June 18, 2018
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Calais clinic has problems with opiate distribution, VA report says

By Tom Walsh, BDN Staff

CALAIS, Maine — There are problems with how opiate-based pain medications are being prescribed at a Veterans Administration community-based clinic in Calais, according to a Department of Veterans Affairs investigation.

A report by the department’s inspector general states that the VA facility in Calais did not adequately assess or monitor patients who were prescribed opiate-based medications for chronic pain.

The VA Office of the Inspector General received an email from a complainant with concerns regarding management of patients on chronic opioid therapy and opioid prescribing practices, according to an OIG Healthcare Inspection report dated Aug. 21.

A federal inspection substantiated allegations that providers did not adequately assess patients who were prescribed opioids for chronic pain and that providers did not adequately monitor patients who were prescribed opioid medications for misuse or diversion of the medications, the executive summary of the report states.

The OIG recommended that certain procedures be implemented to ensure that providers at the Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Calais comply with Veterans of Health Administration policies concerning management of chronic pain patients on opioids. The summary stated that the facility directors agreed with the recommendations and provided a plan of action.

The inspectors concludes, “We will follow up on the planned actions until they are completed.”

The report’s claims have prompted U.S. Sen. Susan Collins to call for the hiring of a full-time doctor to oversee prescription allocation at the clinic.

“This report heightens my concern that extended gaps and inconsistent provider coverage undermines optimal care and is of great concern for the veterans of Eastern Maine and the community,” Collins said in a statement. “I strongly urge the VA to take the necessary steps to ensure that this critical health care position is filled quickly.”

The facility has been without a full-time doctor since January 2011.

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