Thursday, February 10, 2011
Much needs to be considered before Revoking a physician's license

By Dr. Anthony Policastro

I am a member of the Delaware Board of Medical Licensing and Discipline. In this role, I get to review complaints about physicians. All complaints are thoroughly investigated. After the investigation, actions deemed appropriate to the incident will be taken. Sometimes in complaint letters patients who feel that they have been wronged have an expectation for the type of action that should occur. In some cases, the feeling is that the physician did something so bad that he/she needs to lose his/her license. In some cases that may be true. That might be the case for a physician who is selling prescriptions for narcotic drugs or is sexually abusing a patient. However, in most cases, a physician losing his/her license is excessive. Recently, we had a case to review in which a physician made a serious error and a relatively healthy patient died. The physician had been practicing for many years. Some people felt that this one mistake over many years should lead to a loss of the license. In many jobs, an individual who makes an error can lose their job over it. This leads to the perception that a physician losing a license is just like an individual losing their job. The difference is that an individual who loses a job will go out and find another job. A physician who loses a license will not be able to work as a physician again. Thus, if a license was lost over a serious error, it would result in that physician not practicing medicine again. It is not a matter of getting another license in another state. Most states have licensure laws that will not allow a physician to get a license if he/she has lost one in another state. The result is that the Board of Medical Licensing and Discipline has to take this into account when taking a physician's license away. The question is not whether the offense was bad enough to lose a license. The question is whether the offense was bad enough for that physician to never practice medicine again. Suspending a physician's license for a period of time carries significant consequences as well. During that period, the physician cannot practice medicine which means his/her patients will find new doctors. The insurance companies will remove the physician's credentials. When the license is restored, it is like starting a brand new practice. It takes time to build up again. The insurance companies may or may not reimburse the physician. Thus a suspension is associated with a significant monetary penalty. Even putting a physician's license in a probation status will have serious consequences. In most cases the insurance companies will drop the physician from their programs. The result will be a loss in income for a physician who has become accustomed to that income. It will result in financial difficulties for the period of the probation. The individuals who file complaints often feel that losing a license is the appropriate punishment for the behavior that they have seen. They do not necessarily recognize the consequences. The Board has to take into account what the action was and what the correct punishment for it would be. It is more complicated than many people realize.

NMH lab receives accreditation Nanticoke Memorial Hospital has earned The Joint Commission's Gold Seal of Approval for accreditation by demonstrating compliance with The Joint Commission's national standards for health care quality and safety in laboratories. Nanticoke Memorial Hospital underwent a rigorous unannounced on-site survey by a team of Joint Commission expert surveyors. The facility was evaluated for compliance with standards of care that directly affect the quality and safety of diagnostic services and patient care. Joint Commission standards address processes that follow laboratory specimens from the doctor's order into the laboratory from specimen collection then back to the patient through result reporting, focusing on the provision of high quality, safe laboratory services integrated with patient care.

Hospice helps veterans The nation is experiencing the loss of many of the veterans who served in World War II and Korea; and the number of deaths of Vietnam veterans is beginning to rise. Twenty-five percent of those who die each year in the U.S. are veterans. To help provide appropriate care and support for these honorable men and women, Delaware Hospice has become a national partner of We Honor Veterans, a pioneering campaign developed by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs. The We Honor Veterans campaign provides resources and recognition to organizations that demonstrate a systematic commitment to improving care for veterans. By recognizing the unique needs of our nation's veterans who are facing a life-limiting illness, Delaware Hospice is able to support and guide veterans and their families toward a more peaceful ending. To learn more about We Honor Veterans, visit

Influenza now widespread Delaware's Division of Public Health has upgraded its influenza status from sporadic to widespread after confirming 14 cases in an institution during the week ending Jan. 29. While levels of influenza-like illness have remained below regional baseline, the change in status reflects an increase in cases within a single institution. With seasonal influenza vaccine available statewide, residents are encouraged to get a flu shot. Laboratory results received as of Feb. 2, DPH has confirmed338 cases of seasonalinfluenza in Delaware in the 2010 - 2011 influenza season. There have beenno deaths due to seasonalinfluenzain Delaware during the 2010-2011 influenza season. Statewide, there have been 103 cases in New Castle, 147 in Kent and 88 in Sussex.An age breakdown of the338 cases includes: ages 0-4, 75 cases, 22 percent; ages 5-24, 135 cases, 40 percent; ages 25-49, 81 cases, 24 percent; ages 50-64, 29 cases, 9 percent; ages 65+, 18 cases, 5 percent. To prevent the spread of the influenza virus and many other communicable diseases:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water, or clean them with an alcohol-based hand cleaner.
  • Cover mouths and noses with tissues when coughing or sneezing, and preferably cough or sneeze into your inner elbow.
  • Do not travel to work or school if you are sick, but stay home instead.
  • Those ill with flu symptoms should wait seven days after onset of symptoms, and 24 hours after symptoms have subsided (whichever is longest), to return to work or school.
Individuals with questions about influenza should call DPH's Office of Health Information and Epidemiology at 302-744-4541 or visit

National Cardiac Rehab Week February 13-19 is National Cardiac Rehabilitation Week. Health professionals involved in cardiac rehabilitation programs throughout the United States will be sponsoring activities to help people learn about preventing heart disease. Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will have activities for their cardiac rehabilitation patients and will have cardiac rehabilitation informational materials available.

