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Tuesday, October 28, 2014


With the good news of no new Ebola virus cases in Dallas and the apparent recovery of the two nurses who were infected, the nation turned its concern to the New York City physician who contracted the disease while working with Doctors Without Borders in Guinea. Here at home:
  •  More than 1,000 physicians and nurses tuned in to ask questions of Ebola experts in a Tele-Town Hall meeting convened by TMA and the Texas Nurses Association (listen to the recording). 
  •  TMA released a video, Why You're Not At All Very Likely to “Catch” Ebola, featuring Robert Haley, MD, director of the Division of Epidemiology in the Internal Medicine Department at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
  • Chip Riggins, MD, the local health authority and executive director for the Williamson County and Cities Health District, testified on behalf of TMA before Gov. Rick Perry’s Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease, Preparedness, and Response. Dr. Riggins called for improvements in communications between practicing physicians and public health agencies; more graduate medical education slots in public health, prevention medicine, and epidemiology; and more attention paid to the needs of private practice physicians during an infectious disease outbreak.  


This is the final week of early voting for the Nov. 4 elections. During early voting, which ends at 7 pm Friday, you may cast a ballot at any election site in your county. Data from last week showed early voting surges in some areas of the state, including Tarrant County, where TEXPAC is backing Libby Willis in a State Senate race against a blatantly antiphysician, antipatient candidate. TEXPAC recommends these outstanding candidates on your ballot. One way to remember to vote is to envision now a detailed plan of exactly where and when you will go to the ballot box. Make sure that plan includes encouraging your family, friends, staff, and patients to vote as well.


TMA President Austin King, MD, is keeping up his exhaustive travel schedule on behalf of Texas medicine. Between last week and this, Dr. King will have made public appearances in Houston, Lubbock, and Fort Worth, as well as numerous private meetings in between. Some highlights:
  • Tonight in Fort Worth, Dr. King is on the bill along with Congressman Michael Burgess, MD (R-Lewisville) and Texas Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Kyle Janek, MD, at a health care town hall meeting hosted by State Rep. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth).
  •  In Houston last week, he shared TMA’s Healthy Vision 2020 plans with the Executives Association of Houston and the Houston Chronicle editorial board.
  • Coming up in Lubbock, Dr. King has sessions planned with leaders, faculty, and students of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center; an editorial board meeting at the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal; and a lead role at the 2014 Health Care Symposium put on by the Texas Dispute Resolution System. 


The nation faces “drastic shortages” of physicians in many specialties — especially internal medicine and psychiatry — but our government doesn’t seem to be doing much about it. “Affordable Care Act Fails to Address Physician Shortages — Here’s How We Can Better Deal with This Challenge,” looks at a new tool, The FutureDocs Forecasting Tool, underwritten by The Physicians Foundation, that can help us figure out where to focus. “Unlike previous estimates of supply and demand, FutureDocs projects shortage and surplus by how well physician supply matches use of physician services; which in turn can be used to understand what type of care patients will need in the future and which geographies are experiencing greater imbalances in supply and distribution of physicians,” Physicians Foundation CEO Tim Norbeck and I wrote. “For example, while Rochester, Minnesota, the home of the Mayo Clinic, may be projected to have a surplus of specialists, Slidell, Louisiana is projected to have a significant shortage. What’s needed now is a scientific assessment of the supply and demand for health care services upon which to build the necessary health care infrastructure to ensure the health of the U.S. population.”


Intrusion after intrusion is threatening your practice and the care of your patients as you know it. Fortunately, you can trust TMA and your county medical society to stand by you to address them. Your association advocates relentlessly in Austin and Washington to eliminate red tape and bureaucracy. But even as we work to deliver these legislative fixes, TMA provides first-class solutions to your practice headaches. The 2015 congressional and state legislative sessions are right around the corner. Renew today. The TMA Knowledge Center can answer your renewal questions at (800) 880-7955 or by email at knowledge@texmed.org.


Join TMA and state specialty societies in Austin Dec. 5-6 as we plan for the 2015 sessions of Congress and the Texas Legislature. Registration for the 2014 TMA Advocacy Retreat is open now.

Monday, October 20, 2014


We received the good news this morning that the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) has cleared Thomas Duncan’s first 43 Ebola contacts in Dallas after 21 days passed with no signs or symptoms. Local, state, and federal public health officials continue to monitor 120 people for the disease. Texans, however, remain concerned and worried about the outbreak. You can learn the latest about Texas’ Ebola response and how to protect you and your staff by participating in TMA’s Tele-Town Hall meeting tonight. TMA physician experts and Department of State Health Services’ leaders will be on hand to answer your questions from 7 to 8 pm. TMA and the Texas Nursing Association are cohosting the meeting. We will call you directly at your home phone number. All you need to do is pick up the phone and stay on the line. If you don’t want to participate, just hang up. If you can’t make the call and want to hear what was discussed, please go to TMA’s Ebola Virus Resource Center. A recording of the meeting will be posted Tuesday. This event is the latest in the series of TMA activities to keep Texas physicians and the public informed about the science of the Dallas Ebola crisis. They include: 
  • Protect Yourself From the Ebola Virus — an easy-to-understand patient flyer, in English and in Spanish, that we developed in conjunction with the Dallas County Medical Society (DCMS).
  • What if Someone Walks Into My Office With Ebola? — science-based guidelines to prepare your practice and protect your staff and patients if someone presents with Ebola symptoms.
  • “Facts, Not Fear” — an outstanding town hall meeting that DCMS hosted with WFAA-TV. Watch the replay.
  •  TMA’s Ebola Virus Resource Center — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), DSHS, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and Dallas County Health and Human Services have issued numerous bulletins, guidelines, and other materials to help you respond to the Ebola outbreak. We organize them for your ease of use.