EVMS HIV Treatment Network, Norfolk, Va., Officials Reach Tentative Agreement on Ryan White Fund AdministrationEastern Virginia Medical School and Norfolk, Va., officials on Friday announced that they had reached a tentative agreement to reopen six of the seven clinics in the region that serve roughly 400 AIDS patients, the Virginian-Pilot reports (Virginian-Pilot, 6/1). A contract dispute between Norfolk, Va., officials and EVMS clinic doctors regarding billing practices resulted in the revocation of the clinics' Ryan White funds on April 11. EVMS clinics use a billing method in which doctors receive a set fee for each patient, a practice that is reportedly not allowed under federal government regulations. As a result, the clinics lost their Ryan White money and had to cease operations (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/12). Mayor Paul Fraim said that he is "frustrated" that Norfolk has "fumbled such an important program," according to the Virginian-Pilot. He added, "It's a concern, especially when people have such documented needs." Fraim on Wednesday said that the city might hire an outside agency to "permanently handle the grant," which would mark the grant's third administration change in five years, according to the Virginian-Pilot. He added that using a private contractor to administer the Ryan White funds locally "would remove some of the bureaucracy" and allow the program to run "more efficient[ly]."
'Harder Than It Needs To Be'
Some advocates are concerned because other proposals have failed in recent months. They said that the city's administration "makes spending [Ryan White Title I] money harder than it needs to be," which has prompted some health care providers to leave the program, the Virginian-Pilot reports. Over the past four years, Norfolk has failed to spend an average of $1 million per year from Title I Ryan White funds, and an estimated 900 local residents living with HIV are not receiving care, the Virginian-Pilot reports. Only two metropolitan areas out of the 51 that received funds under Title I spent a smaller percentage of their funding in the fiscal year that ended Feb. 28, 2002, than Norfolk. Susan Garvey, a psychologist based in Norfolk, said, "We have the opportunity to be really cutting edge. But now, it's just a chronic mess" (Virginian-Pilot, 6/2).