Fueled by a historically rare consensus on major issues, the American Medical Association House of Delegates took swift action to address many of the difficulties that frustrate physicians these days.
"Texas physicians should be quite pleased by what the AMA House accomplished at this meeting," said David Henkes, MD, of San Antonio, chair of the Texas Delegation. "The new policies enacted and the directives for action given to AMA leaders will make a real difference in our day-to-day practices."
About 100 Texas physicians and medical students representing the Texas Medical Association, various sections, and national specialty societies took part in the Nov. 11-14 interim meeting in Honolulu. Former TMA President Sue Bailey, MD, of Fort Worth, presided over her fifth session as speaker of the house. The sole resolution TMA brought to Hawaii won unanimous approval.
Texans Share Lessons of Harvey
From staffing shelters, to providing “mental health first aid,” to helping physicians rebuild flooded practices, organized medicine was a critical piece of the response to Hurricane Harvey, a panel of Texas leaders said at a special forum on disaster medicine.
Lessons learned from hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Ike and others ensured that the Texas Gulf Coast was better prepared and in a better position to respond to the storm and the flooding it caused, explained AMA Board of Trustees member Russ Kridel, MD, who organized the forum, and trauma surgeon Ken Mattox, MD, a renowned expert on disaster readiness.
Evacuees at Houston’s two mega-shelters received help from a broad array of emergency, primary care, and specialty care physicians. “Many of them didn't want to leave [the shelter], they were getting such great service,” Harris County Medical Society CEO Greg Bernica quipped.”
Beaumont anesthesiologist Ray Callas, MD, explained that good working relationships among physicians and local, state, and national elected officials helped ensure that the government’s response met critical needs on the ground.
Dallas psychiatrist Les Secrest, MD, discussed how storm victims and first-responders alike can benefit from a trained and friendly ear. “Just listen nonjudgmentally,” he said. “The conversation will lead from hopelessness to hopefulness.”
TMA President Carlos J. Cardenas, MD, thanked the AMA, the Physicians Foundation, and physicians and medical societies nationwide for helping TMA make more than $1 million available in disaster relief grants so practices could reopen their doors to patients. “When we have members in need, all of us come together to help our colleagues,” he said. “You never know when a hurricane may be coming to a home near you.”
Houston emergency physician Diana Fite, MD, and John Carlo, MD, of Dallas, a member of the AMA Council on Science and Public Health, also participated in the forum.
A “Consistent National Strategy” on Scope Incursions
The AMA house adopted a trio of resolutions to help protect patient safety and prevent inappropriate independent practice by nonphysician practitioners. The latest threats include the APRN (Advanced Practice Registered Nurses) Multistate Compact, the “doctor of medical science” degree pushed by physician assistants in some states, and the broad medical screening tests offered by nonphysician vendors.
A multi-specialty and multi-state coalition – including Texas – pushed delegates to adopt a resolution calling on AMA to convene a physician workgroup to create a “consistent national strategy,” a public relations plan, and legislative language to oppose the nationwide drive for nonphysicians’ independent practice.
The APRN Compact, which three states already have adopted, would allow APRNs to practice without physician supervision or oversight. Medicine so far has been able to stop all attempts to pass “doctor of medical science” legislation.
The house also endorsed a six-part policy on nonphysician screening tests to protect patients and to ensure adequate follow-up. Texas delegate Michelle Berger, MD, of Austin, persuaded the delegates to adopt an amendment that would require screening test vendors to send copies of the results to the patient’s primary care physician.