On Thursday, President Obama signed into law a bill overhauling the beleaguered Veterans Affairs system. The bill comes with a $16.3-billion price tag that will allow the VA to hire thousands of doctors, nurses and other health professionals across the country. The new law will also make it much easier to fire execs who aren't doing their jobs adequately.
The overhaul comes in response to widespread negligence in the department that resulted in lengthy wait times during which some veterans died while waiting for care. It also follows on the heels of a unanimous Senate vote confirming former Proctor & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald as the new VA secretary. McDonald was sworn in on July 30.
"This is a labor of love for [McDonald], and he has hit the ground running," said President Obama.
Of the $16 billion, $10 billion will be used over the next three years to pay private physicians to care for veterans who are unable to be seen in a timely fashion at a VA facility. It is also available to pay for care for veterans who live more than 40 miles from one of the 1,000 VA hospitals and out-patient clinics across the country. $5 billion is ear-marked for new hires. The remaining $1.3 billion will be used to open 27 new clinics nationally.
The concern, however, is if the physicians are available to fill those roles. According to Modern Healthcare, the VA has said it needs to hire about 10,000 clinical staff members and there is some concern about finding those numbers. Hiring can happen quickly because it happens on the facility level and the VA does have an incomparably-generous medical tuition loan repayment program, but VA salaries are not generally competitive with the private sector, according to Modern Healthcare.
"The question is whether those [10,000] people exist," said Dr. Maryann Hooker, a neurologist at Wilmington VA Medical Center in Delaware.
Meanwhile, the country continued to obsess about Ebola, with varying degrees of maturity. A patient at a New York hospital tested negative for the virus and the World Health Organization said that it will convene a panel to consider the use of experimental treatments in the outbreak area.
New York Post is treating the non-case of Ebola with dignity and restraint pic.twitter.com/gBMcuEWMAD— Colin Campbell (@BKcolin) August 5, 2014
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