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Paul Giorgio: We Owe Our Veterans Nothing but the Best Healthcare

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

 

This past Monday we celebrated Memorial Day, a holiday created during the Civil War to honor the veterans who gave the ultimate sacrifice in defending our nation. This holiday has been marred by the growing problems in the Veterans Administration. In several hospitals across the country, mostly in areas where large numbers of veterans have retired, we find care slipping to unacceptable levels and the wait time for care far too long.

I am the son of a 100% disabled veteran of World War II, so I grew up with first-hand knowledge of the VA. My father was under their care for over 40 years. From what I saw and remembered, he was treated well.

The problem with the VA rises and falls with the tides of war. We created the modern system at the end of World War I and have improved upon it since. The Veterans Administration, now called the Department of Veterans Affairs, has grown from its original size to where it now has 152 Hospitals, 800 Community Clinics and 126 Nursing Homes. As World War II veterans dwindled in number, the healthcare system for retired vets was downsized. But with the current world situation, the system is now unprepared for the number of veterans who need care. Add the aging population of Vietnam era veterans who increasingly need care and you can see how the current healthcare crisis has arisen.

The GOP's False Concern

Republicans have seized upon the recent deaths in some VA hospitals as an election year issue. But I fear that they have false concern. Back in February, a bill filed by Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont to improve the VA including the construction of 27 new clinics was defeated in the Senate by a vote of 56 to 41. Only 2 Republicans joined the Democrats in voting for the bill. The other Republican Senators claimed the legislation was “too expensive.”

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, one of the Republican frontrunners for President attacked the Obama Administration on this issue. How do you think Rubio voted when the Sanders bill was before the Senate? He voted with his Republican colleagues to block the bill.

The Republican playbook is becoming abundantly clear: block expansion of a program designed to help people, then when problems arise, blame the president.

Most veterans organizations, not exactly Democratic-leaning have begun to attack the Republicans for the current crisis of long waiting lists to receive treatment.

The head of the DAV (Disabled American Veterans) issued a press release, personally attacking Republican Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina on the issue stating, “Regrettably, Senator Burr shows no interest in pursuing serious policy solutions, preferring instead to launch cheap political attacks on the integrity of leaders of veterans organizations that do not agree with him, all of whom served honorably to defend this nation and then devoted all or most of their lives to serving their fellow veterans.”

Problem Needs Fixing

The President needs to fix this problem at once. If that means firing obstructionist bureaucrats who work in the VA, then that must be done. If that means exposing obstructionists in the US Senate, then that too must be done.

We have a solemn duty to our veterans who have served our country, who have fought in wars and who have come home needing our help. That duty is to provide them with the services they need.

So this week, let us remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice by working for those who need our help and our care. We owe them nothing less.

Paul Giorgio is a longtime Democratic Party Activist who has worked on numerous campaigns. He was a Lead Advance Person for President Clinton & Vice President Gore. He was Deputy Director of Special Events for President Clinton’s first Inauguration. He has been elected a delegate to numerous Democratic National Conventions and recently served as one of President Obama’s representatives on the Platform Committee. In 2013 he was chosen as a Presidential Elector. He is the President of Pagio, Inc., publishers of Pulse Magazine, Vitality Magazine and Worcester Medicine.

 

Related Slideshow: 13 Biggest Healthcare Stories in Central MA in 2013

The most import stories from one of the most historic years in memory for Central Massachusetts healthcare.

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13 Inspection Scores

INTERACTIVE: Worcester Restaurant Health Inspection Tracker

Before you go out to dinner, make sure you know about the cleanliness of the establishment. GoLocalWorcester spent weeks going through the files of every health inspection in Worcester for nearly 700 restaurants. Use our proprietary interactive map to check any restaurant before you go out to eat. Check out our interactive map and fully sortable and rankable tabular data set to explore how your favorite restaurants did on their latest health inspections.

GoLocal also reported on the 50 Restaurants with the Worst Health Code Scores in Worcester and talked with experts about inspections -- and foodborne illnesses.

Click here to explore the interactive map!

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What infectious diseases hit Massachusetts the hardest, and in the biggest numbers? In July, The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released its latest data for "notifiable diseases," defined as those infectious diseases "for which regular, frequent, and timely information regarding individual cases is considered necessary for the prevention and control fo the disease," according to the CDC. The latest data reports the number of cases in MA from 2011.

Click here to see the most prevalent notifiable diseases in MA!

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11 Famous Twins Thriving

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Now the girls are thriving 17-year-olds, and their story was recently featured on CNN.

Check out the video of the segment here.

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10 High Stress in MA

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A new poll from Gallup revealed that Bay State residents are a bunch of worrywarts. According to their most recent ranking, Massachusetts is facing the fifth highest levels of stress in the country.

While the Commonwealth’s ranking in this Gallup poll didn’t change since last year (also fifth place), the figures did shift. 

Click here to find out by how much.

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9 Healthiest Counties

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Worcester County ranked 9 out of Massachusetts’ 14 counties in overall health according to 2013 rankings by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a national foundation focused on improving public health. The 2013 County Health Rankings place Worcester County somewhere near the bottom of pack. Dukes and Middlesex counties are the healthiest, while Suffolk and Hampden counties are the least healthy.

