Doctors at the Eastern Virginia Medical School AIDS Clinic in Norfolk, Va., last week rejected a proposal from city officials that would restore Ryan White act funding to the clinic and allow the doctors to resume treating about 1,200 patients with HIV/AIDS in the area, The Virginian-Pilot reports. A contract dispute between the doctors and city officials over the clinic's billing practices resulted in the revocation of federal funding from the clinic on April 11 and a halt to treatment for the clinic's HIV/AIDS patients. The clinic uses a billing system in which doctors receive a set fee for each patient, a practice city officials say is prohibited for groups receiving federal HIV/AIDS funds.
The city offered the clinic $750,000 in Ryan White act funds if the billing method was changed and other permanent changes were implemented, but clinic founder Edward Oldfield called the offer "unworkable." Oldfield said the proposed changes would eliminate a patient's ability to receive medical care and social services in one visit. He also said the city's proposal did not contain contingencies to provide outpatient services in three surrounding communities, would prevent doctors from treating patients who have other sexually transmitted diseases, and would force patients to fill prescriptions at only one designated pharmacy that is not open nights or weekends.
"I've treated AIDS patients for 21 years, and I've suffered though many deaths, but I've never suffered through the death of a comprehensive system of care," Oldfield said. "It's hard enough to fight AIDS in a community as a team, but when you have another group of people trying to sabotage your work, it's impossible."
City officials plan to continue negotiations with clinic doctors. HIV/AIDS patients are currently being sent to other health care centers in the Norfolk area for treatment.