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News

Last 50 News Postings

 (Click on title to be directed to posting, most recent listed first)

FDA Commissioner Gottlieb Resigns
Physicians Generate an Average $2.4 Million a Year Per Hospital
Drug Prices Continue to Rise
New Center for Physician Rights
CMS Decreases Clinic Visit Payments to Hospital-Employed Physicians
   and Expands Decreases in Drug Payments 340B Cuts
Big Pharma Gives Millions to Congress
Gilbert Hospital and Florence Hospital at Anthem Closed
CMS’ Star Ratings Miscalculated
VA Announces Aggressive New Approach to Produce Rapid Improvements
   in VA Medical Centers
Healthcare Payments Under the Budget Deal: Mostly Good News
   for Physicians
Hospitals Plan to Start Their Own Generic Drug Company
Flu Season and Trehalose
MedPAC Votes to Scrap MIPS
CMS Announces New Payment Model
Varenicline (Chantix®) Associated with Increased Cardiovascular Events
Tax Cuts Could Threaten Physicians
Trump Nominates Former Pharmaceutical Executive as HHS Secretary
Arizona Averages Over 25 Opioid Overdoses Per Day
Maryvale Hospital to Close
California Enacts Drug Pricing Transparency Bill
Senate Health Bill Lacks 50 Votes Needed to Proceed
Medi-Cal Blamed for Poor Care in Lawsuit
Senate Republican Leadership Releases Revised ACA Repeal and Replace Bill
Mortality Rate Will Likely Increase Under Senate Healthcare Bill
University of Arizona-Phoenix Receives Full Accreditation
Limited Choice of Obamacare Insurers in Some Parts of the Southwest
Gottlieb, the FDA and Dumbing Down Medicine
Salary Surveys Report Declines in Pulmonologist, Allergist and Nurse 
   Incomes
CDC Releases Ventilator-Associated Events Criteria
Medicare Bundled Payment Initiative Did Not Reduce COPD Readmissions
Younger Smokers Continue to Smoke as Adults: Implications for Raising the
   Smoking Age to 21
Most Drug Overdose Deaths from Nonprescription Opioids
Lawsuits Allege Price Fixing by Generic Drug Makers
Knox Named Phoenix Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs
Rating the VA Hospitals
Garcia Resigns as Arizona University VP
Combination Influenza Therapy with Clarithromycin-Naproxen-Oseltamivir
   Superior to Oseltamivir Alone
VAP Rates Unchanged
ABIM Overhauling MOC
Substitution of Assistants for Nurses Increases Mortality, Decreases Quality
CMS Releases Data on Drug Spending
Trump Proposes Initial Healthcare Agenda
Election Results of Southwest Ballot Measures Affecting Healthcare
Southwest Ballot Measures Affecting Healthcare
ACGME Proposes Dropping the 16 Hour Resident Shift Limit
Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer: RT Out, Pembrolizumab In, and Vaccine
   Hope or Hype
Dental Visits May Prevent Pneumonia

 

For an excel file with complete news listings click here.

A report from Heartwire described a letter written by Peter Wilmshurst to the AHA asking for full disclosure of conflicts of interest in the MIST trial. Wilmshurst was portrayed in SWJPCC on April 27, 2012 in our Profiles of Medical Courage series. We felt the report of the letter might be of interest to the readership of SWJPCC but there was no good section to pass along the Heartwire article. For this reason, a new Section entitled “News” has been started to report developments outside the usual medical journal purview or from other sources which might interest our readers. We encourage bringing news-worthy articles to our attention and would welcome submission of written reports of such articles.

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Entries in wait times (3)

Thursday
Sep182014

Whistle-Blower Accuses VA Inspector General of a "Whitewash"

Yesterday, Dr. Sam Foote, the initial whistle-blower at the Phoenix VA, criticized the Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general's (VAOIG) report on delays in healthcare at the Phoenix VA at a hearing before the House Committee of Veterans Affairs (1,2). Foote accused the VAOIG of minimizing bad patient outcomes and deliberately confusing readers, downplaying the impact of delayed health care at Phoenix VA facilities. "At its best, this report is a whitewash. At its worst, it is a feeble attempt at a cover-up," said Foote. Foote earlier this year revealed that as many as 40 Phoenix patients died while awaiting care and that the Phoenix VA maintained secret waiting lists while under-reporting patient wait times for appointments. His disclosures triggered the national VA scandal.

Richard Griffin, the acting VAOIG, said that nearly 300 patients died while on backlogged wait lists in the Phoenix VA Health Care System, a much higher number than the 40 listed in his August 26 investigative report (1). However, he defended his office's report and conclusion that the VAOIG could not "conclusively assert" that any veteran deaths were "caused by" untimely care. Dr. John Daigh, Griffin's assistant inspector general, seemed to disagree saying that excessive wait times not only negatively affected veterans, but helped lead to deaths.

