Loma woman’s medication suggestion will go national

A Loma woman’s idea to save the government millions of dollars a year should someday become commonplace.

Nancy Fichtner, 55, won a contest for her plan to save money at Grand Junction’s Veterans Affairs Medical Center by allowing discharged patients to take home medications that are currently being discarded. Money also would be saved by not having to discard the medications as hazardous waste.

“I didn’t want my idea to die of loneliness,” Fichtner said of an idea she’s had for about a year and a half. “It’s really a no-brainer. It should have been implemented a long time ago.”

Fichtner, a support clerk in the hospital’s finance department, was chosen as one of four finalists from 38,000 government workers who suggested ways for government programs to save money through a program called Securing Americans Value and Efficiency, or SAVE.

Fichtner’s idea received the most votes on a White House Web site. She will receive a trip with her family, 16-year-old Kasey Ann, and 19-year-old Alex, to Washington, D.C., on Dec. 21 to present her idea to President Barack Obama at the White House. Fichtner’s winning plan should be included in the nation’s fiscal year 2011 budget, according to a Web site for the White House.

Currently, discharged VA hospital patients are not allowed to take home some medications that come in bulk, such as eye drops and inhalers, because the hospital’s electronic labeling system does not allow for adding guidelines on how many doses and how often patients should take those medications. For example, an inhaler can cost between $10 to $100, and eye drops can run from $25 to $100. Millions of dollars could be saved each year throughout the nation’s 153 VA medical centers just by tweaking the electronic database to allow for the extra labeling, Fichtner said.

Fichtner said she is most excited about traveling to Washington, D.C., which probably would be the only chance the single mother would have to travel there with her children.

Fichtner said she learned to be frugal while growing up on a farm in California.


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