James VanKirk, MD, FACP Testifies before Palliative Care Task Force in Washington, DC


(Washington, DC) – On Thursday, September 13, James VanKirk, MD, FACP, medical director, James VanKirk, MDEMMC/EMHS Supportive Care, and medical director, VNA Home Health Hospice, took part in a panel before a Congressional task force regarding the importance of expanded access and funding to palliative care in Maine and across the country. Dr. VanKirk was invited to take part by U.S. Representative Bruce Poliquin (R-Maine), co-founder of the Congressional Task Force on Palliative Care. The discussion kicked off the establishment of the Assisting Caregivers Today (ACT) Caucus’s Bipartisan Palliative Care Task Force.
The task force was established to raise awareness of the availability and benefits of palliative care, while also formulating solutions to expand access to those services, especially in underserved and unserved rural areas. In 2015, Maine ranked 27th in the country for per capita use of hospice services while also being home to some of the nation’s most elderly citizens.
“While the people of our region certainly benefit from high quality palliative and hospice care services, there are still large areas of Maine that are unserved,” says Dr. VanKirk. “I am hopeful that the task force hears our call for incentives to attract additional palliative care providers, increased use of telemedicine in very rural areas, and improved broadband capacity across Maine to facilitate the highest level of care possible.”
As our nation ages, community-based palliative care services provide an opportunity to ensure we are providing the best possible care to those facing serious and life-limiting illness. Improving access to these services will help transform healthcare to improve the possibilities for those suffering from serious illnesses.
Dr. VanKirk was joined by Lauren Michalakes, MD, medical director, Palliative Care, at Pen Bay Medical Center and Waldo County General Hospital, as well as representatives from the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care (C-TAC), National Partnership for Hospice Innovation (NPHI), National PACE Association, and the national Hospice and the Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO)