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AARP-logo-300x94For residents of nursing homes and their loved ones, new and disturbing information has come out on  long-term care facilities’ persistent failure to safeguard the vulnerable from the coronavirus that has killed tens of thousands of the institutionalized and infected hundreds of thousands of them and their caregivers.

Six months after the pandemic exploded across the country, more than a quarter of nursing homes nationwide are “reporting shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) and staff, and almost half have staff infected with Covid-19,” according to the AARP, the country’s largest advocacy group for older Americans.

The organization based its finding on its scrutiny of federal data, reporting:

covidmapoct-300x201As the weather has turned crisper, and autumn leaves have begun to fall, in sadly predictable fashion, coronavirus cases are rising once again coast-to-coast.

More than 8 million Americans have been infected — roughly equivalent to the population of New York and far exceeding the number of people who live in metropolitan Washington, D.C.

The nation is racing toward 220,00 Covid-19 deaths, with that number rising inexorably and likely an understatement of the disease’s terrible toll. The coronavirus now has claimed as many lives as the population of cities such as Des Moines, Iowa, Salt Lake City, Utah, or Modesto, Calif.

javaid-300x169A Virginia criminal case, while focusing on claims of fraud against the federal government, also has exposed a long-running and nightmarish pattern of what prosecutors assert has been a Chesapeake gynecologist’s rampant mistreatment of his patients, many of them women of color and poor.

Dr. Javaid Perwaiz is on trial because authorities say he “manipulated records to cover crimes that enriched him but endangered pregnancies, sterilized women unnecessarily, and pressured them into needless procedures to finance his lavish lifestyle,” the Washington Post reported.

The newspaper’s articles, as well as the efforts by the FBI and federal prosecutors to develop the charges against the jailed specialist, raise disturbing questions about not only Virginia medical regulators but also the hospitals where the gynecologist practiced and colleagues who have described a “frenzied environment in which hospital staff struggled to keep pace with Perwaiz as he rushed from procedure to procedure.”

medjournals-300x196They are a unique combination — august publications in science and medicine that  harken back for centuries yet now inform 21st century practitioners about the latest advances in their fields. And now these leading scientific journals say the present moment  forces them to abandon their prized political neutrality to oppose the science denialism of the incumbent leader of the free world.

This is an unprecedented and uncomfortable development for the New England Journal of Medicine, Nature, Scientific American, and Lancet Oncology (a journal for cancer specialists). They have never taken a political stand of this kind in their histories, dating to 1812 for NEJM, 1845 for Scientific American, and 1869 for Nature.

Their editors say they would much prefer to stay out of presidential endorsements  and to keep their focus on publishing important, rigorous research and peer-reviewed information about advancements in the fields of science and medicine.

costsrisinghealthinsurancekff20-300x225The Covid-19 pandemic has forced many Americans to reconsider their transportation options, what with fears of infection and the slashing of public transit systems’ routes and schedules. That has made used cars, motorcycles, and bicycles hot commodities.

Those who are working and considering how their finances might stretch may take little comfort in another reality of the U.S. health care system — the relentlessly increasing cost of employer-provided coverage. Who can afford a second car while also footing the rising bill for health coverage?

As the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation said in its annual report on this issue:

oxylabel-300x180So, who doesn’t daydream a little about money? Maybe even big money. Just imagine a scenario where, if you could put up $3,000, you could keep $13,000, or if you forked over $30,000, and walked away with $130,000? So how great would it be if you paid $3 billion but could stuff $13 billion into your pockets?

What a deal! Of course, it depends on whose perspective you look at it from.

Federal prosecutors and a bankruptcy court may give a plutocratic family that deal, along with a hard-to-imagine get-out-of-jail free card, news organizations report.

covidtestswab-282x300The federal agency that regulates nursing homes and other long-term care facilities not only has cracked down on them with tough new requirements for coronavirus testing of their staff. The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services also has flogged its plan to provide facilities with testing equipment and sample tests.

While owners and operators have grumbled about the whole process, the state of Nevada has gone a step further: Enough, its health officials have decided. They briefly halted as unacceptable the CMS tests for the virus because they say they are flawed and may put nursing home residents at risk.

Besides casting yet more doubt on CMS’s poor pandemic response with long-term care facilities,  Nevada’s balk — rescinded abruptly after federal threat — may offer an important take-away to members of the public, already flooded with findings about the novel coronavirus:

antibodiesregeneron-300x157Well, there he goes again (as President Reagan used to say): President Trump, whose White House has become a coronavirus hot spot and who has clearly played a role in a super spreader event, is hyping yet another medical treatment for Covid-19.

He has referred to his own viral infection as “a blessing from God,” used the C word (as in “cure”) and has called an incipient therapy used on him as a “miracle.” So, now Americans may be racing to reference works to learn more about coronavirus care with monoclonal antibodies, specifically those developed by the Big Pharma firm Regeneron. It is headed by Dr. Leonard Schleifer, and as CNN reported:

[Schleifer] and President Trump are acquainted: The CEO has been a member at Trump’s golf club in Westchester, New York, and his company also received $450 million in government funding in July as part of the president’s Operation Warp Speed plan to quickly develop a vaccine and other treatments for Covid-19 … Trump also recently owned shares of Regeneron (REGN) [as] listed as assets on Trump’s 2017 filing with the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, though [not] on the president’s most recent filing for 2020.”

Democrats on the House Oversight Committee are pounding Big Pharma executives for price gouging, publishing an 18-month investigation of the soaring costs of select prescription medications and grilling  high-paid corporate leaders on whether those meds’ spiking prices were all too prevalent in the profit-ravenous drug industry.

The prescription medications targeted by the lawmakers included “Celgene and Bristol Myers Squibb’s Revlimid cancer treatment, which saw its price hiked 23 times since 2005, and Teva’s multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone, which went up in price 27 times since 2007,” reported the independent, nonpartisan Kaiser Health News service. “Those costs have little to do with research and development or industry efforts to help people afford medication, as drug companies often claim, according to the [congressional] probe.”

UMMC-Gudelsky-300x168A Maryland attorney has been indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice for an alleged scheme seeking a multi-million dollar payoff by the University of Maryland Medical System. Attorney Stephen Snyder is alleged by the government to have proposed a sham “consulting agreement” with the hospital, which would pay him $25 million, in order to keep secret some alleged facts about the hospital that he had learned in the course of representing a patient’s family.

Readers might wonder why our blog that focuses on patient safety and medical malpractice would write about this. Here’s why. We believe that attorneys who represent patients in medical malpractice lawsuits have an ethical duty to look out for the public’s interest, not just the narrow interests of themselves or even of their clients. That means that when a lawyer finds out in the course of representing someone that a hospital has a big patient safety problem, the lawyer should not try to personally profit from that knowledge by keeping quiet.

The Snyder indictment involves allegations about the organ transplant program at UMMS. (The building for the program is shown in the photo on the right.)

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