To see how all of Massachusetts's counties were ranked for overall healthiness, click here.

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8 MA Sexual Health

New National Ranking: How Sexually Healthy Is MA?

Massachusetts came in 4th place for sexual health in New England, according to the brand-new Sexual Health Rankings, just released this week.

The first-ever assessment of state-by-state data on 26 comprehensive health and services measures that speak to sexual health put the Bay State at #5 overall in the US, and #4 among New England states. Vermont was the #1 state in the country for sexual health, while Mississipi was the worst at #51. Variance, LLC, has produced the rankings in collaboration with The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health, an education and advocacy organization based in Pawtucket, RI.

Click here to see where each New England state fell in the rankings.

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7 Health Code Experts

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We reached out to a wide array of each when we conducted our look into the worst health inspection offenders in Worcester.

Click here to read their take on the story.

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6 Rampant Opioid Abuse

Massachusetts Drug Overdose Deaths Up 47% Since 1999

Last year we reported that Worcester's heroin use was twice the national average - Massachusetts is the top state in the country for opioid overdoses, and lifetime heroin use in Worcester is almost 5%, twice the state and national average.

This year a report recently released by the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) showed that overall drug overdose deaths in Massachusetts have climbed 47% since 1999. The Bay State is now ranked 32nd out of 50 states in annual drug overdose deaths, with nearly 11 of every 100,000 deaths resulting from an overdose. The majority of these deaths were the result of prescription drug abuse- opioids.

Click here to read more.

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5 Curbing Candy Craze

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Statistics that show that Americans buy nearly 600 million pounds of candy during the Halloween season. That boils down to about 1.9 pounds of candy per person.

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Check out her tips for curbing the crave here.

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4 Sale of St. Vincent's

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On June 24th, Major US hospital operator Tenet Healthcare Corporaton announced its intention today to buy Vanguard Health Systems Inc for $1.73 billion, a purchase that would include Worcester's St. Vincent Hospital. The purchased marked the re-entry of Tenet Healthcare, a familiar and legally challenged for-profit hospital chain, back to Central Massachusetts.

Tenet owned the Central Mass. hospital once before, selling it to Vanguard in 2004. At the time, Tenet faced federal charges of Medicaid fraud. It wasn’t the first time that would happen, and it wouldn’t be the last. In the past decade, Tenet has shelled out more than $1 billion to settle a laundry list of legal charges. Read on to learn about the charges and for expert commentary on what their re-entry means for St. Vincent's and its patients.

Read the full report here.

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3 Nursing Home Rankings

Massachusetts Ranked #19 on National Nursing Homes Report Card

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The group published the nation’s "first-ever state-by-state nursing home report card" by analyzing eight federal measures to rank nursing home quality.

But local experts warned that MA's ranking did not directly mirror the more local picture in Worcester. While roughly 2/3 of nursing home residents in Massachusetts are there under Medicaid programs, the number is closer to 3/4 in Worcester County, according to Ernie Corrigan with the Massachusetts Senior Care Association. So do some more local research- check out our complete ranking and ensure the nursing homes you choose are not among the 1/3 of Worcester nursing homes graded "below average".

Click here for the full report.

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2 Nurses Fight at UMass

UMass Memorial Nurses Vote to Strike

Staff members at UMass Memorial hospital were embroiledinvolved in heated talks with the hospital’s administration, with the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) union at their side. 2,000 of the hospital’s nurses were ready to take it to the next level. The nurses alleged that they were under staffed and putting patients at risk. The standoff dated back to mid-2012 and culminated around midnight on May 23rd, the night before the one-day strike was set to begin when a deal was reached to avert the strike.

The timeline:

November 15, 2012: UMass Memorial and Nurses Union Clash Over “Dangerous Mismangement”

December 13, 2012: Nurses Picket UMass Memorial Over Staffing + Pension Cuts

February 23, 2013: Local Nurses Say Hospitals “Skirting the Law”

April 11, 2013: UMass Memorial Nurses Prepared to Strike

April 12, 2013: UMass Memorial Nurses Vote to Strike

May 10, 2013: UMass Memorial Nurses to Hold One-Day Strike

May 18, 2013: UMASS Memorial/Hahneman Nurses Settle, University Nurses Pending

May 20, 2013: UMass Memorial Univ. Campus Nurses Strike Still Looming

May 23, 2013: No Strike—UMass Memorial and Nurses Reach Agreement

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1 Patients Rank Hospitals

New England’s Best Hospitals Rated By Patients

Traditionally, hospitals are rated and ranked on a combination of sound technical care, adequate resources, and impressive statistics. But an increasing emphasis is being placed on perhaps one of the more important measures: the patient’s perspective. With that in mind, GoLocal has sifted through and analyzed the results from a government-sponsored survey of more than 50,000 patients in 176 hospitals in New England (full chart here), and emerged with the first-ever patient-based ranking of the region’s top hospitals.

GoLocal consulted with patients, experts, and hospital administrators for their take to contextualize the rankings- click here to read the story.

Click here for the ranking of New England's Top 20 Hospitals

 
 

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