Griffin's office has also been accused of allowing VA personnel to "soften" the report-a charge which he denied. Griffin was taken to task by the committee for not providing the original (unaltered) copy of the report which had been requested.

Robert McDonald, the recently appointed VA Secretary also testified. McDonald had come under fire the day before in a letter from Arizona senators John McCain and Jeff Flake for inaction against senior VA officials (3). McCain and Flake said, "Senior VA leaders have ... not been held accountable for delaying and denying patient care, silencing and intimidating whistle-blowers, and enriching themselves by manipulating wait-time statistics to receive undeserved performance bonuses." McDonald and Griffin replied that 19 disciplinary actions are in process and OIG investigators are working with the FBI and Justice Department on possible prosecutions.

Richard A. Robbins, MD

Editor

Southwest Journal of Pulmonary and Critical Care

References

  1. Office of VA Inspector General. Review of alleged patient deaths, patient wait times, and scheduling practices at the Phoenix VA health care system. Available at: http://www.va.gov/oig/pubs/VAOIG-14-02603-267.pdf (accessed 9/18/14).
  2. C Span. Phoenix VA Inspector General's Report. House Committee of Veterans Affairs. September 17, 2014. Available at: http://www.c-span.org/video/?321497-1/hearing-veterans-affairs-inspector-generals-report (accessed 9/18/14).
  3. Wagner D. Inspector general: care delay may be factor in VA deaths. USA Today. September 18, 2014. Available at: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/09/18/inspector-general-care-delay-may-be-factor-in-va-deaths/15814065/ (accessed 9/18/14). 

Reference as: Robbins RA. Whistle-blower accuses VA inspector general of a "whitewash". Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2014;9(3):185-6. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.13175/swjpcc124-14 PDF 

Wednesday
Aug272014

VA Office of Inspector General Releases Scathing Report of Phoenix VA

The long-awaited Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) report on the Phoenix VA Health Care System (PVAHCS) was released on August 27, 2014 (1). The report was scathing in its evaluation of VA practices and leadership. Five questions were investigated:

  1. Were there clinically significant delays in care?
  2. Did PVAHCS omit the names of veterans waiting for care from its Electronic Wait List (EWL)?
  3. Were PVAHCS personnel not following established scheduling procedures?
  4. Did the PVAHCS culture emphasize goals at the expense of patient care?
  5. Are scheduling deficiencies systemic throughout the VA?

In each case, the OIG found that the allegations were true. Despite initial denials, the OIG report showed that former PVAHCS director Sharon Helman, associate director Lance Robinson, hospital administration director Brad Curry, chief of staff Darren Deering and other senior executives were aware of delays in care and unofficial wait lists.

Perhaps most disturbing is the OIG finding that scheduling deficiencies are systemic throughout the VA. The OIG is currently investigating 90 VA facilities. The findings prompted Rep. Jeff Miller, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman to comment “We have seen no evidence that the corrupt bureaucrats who created the VA scandal will be purged from the department’s payroll anytime soon. Until that happens, VA will never be fixed,” (2).

Though whistleblowers alleged veterans died while awaiting care in Phoenix, acting Inspector General Richard Griffin did not draw any conclusions about criminal culpability and declared that he was “unable to conclusively assert that the absence of timely quality care caused the deaths of these veterans.” Phoenix whistleblowers Drs. Sam Foote and Katherine Mitchell, said the OIG standard made no sense because 45 examples described in the OIG report showed that delayed care likely resulted in premature deaths or harm to patients’ quality of life. It is the later standard that is usually applied to physicians.

The day prior to the release of the report the Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson was interviewed noting that more veterans are being sent to private doctors for care reducing waiting times (3). "The fundamental point here is, we are taking bold and decisive action to fix these problems because it's unacceptable," said Gibson. It is unclear whether these reports of improved waiting times are any more reliable than the initial denials of prolonged patient waiting times from both the Phoenix VA and VA Central Office.

Richard A. Robbins, MD

Editor

Southwest Journal of Pulmonary and Critical Care

References

  1. Office of VA Inspector General. Review of alleged patient deaths, patient wait times, and scheduling practices at the Phoenix VA health care system. Available at: http://www.va.gov/oig/pubs/VAOIG-14-02603-267.pdf (accessed 8/26/14).
  2. Wagner D, Lee M. Scathing VA report stirs outcry for accountability. Arizona Republic. Available at: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/arizona/investigations/2014/08/26/scathing-va-report-stirs-outcry-accountability/14665455/ (accessed 8/27/14).
  3. Associated Press. Watchdog report details ‘systemic’ problems at VA facilities. Available at: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/08/26/no-proof-delays-in-care-caused-vets-to-die-va-says/ (accessed 8/25/14). 

