August 27, 2014

Blunt: veterans care bill will improve service (AUDIO)

The United States Senate has passed a bill that gives veterans some alternatives if they’ve been waiting too long for treatment at a Veterans Administration hospital. The bill is slightly different from a version approved by the House. Senator Blunt expects the final compromise to be stronger than the Senate’s version, which he co-sponsors.

AUDIO: Blunt :22

Blunt, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has spent several days visiting Missouri veterans hospitals and demanding records of delayed treatments. He says the key to the bill is that it lets veterans who are not close to a facility or who have been waiting more than two weeks for routine medical care to go to another hospital of their choice. They would be covered by Medicare if they do.

The Justice Department reportedly has asked the FBI to investigate some information from the VA’s Inspector General who has been critical of information indicating many veterans have had to wait more than ninety days at several veterans’ hospitals to get treatment.

Audit: Wait for an appointment at St. Louis VA hospital among longest in the nation

New patients seeking care at the Veterans Administration hospital in St. Louis had some of the longest wait times for new patients at any such facility in the nation, according to the results of an audit released on Monday. The average wait at that hospital was 86 days. New patients at the Columbia VA hospital waited an average of more than 66 days, and the wait averages more than 44 days for new patients at the VA hospitals in Kansas City and Poplar Bluff.

The audit revealed more than 1,300 patients who sought care in St. Louis, 188 in Kansas City, 102 in Poplar Bluff and 71 in Columbia have never had appointments.

The audit revealed nationwide 13-percent of schedulers in VA facilities say they were told to falsify documents to make patient wait times appear shorter.

Senator Roy Blunt called the latest report’s findings “appalling.”

“Too many of our veterans in Missouri and across the nation have been denied adequate care for far too long,” Blunt said. “I contacted the VA St. Louis Health Care System for an explanation a month ago, and still haven’t received a response. I’ll continue to press for answers and do everything I can to ensure these heroes receive the care they need and deserve – but it’s time for President Obama to step up and show leadership.”

Review the full audit report here

See what the audit said about VA hospitals in Missouri here (PDF)

Infected Springfield restaurant worker could have exposed 5,000 to Hepatitis A

The Springfield-Green County Health Department says as many as 5,000 customers at a Springfield restaurant could have been exposed to Hepatitis A.

The Department says one worker at the Red Robin on South Glenstone has tested positive for the virus. Those who ate at the restaurant between May 8 and May 11 are urged to get vaccinated.

4,000 doses of vaccine are on the way to Springfield from Memphis, Tennessee and will be administered at clinics this weekend. The vaccine is said to only be effective if given within 14 days. Pregnant women and individuals with compromised immune systems are urged to visit their doctor.

Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver that can result in sickness ranging from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to severe symptoms lasting several months. It is easily transmitted from person to person in a food service environment.

The Department says the restaurant is cooperating and has vaccinated other employees.

For details on local vaccination clinics and to view a statement from Red Robin on the incident see this story on the website of our affiliate, KTTS.

Legislature proposes measures to make mental health workers safer (VIDEO)

The state legislature has approved bills meant to protect staff at the state’s maximum security mental hospital and staff and patients at its treatment facilities for violent sexual offenders.

Representatives Jeanie Riddle (left) and Linda Black (right).

Representatives Jeanie Riddle (left) and Linda Black (right).

One proposal, HB 1779, will allow advance practice registered nurses at Fulton State Hospital order that physical or chemical restraints, isolation or seclusion be used on a patient as long as that nurse collaborates with an attending licensed physician. Currently only such physicians or the head of the facility can order such measures.

Representative Jeanie Riddle (R-Mokane) says the bill would make working at the Fulton hospital safer.

“[Those nurses] are closer,” says Riddle. “Fulton State Hospital is a number of buildings and the physician or [Chief of Operations] may be in another building when a violent situation arises. This will allow an advanced practice nurse to be able to de-escalate that situation and hopefully eliminate or lessen the injury rate that’s going on.”

Riddle says staff at the Fulton Hospital are not allowed to defend themselves if attacked by patients who are sometimes violently mentally ill. She is looking for more ways to change policy regarding that.

“I intend to work with the Department [of Mental Health],” says Riddle, “what are the things that we can do that de-escalate violent situations and how do we maintain quality employees and not lose them because they got injured?”

Language from a bill sponsored by Representative Linda Black (D-Desloge) and added to SB 852 would make it a Class “B” felony for a sexually violent predator committed to the Department of Mental Health to attack a Department employee or another offender at the Sexual Offender Rehabilitation and Treatment Services (SORTS) facilities at Fulton or Farmington. The same language would also make it a class “C” felony for offenders at SORTS to knowingly damage state property. Black says the language brings punishment for such incidents in line with what happens when inmates at the state’s prisons attack guards or other inmates.

Representative Kevin Engler (R-Farmington) supported that language. He says offenders consider going from a SORTS facility to a prison, “Much worse conditions most people, so it’s a deterrent to keep them from destroying property, from acting out or hurting employees.”

Both proposals await action by Governor Jay Nixon (D).

Medicaid expansion dies its final death (AUDIO)

 One last shot at getting Medicaid expansion in this year’s legislative session has ended the way all of them have ended—with a filibuster or a threatened filibuster.

Kansas City Senator Ryan Silvey tried to make it part of a reform of entitlement programs such as Food Stamps and Temporary Assistance for Needy Famiklies.

Silvey’s last proposal would have taken Missouri out of the expansion program if the federal government ever welched on its agreement to pay at least 90 percent of the costs forever.

But Silvey abandoned his bill when St. Joseph Senator Rob Schaaf threatened to lead another filibuster.  Silvey told colleagues another filibuster would eliminate debate time needed by other  senators pushing their own bills in the last two days of the session.  He has withdrawn his bill from debate.

audio: DEBATE pt. 1 27:44

AUDIIO: Debate pt. 2 25:50