there had been 23 deaths over 15 years at Veteran Affairs medical centers nationwide due to delayed colonoscopies and gastrointestinal care. Two of those deaths occurred at the Hampton VA.
Congressional hearings held Wednesday revealed that delayed care was also of concern in other areas, such as cardiology, throughout the VA system. Additionally, in a letter, U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chair of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, requested an additional, independent review by the Office of the Inspector General for Healthcare Inspections.
"We are concerned that possible concealment of damaging information regarding consult delays is not isolated and may reflect pervasive accountability problems," Miller wrote after discovering that the national review had omitted to report deaths at two Arizona facilities.
The Hampton VA Medical Center has added a community care component in the last week, part of a national initiative designed to improve access to care and reduce wait times for veterans.
The release of the Medicare data gives citizen sleuths ample fodder, but the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services cautioned about jumping to swift conclusions, based on the complexity of the information.
In a media conference call on Wednesday, CMS representatives noted that the agency has the most sophisticated analytical tools at its disposal and that any gross irregularities in doctor billing had already been captured. However, they also called on the public to report any unusual activity that they might discern. With regard to perceived high drug prices, they noted that physicians are reimbursed at 106 percent of the average market cost to include their costs for obtaining and administering the medication. One noted, however, that that had been cut to 102 percent by sequestration last year.
For Daily Press stories on how some Medicare money is distributed on the Peninsula, go to http://www.dailypress.com/health. For the full Medicare database, go to http://www.cms.gov.
Mental health reform
On Wednesday, Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued an executive order for the Governor's Task Force on mental health to continue its work. Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, a pediatric neurologist, will chair it.
The task force was established by former Gov. Bob McDonnell in the wake of the tragedy involving the death of state Sen. Creigh Deeds' son in November 2013, that exposed flaws in Virginia's mental health emergency response system.
Since then, the legislature has enacted several reforms. The task force will continue to study necessary changes in the system.
Understand human trafficking
On Thursday, April 17, from 1 to 4 p.m., Bon Secours Family Focus Program will conduct a free seminar on human trafficking.
The seminar will explore the laws regarding trafficking; who the victims are; who's vulnerable; who the traffickers are; and how to detect trafficking.
The event is intended to help those in schools be alert to the extent of the problem.
The event will be at Bon Secours Mary Immaculate Health Resource Center, 2 Bernadine Drive, Newport News.
To register or for more information, call 757-886-6511, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn about prostate cancer
Urology of Virginia, Tidewater Physicians Multispecialty Group, American Medical Systems and Hampton Roads Prostate Health Forum are sponsoring an event from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 19, at the Downing Gross Cultural Arts Center, 2410 Wickham Ave., Newport News.
Speakers include Herschel Chalk, a "prostate cancer warrior and former incontinence and erectile dysfunction patient"; Dr. Eric Darby, urologist and sexual health restoration surgeon; Dr. Paul Shellhammer, urologist, surgeon and researcher; and Dr. Kurt McCammon, reconstruction urologist and surgeon specializing in regaining continence and restoring sexual function.
The program is intended for men with incontinence and ED problems, their caregivers and survivors.
To register, call 757-827-0488 or email email@example.com. Provide your full name and phone number.
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