Articles Posted in Hospitals

ascension-st-vincent-riverside-hospital-300x200The nurses complained, and so did a handful of doctors. The patients howled. Yet, for years, administrators at a Florida hospital ignored the repeated alarms, critics say.

Now, 350 lawsuits have been filed and 100 more are expected, all asserting that Dr. Richard David Heekin, a seasoned orthopedist, suffered from a progressively debilitating, rare, neurologic condition that significantly impaired his capacity to perform what should have been common, uncomplicated knee and hip replacements, putting patients in harm’s way, NBC News reported.

Instead, during his flawed procedures, bones fractured, tendons ruptured, and nerves were severed. Patients required costly, painful, and unnecessary revision surgeries.

unoslogo-300x190UNOS, the independent medical network responsible for procuring and distributing human organs for transplants in this country, needs big changes because it is failing desperate patients, making screening errors, among other missteps, that have killed dozens of them and caused hundreds to develop procedure-related diseases.

The U.S. Senate Finance Committee reviewed hundreds of thousands of pages of subpoenaed documents and other material and investigated the nation’s transplant network for 2½ years, assailing UNOS  for its operational and oversight laxity, the Washington Post reported:

“Testing errors and overlooked communications [in organ procurement] allowed the transmission of cancer, a rare bacterial infection, and other diseases …The errors included failures to identify disease in donor kidneys, hearts and livers, as well as mix-ups in matching blood types and delays in blood and urine tests that were not completed before transplant surgeries occurred, the investigators concluded in a report obtained by The Washington Post. The Senate committee partly blamed lax oversight of organ procurement organizations (OPOs), the regional nonprofits responsible for collecting donated organs, by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), the Richmond-based contractor that oversees the system. It listed as problems careless treatment of donated organs, organs lost in transit, and technological issues.”

logoteva-300x115Big Pharma has run into a rare rough summer — and that could be positive news for all the rest of us regular folks. Just how? Consider:

charity2-150x150Play this one out in your mind: a guy you know at church — he’ll be the first to let you know he makes $200,000 a year — tells you about how he gave to charity a junker car worth not more than $4,600 (2% of his income). Now what’s your reaction if you learn this guy got thousands of dollars in tax breaks for that giving?

Is this savvy business conduct? Or does it make you sputter even while sitting in the pews on Sunday?

Now multiply the sums involved, exponentially, and it should be cause for questions anew about the nation’s hospitals and their charitable care. As the Wall Street Journal reported of its dive into the institutions’ required federal disclosures:

candidanew-300x150With the coronavirus pandemic surging anew due to the highly infectious Omicron BA.5 variant, federal authorities reported recent data that should give Americans plenty of reason to heed public health warnings and avoid hospitalization if they possibly can.

That’s in part because institutions, overwhelmed by the pandemic, have taken giant steps backward in preventing patients in their care from acquiring nasty bacterial and fungal infections in addition to the coronavirus, and from overusing and misusing lifesaving antibiotics, further fueling the rise of virulent super bugs, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. As the New York Times reported:

“The spread of drug-resistant infections surged during the coronavirus pandemic, killing nearly 30,000 people in 2020 and upending much of the recent progress made in containing the spread of so-called superbugs, according to an analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Deaths caused by infections impervious to antibiotics and antifungal medications rose 15% during the first year of the pandemic compared to 2019, federal health officials found. Much of the increase was tied to the chaos wrought by the coronavirus as doctors and nurses struggled to treat waves of grievously sick patients whose illness they did not fully understand before vaccines and treatments were widely available. About 40% of the deaths were among hospitalized patients, with the remainder occurring in nursing homes and other health care settings, the CDC report found. Early on, many frontline hospital workers mistakenly administered antibiotics for viral lung infections that did not respond to such drugs, according to the study. Many of the sickest patients spent weeks or months in intensive care units, increasing the chances for drug-resistant bugs to enter their bodies through intravenous lines, catheters, and ventilator tubes.”

billpaying-150x150While Congress seems paralyzed or, at best, willing to shrink significantly its efforts to help Americans deal with the punishing costs of care in the U.S. medical system, could federal lawmakers be confronted at the same time with more compelling evidence about the need for aggressive, not timid, action?

