Wilmington VA Clinician Warns that Proposed Cost Saving Strategy May Diminish Both Access and Quality of Health Care for Veterans
WASHINGTON, March 15, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On Wednesday, March 2, the American Federation of Government Employees provided testimony before the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee on the proposed budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs for Fiscal Year 2012. The testimony was delivered by Dr. Maryann Hooker, Secretary of AFGE Local 42, who works as the lead neurologist at the Wilmington VA Medical Center. AFGE represents more than 200,000 employees at the VA, including nearly 120,000 employees who provide direct medical services to veterans within the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).
Dr. Hooker focused on the VA's proposal to achieve costs savings through staff and resource realignment. She expressed concern about the lack of details in the Department's proposal, which assumes a yearly savings of $151 million over two years. The proposal to realign staff and resources would follow on the heels of current VHA efforts to contain costs, including telehealth, team-based care, group appointments, and shorter appointments.
Dr. Hooker cautioned that too often, "new VA health care initiatives are implemented without proper oversight or advance planning, resulting in reduced access and quality of care. Sometimes they even cost the taxpayer more, in the form of costly contract care, less continuity of care, and higher staff turnover."
"Balancing the VA's health care budget by reducing veterans' access to care is not the answer to the country's financial woes," said American Federation of Government Employees AFL-CIO National VA Council President Alma L. Lee. "Rather, we desperately need greater oversight of the VA's current initiatives such as telehealth and Patient Aligned Care Teams (PACT), as well as greater accountability over VA spending used to expand its top heavy management workforce, provide excessive bonuses, and continue unwarranted increases in costly contract care."
AFGE testimony also conveyed opposition to the VA proposal to eliminate all continuing medical education (CME) reimbursement for physicians and dentists. VA continues to rely heavily on more costly fee basis care and has difficulty recruiting and retaining clinicians. It is in the best interest of all stakeholders to provide an environment of professional growth.
"We will not sit quietly by while VA returns to the era of hiring freezes and frozen medical center budgets," said AFGE Secretary Treasurer J. David Cox. "Furthermore, VHA receives advance appropriations, allowing administrators an entire year to plan how to deliver the most efficient and effective care to an increasing number of veterans. While we agree that taxpayers deserve a more efficient use of VA medical dollars, we question the way cost-cutting initiatives are designed and implemented. AFGE will continue to oppose cost-saving measures that diminish VA's world-class health care system."
The complete testimony of Dr. Maryann Hooker: http://www.afge.org/Index.cfm?Page=CongressionalTestimony2
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 600,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.
SOURCE American Federation of Government Employees