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agedhands-150x150The Biden Administration is encountering stiff industry opposition but is forging ahead with plans to announce in coming months major regulatory reforms that advocates hope finally will force nursing homes to meet minimum staffing guidelines to care for some of the nation’s most vulnerable.

The tragic devastation of long-term care facilities and their residents by the coronavirus pandemic demonstrated the dire need for federal regulators to set baseline standards for nursing and other front-line resident care, critics say.

Their arguments have been bolstered by lawsuits against nursing homes and their subsequent disclosure of harms done to seniors, the sick, and injured — those who are so debilitated that they require substantial living assistance but too often do not get it due to substandard staffing and profit-driven decision-making by facilities’ owners and operators.

pulseoximeter-150x150Until the coronavirus pandemic struck, few regular folks knew about pulse oximeters, much less had one on hand for urgent use. The devices, which fit over a finger, are supposed to give fast readings on the levels of oxygen in patients’ blood — a key measure of their respiratory wellness.

But the devices, whether in relatively inexpensive consumer versions or in medical-grade units used in doctor’s offices, clinics, and hospitals, are far from perfect. They suffer major inaccuracies when used by those with darker skin.

Federal regulators have known about this flaw for years. But at a time when patients, families, doctors, and hospitals relied on the devices routinely to make critical treatment decisions affecting those struggling with likely coronavirus infections, an information chasm opened. Doctors urged people to pop by drug stores and other retailers to pick up the devices, saying that they could be helpful in letting them know when their oxygen levels were dipping in concerning enough fashion that they should seek emergency treatment.

minnnursesstrike-150x150The coronavirus pandemic has not only caused sustained damage to the U.S. health workforce, it also apparently has accelerated a looming crisis in nursing care, as has been shown by a three-day strike by 15,000 private-sector nurses in Minnesota.

Theirs was the largest such walkout by nurses and it sought to underscore how pay inequities, staffing shortages, exhaustion, working conditions, and other management-employee issues strike at the heart of the quality, safety, and excellence of direct patient care, the Washington Post and other media outlets reported.

As Kelly Kelley Anaas, an intensive care unit nurse for 14 years at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, told USA Today of the strains confronted by some of medicine’s most crucial frontline caregivers:

hospitalsafetygrafic-300x172Doctors and hospitals must redouble their efforts to protect patients in their care, as the coronavirus pandemic reversed years of safety advances, and these must be restored top to bottom — and more.

This powerful, timely argument has been made in a top medical journal by leading federal regulators at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As the quartet of medical doctors (Lee A. Fleisher, Michelle Schreiber, Denise Cardo, and Arjun Srinivasan) reported:

“The public health emergency has put enormous stress on the health care system and disrupted many normal activities in hospitals and other facilities. Unfortunately, these stressors have caused safety problems for both patients and staff …The fact that the pandemic degraded patient safety so quickly and severely suggests that our health care system lacks a sufficiently resilient safety culture and infrastructure. We believe the pandemic and the breakdown it has caused present an opportunity and an obligation to reevaluate health care safety with an eye toward building a more resilient health care delivery system, capable not only of achieving safer routine care but also of maintaining high safety levels in times of crisis.”

family-300x241While the nation’s pediatricians have announced an important, high-minded goal of eliminating racial bias in the medical treatment of children, working parents and other full-time caregivers for kids need a different kind of help, too, for a growing, serious problem — burnout.

These seemingly different issues share a common discovery point, rooted in challenges made large by the coronavirus pandemic and the recent unrest over social injustices experienced by communities of color, news media reports say.

Medical practitioners of various kinds, including kids’ specialists, have been forced to reexamine their consciences and beliefs even before but especially after the 2020 death in police custody of George Floyd, the AP reported. For pediatricians and their important practice group, this led to a medical reckoning, valuable to all patients but especially those of color:

cabinetdrugcomputertech-300x178Big Pharma has made the nation so pill-obsessed that prescription drugs pose big risks to the safety of the seriously sick and injured and the finances of retirees.

Recent news stories have warned, for example, that:

academies-300x90The nation’s nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are in dire need of drastic overhaul to dramatically improve the quality and safety of their treatment of the aged, sick, and disabled. They too often now get what one expert has described as “ineffective, inefficient, inequitable, fragmented, and unsustainable” care.

To repair the glaring, longstanding wrongs in these facilities — problems that critics say contributed to 150,000 resident deaths during the coronavirus pandemic — requires sweeping practical, regulatory, and financial changes in an industry focused on profits and resistant to change, according to newly published expert research report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

The academies, with members who are leaders in their fields, are private, nonprofit institutions that work outside of government to provide objective advice on matters of science, technology, and health.

convictedtennnurse-150x150While nurses deserve patients’ gratitude and the highest praise for the valiant care they have provided during the coronavirus pandemic, a Nashville case has raised tough questions as to whether and when professional caregivers’ medical errors ought to be criminalized.

Prosecutors decided that some mistakes rise to the criminal level, after considering the evidence against RaDonda Vaught, a former nurse involved in a 2017 fatal drug error.

Vaught, who already has been stripped of her nursing license, has been convicted, NPR reported, of “gross neglect of an impaired adult and negligent homicide after a three-day trial … She faces three to six years in prison for neglect and one to two years for negligent homicide as a defendant with no prior convictions, according to sentencing guidelines provided by the Nashville district attorney’s office. Vaught is scheduled to be sentenced May 13, and her sentences are likely to run concurrently, said the district attorney’s spokesperson, Steve Hayslip.”

femalemd-300x209They excel through four years of rigorous undergraduate study, then battle their way through four more years of tough, tough medical school. They cram to pass their medical boards and  grind through exhausting internships. They also pursue years more of exacting, sleep-deprived training in residencies and fellowships.

But, wait a minute: Women doctors earn over a professional lifetime an estimated $2 million less on average than their men counterparts? They experience gender pay gaps of 25% to as much as 50% over the course of a 40-year career?

Yes, those are the disconcerting findings of published research that analyzed data from surveys of 80,000 doctors between 2014 and 2019, the New York Times reported:

harrisnhscfunding-300x155For anyone who believes that health care, in the wealthiest nation in the world, is a right and not a privilege, the Biden Administration provided some cause for optimism. It came in the form of an announcement by Vice President Kamala Harris that the nation will invest $1.5 billion to help reduce the shortage of doctors and nurses in underserved communities.

Working with sums provided by the spring’s American Recovery Act, the White House said it will boost financial support for medical workers participating in the National Health Service Corps and Nurse Corps.

They provide services to more than 23.6 million patients in this country, the White House said.

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