Cardiac rehabilitation is a medically supervised program designed to optimize a cardiac patient's physical, psychological and social functioning, in addition to stabilizing, slowing or even reversing the progression of coronary artery disease. If you feel you or a loved one may benefit from such a program and want to prevent heart disease, talk to your physician or call, 629-6611, ext. 2428.

Money secured for Medicaid fraud The Attorney General's office has announced that its Medicaid Fraud Control Unit secured over $1.8 million in healthcare fraud recoveries for the Delaware Medicaid program in 2010. "Every dollar stolen from the Delaware Medicaid program makes it harder for the state to fund critical services, costs taxpayers in their wallets, and reduces the availability of healthcare to those who cannot afford coverage on their own," Attorney General Beau Biden said."Over the past four years, we have recovered well over $5 million for the Delaware Medicaid Program, and this money goes directly back into providing care for our state's citizens." Settlements with pharmaceutical manufacturers AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline returned more than $800,000 to the Delaware Medicaid program in 2010.The third-largest recovery, totaling $230,000, was secured by the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit in collaboration with the U.S. Attorney's office for the District of Delaware.This settlement, with Wilmington Neurology Consultants and Christiana Care Health System, resulted from violations of the federal Anti-Kickback Statute and Physician Self-Referral Law, also known as the "Stark Statute". In total, 16 separate investigations secured the return of $1,826,000 to the Delaware Medicaid Program.

Stroke Support Group Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's next Stroke Support Group meeting is being held on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 1:30 p.m. at the Seaford Library. The support group is designed for individuals who have survived a stroke as well as their families and caregivers. Modeled from the American Stroke Association, the hospital is engaging with speakers to provide education, community resources and emotional support to those who have been affected by this life-altering event. The two-hour support group meetings will consist of guest speakers and breakaway sessions, in which caregivers and stroke survivors will meet in two groups to discuss concerns, provide support, and allow for networking. Refreshments will be provided. Pre-registration is not required for this free support group.For additional information, contact Nanticoke Memorial Hospital at 629-6611, extension 8626.

Family Caregiver Training The Alzheimer's Association Delaware Valley Chapter sponsors The Family Caregiver Education Series several times a year in each of Delaware's three counties. LifeCare at Lofland Park at 715 King St. in Seaford, is hosting the program on Tuesday, Feb. 22, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. This series includes a medical overview, legal and financial issues, challenging symptoms, daily care issues and information on getting the help you need. This training for family caregivers is free and lunch will be provided by LifeCare, therefore pre-registration is required by Feb. 16. For more information or to register, call Jamie Magee, branch office coordinator, at 854-9788 or 1-800-272-3900.

Nanticoke offers childbirth classes Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will offer a childbirth class on Wednesday, Feb. 23 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., at the hospital.The class will meet each Wednesday for four weeks. The maternity education classes are designed to offer information, counseling, support and hands-on experience to help prepare for a new family member. They will cover pregnancy in general, information to prepare the expectant mother for labor and delivery, and will include a tour of Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's Mother Baby Care Unit. A refresher course is also available for those who have previously taken childbirth classes. The refresher class covers breathing techniques, signs, symptoms and stages of labor, birthing options, and a tour of Nanticoke's Mother Baby Care Unit. The cost of the childbirth course is $50, and the cost for the refresher course is $25. Mothers are encouraged to bring their partner or support person for all courses. Registration in advance is required for either class. To register, or for more information, contact the Health Education Registration line of Nanticoke Memorial Hospital at 629-6611, ext. 2540.

Cancer Support Group The Wellness Community-Delaware offers a 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 first floor resource library of the Cancer Care Center on the third Monday of each month. For the winter months the group will meet from 3:30 to 5 p.m. The Wellness Community, an affiliate of the Cancer Support 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 are trained mental health professionals with a master's degree or more. Call 645-9150 for information or to register for this program. All support groups offered at The Wellness Community are free of charge. This program is made possible by the support of Nanticoke Memorial Hospital. For more information about The Wellness Community, visit

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. 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 Pick 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.

Bereavement luncheons Delaware Hospice's "New Beginnings" bereavement luncheons are an informal way to meet and talk with others, who have had similar loss experiences. Lunch begins at noon and is followed by a brief program.The location rotates each week of the month according to the following schedule:
  • 1st Thursday: Grottos Pizza, Rt. 26, Bethany Beach;
  • 2nd Thursday: Georgia House, 300 Delaware Ave., Laurel;
  • 3rd Thursday: Millsboro Pizza Palace, Rt. 113-southbound lane, Millsboro;
  • 4th Thursday: Blue Ocean Grill (formerly Milton House), 200 Broadkill Rd., Milton;
  • 5th Thursday (when applicable): Texas Grill (formerly Ocean Point Grill), 26089 Long Neck Rd., Millsboro.
"New Beginnings" luncheons are open to the public. Registration is not required.There is no fee except the cost of your lunch. For more information, call Carol Dobson or Paul Ganster at 856-7717.