Do beleaguered constituents need to barrage members of the House and Senate with copies of an excellent, painful series from NPR and the nonpartisan Kaiser Health News service on the crushing effects of medical debt on regular folks, especially cancer patients? Must voters write, call, and email  representatives to ensure they see the research findings of the Kaiser Family Foundation or the Commonwealth Fund about how nightmarish the U.S. medical system has become?

In detailing the “financial toxicity” that cancer patients experience with bankrupting treatment, KHN reporter Noam Levey mixes poignant human stories with scary economic data to detail how care for a leading killer of Americans may have improved medically but has become a calamity of a different sort. He makes these points among others (quoted liberally but without their sourcing, not fully included in these bullets for brevity’s sake):

dive-180x300Even as Congress lumbers into creating the next crisis for millions of Americans and whether they can access and afford health insurance, the giant, built-in flaws in the current coverage system keep sending far too many patients and their loved ones into a financial morass with which politicians and policymakers refuse to reckon.

Successive Democratic and Republican administrations have clashed over health insurance, notably the coverage extended to poor, working poor, and middle-class folks under Obamacare. But the people in charge have erred, big time, by blindly accepting a health care fallacy that plagues the U.S. system, according to Aaron E. Carroll,  the chief health officer for and a distinguished professor of pediatrics at Indiana University. He said this in a New York Times Opinion article:

“The Affordable Care Act was supposed to improve access to health insurance, and it did. It reduced the number of Americans who were uninsured through the Medicaid expansion and the creation of the health insurance marketplaces. Unfortunately, it has not done enough to protect people from rising out-of-pocket expenses in the form of deductibles, co-pays, and co-insurance. Out-of-pocket expenses exist for a reason; people are less likely to spend their own money than an insurance company’s money, and these expenses are supposed to make patients stop and think before they get needless care. But this moral-hazard argument assumes that patients are rational consumers, and it assumes that cost-sharing in the form of deductibles and co-pays makes them better shoppers. Research shows this is not the case. Instead, extra costs result in patients not seeking any care, even if they need it.

facepox-150x150In the 21st century, in the wealthiest and supposedly most advanced nation on the planet, infectious diseases and vaccines continue to be major part of the news headlines.

Experts and regular folks are paying attention to the persistent coronavirus pandemic, a stubborn and apparently widening outbreak of monkeypox, and a startling spike of meningitis and listeria cases in or tied to Florida.

The coronavirus pandemic

bag-150x150If patients can benefit from price transparency by hospitals, shouldn’t employers and health insurers post online what they are paying for medical services? Yes, say federal regulators, who started requiring this effective July 1.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has ordered parties that act as health payers to make public a wealth of economic information that previously had been closely held, NPR and the Kaiser Health News service reported:

“[H]ealth insurers and self-insured employers must post on websites just about every price they’ve negotiated with providers for health care services, item by item. About the only exclusion is the prices paid for prescription drugs, except those administered in hospitals or doctors’ offices. The federally required data release could affect future prices or even how employers contract for health care. Many will see for the first time how well their insurers are doing compared with others. The new rules are far broader than those that went into effect last year requiring hospitals to post their negotiated rates for the public to see. Now insurers must post the amounts paid for ‘every physician in network, every hospital, every surgery center, every nursing facility,’ said Jeffrey Leibach, a partner at the consulting firm Guidehouse.

denismcdonough-150x150One of the nation’s largest health care systems had its ambitious plans to reshape itself for the 21st century torpedoed by a dozen members of the U.S. Senate, with taxpayers and veterans left in the lurch with great uncertainty about the future medical care for those who valiantly have served this country.

Just a few weeks ago, Denis McDonough, the secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (shown right), met a deadline from Congress to detail significant shifts in how his sprawling agency cares for former military personnel and their families.

He provided a proposal — a plan only — to shut many of the VA’s 1,200 big, aging hospitals and clinics or slash services there, shifting to smaller facilities, and refocusing the agency’s caregiving to parts of the country where its patients live. His plans and the future of VA care, which already have been under study for at least four years, were then to be taken up by a blue-ribbon group, the Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission. The commission then would have reported back to Congress for possible action.

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