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VA Officials Say They Will Work to End Overprescribing

Department of Veterans Affairs officials are trying to put solutions in place to limit narcotic overprescribing practices in VA hospitals, they said Thursday, but lapses still happen. At a U.S. Senate hearing in Washington, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) called the VA system of prescribing narcotics “abysmally inaccurate” and prodded VA officials on how they would fix programs used to monitor such prescriptions. Interim VA Undersecretary for Health Carolyn Clancy said the agency is launching computer programs aimed at tracking opioid prescriptions across the VA system, but that software in 29 states doesn’t work with similar state-run programs. As a result, she said, some patients can get prescriptions from both VA and other doctors. Clancy said she is working to address the gap and the program has seen success elsewhere. The two-hour hearing focused on the Tomah VA medical center, targeted in multiple probes for allegations of narcotic overprescribing practices and retaliatory behavior among staff. An agency report earlier this month found that patients at Tomah were more likely than patients at other VA hospitals to receive high doses of narcotics, and a culture of fear among employees affected patient care. Jason Simcakoski, a 35-year-old Marine, died of an overdose in the hospital’s inpatient care unit last year. The facility director was re-assigned out of the hospital last week and the chief of staff David Houlihan earlier this month was placed on administrative leave pending the conclusion of ongoing investigations. Clancy said she is deeply concerned about the allegations against the hospital, and said if employee misconduct is found, those responsible will be held accountable. Blumenthal, who led the hearing, said the problems at Tomah were not isolated and without proper supervision they could occur elsewhere.

Source/more: Baltimore Sun

David Wingate is an elder law attorney practicing in Frederick and Montgomery Counties, Maryland. The elder law practice consists of Wills, Powers of Attorneys, Trusts, asset protection and Medicaid (Medical Assistance.)

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