Thursday, May 20, 2010
Medical board protects patients

By Dr. Anthony Policastro The official report about Dr. Bradley was recently released and last week's Star included a summary of the findings. One of the things that the report indicated was that the Board of Medical Practice had no notification about Dr. Bradley until his arrest. I have been a member of that board since September 2003. Public Citizen is a watchdog group that ranks state medical boards every year. In the past, the News Journal carried an annual article about the Delaware Medical Board that pointed out that Delaware ranked 50th out of 51 (including the District of Columbia) every year. Part of that was due to the laws in Delaware. At the time, the laws allowed the board to take one of two actions. The board could prosecute a physician through the attorney general's office which would require enough proof for that prosecution to happen. Then the attorney general decided if there was enough proof to proceed. Or, the board could close the case and do nothing. The result was that very few cases were prosecuted. For that reason, the board ranked 50th every year. That was true for 2003, 2004 and 2005. However, over the last few years, the News Journal has not done an article mainly because the law changed in 2006. The board now has more latitude in actions for physicians. In 2006 the Board ranked 44th followed by 29th in 2007 and 23rd in 2008. Last year the board ranked 35th. If the laws allow it, the board could be even more effective. The new report calls for more changes to board procedures. Those of us on the board would welcome these changes. We take our role of protecting patients very seriously. Unfortunately, some people think we are more concerned with protecting physicians. They need only to attend a few meetings to see this is not the case. The new report calls for changes in the way the board does business. Three proposed changes were noted in last week's Star. The first of those was: "Open the board's hearing to the public and communicate hearing outcomes through easily accessible public records." This would not be an issue because the current rules for board hearings have been set up for us. For example, some hearings address denials of doctors seeking licenses. Both the hearing and the deliberations of the board are public. There are other hearings in which the physician being evaluated can decide whether he/she wants it to be public. I do not think the board members would have any issue with this suggestion. The second recommendation was: "Add public and other professional members to the board, now made up of medical experts to enhance objectivity." The current board has 16 members with public members already on the board. Eleven are physicians and the other five are public members. The report summary did not specify a particular mix. However, I do not think the board members would have a problem with a different mix. It is important to realize that a majority of the complaints reviewed by the board are related to medical practice. The board also reviews malpractice settlements. Each of these cases is reviewed by a board member. Some are medically complex. We need to be careful to not reduce the number of physicians on the board to the point where the remaining physicians review so many complaints that they are overwhelmed with paperwork for what is a volunteer position. The third recommendation was: "Professionalize the hearing process by hiring administrative law judges to conduct the hearings and make findings of fact for the board." The current hearing process consists of three board members who conduct the hearing. When the hearing is complete, they are expected to come up with "findings of fact" and "conclusions of law" which they do with the assistance of a deputy attorney general. The results of the hearing panel are then taken to the entire board for review. Having an administrative law judge involved in the process would be welcome. Overall, I feel the proposals for changes to the board are positive. These proposals will help protect the public which is our primary charge.

Medicare seminar planned Rep. Ruth Briggs King invites you to attend an informational seminar on Medicare, sponsored by ELDERinfo, which offers free, unbiased health insurance counseling for people with Medicare. The seminar will answer questions about Medicare coverage and provide information on deadlines for new benefits. New and soon-to-be beneficiaries are invited to learn about Medicare benefits, supplemental insurance policies, Medicare Advantage plans and prescription drug coverage. The seminar will be held on the following dates:

Tuesday, May 25, 6 to 8 p.m. - CHEER Center, Georgetown Thursday, May 27, 10 a.m. to noon - Laurel Public Library, 101 E. 4th St., Laurel Seating is limited and advanced registration is required. To register, call ELDERinfo at 800-336-9500 or 302-674-7364.

Free prostate cancer screening Bayhealth Medical Center is offering a free screening for prostate cancer on Saturday, May 22, beginning at 9 a.m., at the Bayhealth Cancer Center at Milford Memorial Hospital. The free screening consists of a PSA blood test and digital rectal exam (DRE). Pre-registration is required. For more details or to register, contact Paula Hess, MSN RN OCN, at 744-6752.

Bereavement support group Compassionate Care Hospice, The Wellness Community-DE and Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will collaborate to present a monthly bereavement group, The Next Step. The group focuses on issues of loss that continue beyond the early stages of grief. Mary Van House, bereavement coordinator, will facilitate the group at 10 a.m. on the third Tuesday of each month, at the Nanticoke Cancer Care Center, second floor conference room. To register, call Lisa at 629-6611, ext. 2378.

Depression Support Group There is a free bimonthly Depression Support Group meeting in Laurel on the second and fourth Wednesday evenings from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Any person who has signs and symptoms of depression and is under the care of a professional counselor/MD is welcome to attend. To register, call 302-465-6612.

Breast cancer support group Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition, Inc. (DBCC) has expanded its Beginning Your Pink Ribbon Journey, a program for women newly-diagnosed with breast cancer, by partnering with Nanticoke Memorial Hospital Cancer Center in Seaford. The free, monthly program is offered at the Cancer Center located at 801 Middleford Road, Seaford, the third Thursday of each month from 3 to 4 p.m. The program is facilitated by Nanticoke Memorial Hospital Cancer Center professional staff - Terri A. Clifton, MS, NCC, Cancer Care coordinator; Mary Brown, RN, DSN, manager Cancer Care Center; and Wendy Polk, nutritionist - with assistance from Lois Wilkinson, DBCC special projects manager, who helps facilitate the program at Bayhealth. Together, they answer questions, help calm fears, and share information about resources that are available at Nanticoke, through DBCC, and other organizations within the local community. Of particular value to newly-diagnosed women is DBCC's Peer Mentor Program through which they are paired with a long-term survivor for one-on-one support. To learn more about Beginning Your Pink Ribbon Journey at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital Cancer Center, call Lois Wilkinson at 672-6435. Registration is required and light refreshments and small gifts are provided.

Man to Man support group Nanticoke Memorial Hospital offers a Man to Man support group meeting on the fourth Wednesday of each month. Man to Man helps men cope with prostate cancer by receiving information and peer support. Man to Man is a forum for men and their support network to learn about diagnosis and treatment options through presentations, written materials and videos. Specialists share information such as side effects and how to cope with prostate cancer and its treatment. News and information about nutrition, general health, research and treatment, as well as messages from men living with prostate cancer and other Man to Man activities, are offered to assist in the recovery process. Pre-registration is not required for this free support group. For more information, contact Larry Skala (337-3678) or Grafton Adams (628-8311).

Cancer support group The Wellness Community-Delaware offers a free general cancer support group for people affected by cancer and their loved ones at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital in Seaford. The monthly support group meets in the second floor conference room of the Cancer Care Center on the third Monday of each month from 4:30 to 6 p.m. The Wellness Community is dedicated to helping people affected by cancer enhance their health and well-being through participation in a professional program of emotional support and hope. All facilitators of these groups are trained mental health professionals. Call 645-9150 for information or to register.