VA Specialist Shortage; Rising Drug Prices; King Won't Seek Reelection
VA Faces Shortage of Cancer Specialists
On the heels of celebrating our nation’s servicemembers on Veterans Day, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) issued a report that indicated (https://www.va.gov/oig/pubs/VAOIG-19-00346-241.pdf) it was struggling to treat veterans (https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/national-security/article237149279.html#storylink=cpy) with cancer because of a lack of healthcare specialists. For years, the VA has faced challenges with filling hospital job openings in all positions (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/va-struggles-to-fill-hospital-jobs-it-has-49000-openings-across-the-country/2019/11/05/91fbd4fe-ff4f-11e9-9777-5cd51c6fec6f_story.html). The resulting administrative and oversight issues are only hurting those most in need of its services. To find out that cancer incidence rates are higher in those who’ve been a part of active war zones—and that the agency is unable to meet their needs—is a sad state for our nation’s vets.
The lack of cancer specialists is a growing trend throughout the United States. In 2016, VA allowed advanced practice nurses to have full medical authority in practice (https://voice.ons.org/news-and-views/aprns-now-have-full-medical-authority-in-practice-at-va-hospitals), empowering them to reach patients with better service. As the report outlines, serious changes are necessary to address the issue, and nurses are a vital component in that process. Prevention, screening, and early detection strategies may help curb late-stage cancer diagnoses for veterans, and nurses are essential to providing that message to patients (https://voice.ons.org/news-and-views/cancer-prevention-oncology-nurses-save-lives-by-raising-awareness).
Voters Call for Congress to Stem Rising Drug Prices
In normal circumstances, pushing through controversial drug legislation to overhaul a significant portion of the economy would be challenging (https://voice.ons.org/advocacy/surprise-billing-legislation-drug-pricing-reform-stalls-gops-aca-repeal). In today’s era of heightened contention during a presidential impeachment inquiry, it’s likely impossible. But voters are hungry for real drug pricing reform (https://khn.org/news/voters-say-congress-needs-to-curb-drug-prices-but-are-lawmakers-listening/) to address the soaring costs of lifesaving medications (https://voice.ons.org/advocacy/the-battle-against-drug-pricing-wages-on).
The ongoing issue has had bipartisan support in Washington, DC. Both the House and Senate are drafting bills, but is a compromise possible? Will the president sign something that meets the expectations of all involved? ONS is working with several coalitions (https://www.ons.org/make-a-difference/advocacy-policy/coalitions), and nurses have an opportunity to educate elected officials (https://voice.ons.org/advocacy/ons-capitol-hill-days-preps-nurses-for-advocacy) about the effects of drug pricing and affordable cancer care for patients.
Representative King Won't Seek Reelection
In an election year, retirements are always news. Representative Peter King (R-NY) stepping down (https://thehill.com/homenews/house/469835-longtime-gop-rep-peter-king-wont-seek-reelection) hits ONS hard because of his huge support for oncology nurses throughout his career. In 2018, King met with ONS advocates for Capitol Hill Days (https://voice.ons.org/stories/oncology-nurses-make-impact-during-onss-hill-days), connecting on key issues and seeking further guidance from the nursing community. His Long Island congressional district is home to firefighters and police officers who were part of the teams of first responders on September 11, 2001. The aftermath of increased incidence of cancer are a direct result of those heroes’ tireless efforts.
King has championed ONS’s legislative agenda for years, cosponsoring many of the Society’s bills. ONS President Laura Fennimore, DNP, RN, NEA-BC (https://voice.ons.org/author/laura-fennimore), spoke with King in October 2019 about palliative care, National Institutes of Health appropriations, and the increased rates of youth vaping. His influence and voice will be missed as a powerful and outspoken nurse supporter.