Reference as: Robbins RA. VA office of inspector general releases scathing report of Phoenix VA. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2014;9(2):140-1. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.13175/swjpcc112-14 PDF

Thursday
Apr102014

Patient Deaths Blamed on Long Waits at the Phoenix VA

This morning the lead article in the Arizona Republic was a report blaming as many as 40 deaths at the Phoenix VA on long waits (1). Yesterday, Rep. Jeff Miller, the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, held a hearing titled “A Continued Assessment of Delays in VA Medical Care and Preventable Veteran Deaths.” “It appears as though there could be as many as 40 veterans whose deaths could be related to delays in care,” Miller announced to a stunned audience. The committee has spent months investigating patient-care scandals and allegations at VA facilities in Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Miami and other cities. Miller said that dozens of VA hospital patients in Phoenix may have died while awaiting medical care. He went on to say that staff investigators have evidence that the Phoenix VA Health Care System keeps two sets of records to conceal prolonged waits that patients must endure for doctor appointments and treatment. Sharon Helman, director of Phoenix VA Health Care System, said in a written statement: “We take seriously any issue that occurs in our medical center and outpatient clinics. Therefore, we have asked for an external review by the VA Office of the Inspector General [OIG] ... If the OIG finds areas that need to be improved, we will swiftly address them as our goal is to provide the best care possible to our veterans.”

VA health system workers who asked not to be named because they fear retribution, said patient access data incorrectly show vets are able to see physicians within days when actual waits may be months. Dr. Sam Foote, who retired from the Phoenix VA in December, filed complaints with the VA inspector general seeking investigations of alleged medical care failures and administrative misconduct. In a Feb. 2 letter to the inspector general, Miller, Sen. John McCain and Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, Foote said the Phoenix system is afflicted by “gross mismanagement of VA resources and criminal misconduct” that produced “systemic patient safety issues and possible wrongful deaths.” According to Foote, VA IG investigators came to Phoenix late last year and verified allegations he’d made in an October complaint, but no action was taken. In an interview, he said patients “were deliberately being held off the lists” to misrepresent the speed of health services for vets, but it remains unknown how many of the deaths may have been preventable. Foote went on to allege hostile working conditions that caused an exodus of quality doctors and nurses, producing backlogs in both primary care and specialty areas. One example was urology, where resignation of several of the staff urologists forced patients to be referred to out-of-state VA centers or private physicians for treatment. Foote described elaborate techniques that were used to mischaracterize system responsiveness, estimating that up to 30,000 patient charts have been altered. He said thousands of new patients must wait up to a year for assignment to primary-care physicians who are overbooked.

Allegations of falsifying wait times or retaliation against whistle-blowers are nothing new at the VA. A Senate hearing in 2011 found similar falsification of wait times (2). Review of the Office of Inspector General’s website revealed multiple instances of similar findings dating back to at least 2002 (3-6). In each instance, unreliable data regarding wait times was cited and no action was taken.

Fear of retaliation was cited by Foote as a reason for retirement and other employees asked that their names be withheld (1). These fears appear to be realistic. Recently, a VA employee was demoted after providing testimony about financial mismanagement at the Phoenix VA (7). In contrast, it appears that VA administrators have little to fear from whistle blowers, the OIG, or Congress. If recent history is any guide, it seems likely that the delays will be blamed on lazy providers and VA administrators will create another layer of bureaucracy ostensibly to solve the problem. However, the outcome will be further repression of any whistle blowers and depletion of already short patient care resources.

Richard A. Robbins, MD

Editor

Southwest Journal of Pulmonary and Critical Care

References

  1. Wagner D. Deaths at Phoenix VA hospital may be tied to delayed care. Available at: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/2014/04/10/deaths-phoenix-va-hospital-may-tied-delayed-care/7537521/ (accessed 4/10/14).
  2. Robbins RA. VA administrators gaming the system. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care 2012;4:149-54.
  3. http://www.va.gov/oig/52/reports/2003/VAOIG-02-02129-95.pdf (accessed 4/10/14).
  4. http://www.va.gov/oig/54/reports/VAOIG-05-03028-145.pdf (accessed 4/10/14).
  5. http://www.va.gov/oig/54/reports/VAOIG-05-03028-145.pdf  (accessed 4/10/14).
  6. http://www.va.gov/oig/52/reports/2007/VAOIG-07-00616-199.pdf (accessed 4/10/14).
  7. Wagner D. VA official in Arizona demoted after her testimony. Arizona Republic. Available at http://www.azcentral.com/news/arizona/articles/20130314va-official-arizona-pedene-demoted-after-testimony.html (accessed 4/10/14).

Reference as: Robbins RA. Patient deaths blamed on long waits at the Phoenix VA. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2014;8(4):227-8. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.13175/swjpcc050-14 PDF