Yesterday’s hearing on VA Accountability by the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health produced no major public pressure on the VA, as I commented in this blog yesterday.
The only major media entity to cover the hearing was ABC News Radio. That report is linked here:
It was written by The Center for Investigative Reporting reporter Aaron Glantz and ABC News Senior Producer Teri Whitcraft. They are the same two who wrote the report seen on ABC World News Tonight on February 25, 2014, as previously noted in this blog.
Props to these two reporters for doing some good follow up. What is heartening is that Subcommittee Chairman Dan Benishek was quoted in yesterday’s ABC News Radio report as being skeptical of VA’s explanation at the hearing that the problem of pain treatment and opiates is under control, saying, “ VA still has a lot of explaining to do on how this problem escalated in the first place and why it’s taken so long to do anything about it.”
But the VA also has a lot of explaining to do about a lot more:
1. Why aren’t the 2010 clinical practice guidelines for the use of opiates in pain control being followed?
2. What are you doing specifically to get VA physicians to follow your own practice guidelines?
3. Can’t you use your much heralded electronic record system to monitor whether or not practice guidelines for opiates are being followed? If not, why not?
4. What were your staff pharmacists doing while all these opiate prescriptions were being dispensed?
5. Why have you fired physicians who didn’t follow administrator’s orders to dispense opiates against their better medical judgment? What are you doing to investigate these physicians’ allegations?
I was heartened by one part of VA’s Under Secretary for Health Robert Petzel’s written statement which was posted on the Subcommittee’s website after the hearing. He said that “Whenever clinically feasible, the concomitant use of opioid and benzodiazepine medications should be avoided.” Now let’s see if he can get that rule to be followed by the VA medical, nursing, and pharmacy staffs. I guess that will be a function of what is meant by “clinically feasible.”
I was disappointed by how the major print and electronic media largely failed to report this story. The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times were silent. The Wall Street Journal today devoted page 1 space to a military story – the Marines allowing soldiers to roll up their sleeves and bare their forearms.
I guess that is a more important story than thousands of veterans being addicted to opiates through no fault of their own.
And the New York Times: What’s their excuse? It’s not news fit to print? Perhaps Seth Rogen and Ben Affleck testifying on Capitol Hill yesterday were a big distraction.
And what is Fox News’ excuse? They always appear to wrap themselves in the American flag and stand for veterans. I wish Fox would tell us why this story is not newsworthy.
But then so should CNN, NBC, and MSNBC. They have all been MIA.