The Board of Medical Practice exists to protect the public
By Dr. Anthony Policastro
I am currently the President of the Board of Medical Practice for Delaware. The Board provides licenses to physicians. The primary role of the Board is protection of the public. There are four main ways that is done. The first is through the licensure process. The process is one that constantly changes. In the 1980's getting a license was relatively easy. You submitted your documents. You got a reference and you received a license. Over the years, the process has changed greatly. There is now a national data bank. It began in the early 1990's. It has reports of various actions involving physicians. Any malpractice settlement is included in the data bank report. Any disciplinary action taken by a hospital or state board is included in the data bank. Any resignation of hospital privileges during an investigation is included in the data bank. In the past physicians who got in trouble would just resign from the staff of a hospital so the hospital could take no action against them. That is no longer possible. Even if they leave without disciplinary action actually taking place, there is a report filed. All physicians now applying for a license have a data bank check done. All physicians applying for a license have a criminal backgrounds check done. That is a relatively recent inclusion. Reference letters are more detailed than they once were. There are more of them obtained for each physician. Each month the board has applicants whose application is not clean. Frequently those applicants have to come to hearing to explain things in their records. The second way that the Board acts to protect the public is by reviewing new data bank reports. Once a physician receives a license, he/she might still do something that warrants a report to the national data bank. The Board of Medical Practice reviews all such reports. Most of them are new malpractice settlements. Some of them are new disciplinary action. Thus even after the physician is licensed, new events are still reported to the board. The third way the Board acts to protect the public is through working with the State Medical Society. The medical society has a treatment program for impaired physicians. The Board is informed if a physician in the program does not make satisfactory progress. That might require the board to take action to protect the public. The fourth way the Board acts to protect the public is by reviewing complaints about physicians in the state. Any one can file a complaint. All complaints are investigated. The first part of the investigation is conducted by an individual who has been trained in criminal investigation. A Board member then reviews the investigation. Most complaints are minor issues. Some of them are closed without action for that reason. Others result in what is called a "Letter of Concern" being administered to the physician. This is a formal written admonishment. It is used in situations where the physician could have done things better but the action was not serious. The more serious concerns are referred to the Attorney General's office for prosecution. Thus there are three options. There are relatively few complaints received. Each month, the Board receives somewhere between 10 and 12 complaints. By comparison, the Maryland Board receives 450 per month. New Hampshire, which has fewer licensed physicians than Delaware, receives 20 per month. Recently, a physician in Sussex County behaved very inappropriately. When the events unfolded in the news, it was the first time the Board had any kind of information on the physician. There had been no prior complaints filed with the Board. It was difficult for the Board to take action without being made aware of things. Patients who feel that they have a legitimate concern about a physician should make the Board aware of that concern. The website is http://dpr.delaware.gov/ or you can call 302-744-4500. Protecting the public is a joint responsibility. The members of the Board take that obligation seriously. However, it is the individuals in the state of Delaware that need to make the Board aware of the issues that need to be acted upon.
Manage diabetes, reduce defects The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) and Delaware Healthy Mother & Infant Consortium is joining the National Birth Defects Prevention Network to alert women of childbearing age about the critical link between diabetes and increased risk for birth defects. January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month and DPH wants to raise awareness about the importance of addressing diabetes among women of childbearing age. Nationally, the prevalence of diabetes in women of childbearing age has doubled in the last decade, affecting 1.3 million nationwide and approximately 1,140 women of childbearing age in Delaware. Babies born to women with diabetes, especially women with poor diabetes control, are at greater risk for birth defects. And, although diabetes has been identified as a public health concern, the general public is unaware of the complications that uncontrolled diabetes can have on both the pregnant woman and her baby. Studies have demonstrated that the key to a healthy pregnancy for women with diabetes is keeping blood glucose in target range - both before and during pregnancy. "Getting as healthy as possible before pregnancy, taking a multivitamin everyday and managing diabetes through medication, diet and exercise are the best things women can do for their health and the health of their future children," says Dr. David Paul, chair of the Delaware Healthy Mother and Infant Consortium. Women can take other steps in their everyday lives to maintain good health such as having regular health care check ups and learning about family history and genetic risks. Delaware has programs that can help. For more information on where to go for health care or how to manage diabetes, call the Delaware Helpline at 1-800-464-HELP.
NMH holds cholesterol screenings Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will offer cholesterol screenings on Feb. 19 & 20 from 7 to 10 a.m. at the Powerhouse Plaza, 628 W. Stein Hwy., Seaford. The Lipid Profile test requires a 12-hour fasting and reads the HDL, LDL and triglyceride blood levels. Cost for the Lipid Profile is $15. There is no need to pre-register. Results will be mailed within three weeks along with information to evaluate the results and follow-up if needed.
In addition to cholesterol screenings, free blood pressure checks and free glucose screenings will be offered. There will also be health information and interactive displays. For more information, call 629-6611, ext. 4536.
PRMC offers free CPR seminar In recognition of February being American Heart Month, the Guerrieri Heart & Vascular Institute at Peninsula Regional Medical Center is offering a free "CPR for Family and Friends" seminar on Tuesday, Feb. 9. The seminar is designed for anyone who wants to learn CPR rescue skills but does not require a CPR course completion card. It will teach rescuers how to perform CPR on adults and children and how to help an adult or child who is choking. The seminar will be conducted from 1 to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 6:30 p.m. in the Auditorium of the Avery W. Hall Educational Center (corner of Waverly Drive and Locust Street) on the Peninsula Regional campus. Free parking is available in the lot across from the Educational Center or in the adjacent Parking Garage B. Pre-registration is required by calling 410-543-7226. Space is limited.
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. For more information about The Wellness Community, visit www.wellnessdelaware.org
Annual women's conference The fifth annual "Women Supporting Women Through Opportunity Conference" will begin Friday, March 26, and last through Sunday, March 28, with an array of activities including eight workshops, door prizes, food, fellowship and lots of fun and learning opportunities. The annual conference, planned by friends of the "GeeYou Will Project," a formal wear lending library and women and girls mentoring project serving those in need of these services throughout Delaware, will be held at Redden Lodge, near Georgetown. This celebratory fifth annual conference will begin with the "Eat Dessert First" reception and an evening of activities and dedications. As one of the special features of this year's conference, the Young Women's Drumming Empowerment Project (YWDEP), a Washington, D.C. area group lead by Kristin Arant will join the group on Friday evening. The YWDEP performance is sponsored by Lynne Betts of "MichaeLynne Peace Products" of Seaford. On Saturday a variety of workshop topics are planned including belly dancing; a woman's forum, homespun health; and meditation. On Sunday there will be a non-denominational "Celebration Ceremony" followed by a morning of crafting and other activities before a "Leftovers Buffet" and family reception in the afternoon. Cost of the conference is $50 which includes food, supplies, facilities and lodging (if desired) on a first come, first served basis. The conference is open to 55 women, ages 18-80 and beyond and workshop assignments are made based on registration dates. For more information, or if you or someone you know is interested in becoming a sponsor of the Conference or the "GeeYou Will Project," call Rosemary Joseph-Kappel at 302-242-0032 or e-mail GUWillProject@yahoo.com
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. Pre-registration is not required for this free support group. For more information, contact Larry Skala (337-3678) or Grafton Adams (628-8311).
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.
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.