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30 posts categorized "Health Care" Feed

December 02, 2011

State Regulator Denies Sale of Fletcher Allen Dialysis Clinics

ImagesState regulators Thursday preliminarily denied the sale of five outpatient dialysis clinics owned by Fletcher Allen Health Care to one of the nation's largest, for-profit dialysis providers. They claimed the sale could drastically increase rates.

The decision is not final.

FAHC and Fresenius will be able to contest the proposed decision issued by Steve Kimbell, commissioner of the Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities and Health Care Administration, at a January 18 hearing.

In his decision, Kimbell said BISHCA's analysis of the proposal found that dialysis rates would have to be increased fourfold by Fresenius in order to make the clinics profitable.

FAHC announced last year it wanted to sell off the clinics because they were losing about $1.8 million annually. Fresenius proposed to buy the clinics and run them through its subsidiary, Bio-Medical Care Holdings, based in New Hampshire.

Fletcher Allen operates five outpatient dialysis clinics, in South Burlington, St. Albans, Berlin, Rutland and Newport. They collectively serve about 241 people, with another 26 people receiving services in their homes. Had it taken place, the total sale was valued at more than $28 million.

Continue reading "State Regulator Denies Sale of Fletcher Allen Dialysis Clinics" »

November 29, 2011

Vermont Dept of Health Reports Uptick in Whooping Cough Cases

Picture 101Two weeks ago, I reported this story about efforts by the Vermont Department of Health (VDH) to boost Vermont's rate of childhood vaccinations, which over the last decade has fallen from one of the highest rates in the country to nearly dead last.

Now the health department is reporting a troubling consequence of that trend.

Yesterday afternoon, the VDH alerted health care providers statewide about an uptick in the number of cases of pertussis, a vaccine-preventable disease more commonly known as whooping cough. According to the VDH, 27 cases of pertussis have been confirmed in Vermont this year alone, including six cases in the past month. Four confirmed cases have been reported in Chittenden County and one each in Washington and Bennington counties — with additional cases pending confirmation in Chittenden, Addison and Windham counties. The patients' ages (for confirmed cases) range from 5 months to 67 years old.

The incidence of pertussis had been on the decline since 2005 following the introduction of a new booster vaccine, recommended for children ages 10 and up. Confirmed cases dropped from 110 in 2006 to 11 in 2009. But last year, that number began creeping up again. Health experts say the rise may be due to the cyclical nature of the disease, which seems to reemerge every three to five years, as well as Vermont's declining rate of childhood vaccinations.

Pertussis is a highly contagious disease of the lungs caused by a bacterial infection. Anyone who has clinical symptoms of pertussis should be evaluated by a health care provider.  People with suspected or confirmed cases of pertussis should be kept out of school, work and group activities until five days of antibiotic therapy have been completed.

Continue reading "Vermont Dept of Health Reports Uptick in Whooping Cough Cases" »

October 20, 2011

Local Health-Care Providers Urge McDonald's to Quit Marketing to Children

HappymealThe booths at the South Burlington McDonald's earlier today were filled with a typical smattering of lunch customers: two businesswomen, a pair of teenagers, a soldier and a few families. In their midst was a toddler in a high chair, her tiny hands manuevering a hamburger and picking at some French fries.

There was nothing striking about the scene. Yet some pediatricians and nutritionists would shudder at the sight of a toddler surrounded by salt and fat. Among them, Jennifer Laurent.

"I am concerned with the future health of these children," says Laurent, president of the Vermont Nurse Practitioner's Association and an obesity researcher in UVM's department of nursing. Fatty fast foods are one of the tendrils feeding a childhood-obesity epidemic that Laurent sees firsthand. "To have a 12-year-old come in with concerned parents because their child is morbidly obese is heart wrenching," she says. "He can't go out and play because he can't keep up. He gets a headache when he exerts himself. He is bullied."

And he could be the one in three children who will develop diabetes in their lifetime, she points out. So, when Laurent was approached to be one of the 1,500 signatories to an open letter to McDonald's CEO Jim Skinner, urging his company to axe "predatory marketing" to children, she jumped at the chance. "We ask that you heed our concern and retire your marketing promotions for food high in salt, fat, sugar and calories to children, whatever form they take — from Ronald McDonald to toy giveaways," reads the letter, which ran today in the Portland (Ore.) Tribune and will appear in the Burlington Fress Press on Monday.

Continue reading "Local Health-Care Providers Urge McDonald's to Quit Marketing to Children" »

October 06, 2011

Inmate Sues Prison Officials Over Erection That Lasted Five Days

Jimmy_Stewart From the files at federal court in Burlington comes this story of hard time.

A Vermont prison inmate is suing corrections officials after an adverse reaction to a  prescription medication caused an erection that lasted for five days and left him with permanent erectile dysfunction.

James Stewart, age 34 (not pictured at right), alleges that prison health officials at Northern State Correctional Facility in Newport are responsible for irreparable harm by delaying medical treatment —  a "deliberate indifference" that, he says, violated his Eighth Amendment rights.

According to Stewart's lawsuit, the erection was a side effect to taking Trazodone, an antidepressant sometimes used to treat schizophrenia, which he was prescribed by prison officials. After "four to five hours" with no relief, he complained about it on October 5, 2010, to a correctional officer who in turn summoned a prison nurse. The nurse called a doctor, the lawsuit states, and after speaking with him advised Stewart that he should "lay down and relax and the ... doctor said it will subside once plaintiff just relax [sic]."

But relaxing didn't do the trick. By the next morning, Stewart was in serious pain and having problems urinating.

Continue reading "Inmate Sues Prison Officials Over Erection That Lasted Five Days" »

August 19, 2011

Fletcher Allen Admits "Errors Were Made" in Case of Pedestrian Who Died After Being Released

StamatisFletcher Allen Health Care admitted today that it made "errors in the care" of 20-year-old Zachary Stamatis, the accident victim who died in July after being treated and released from the hospital.

Stamatis (pictured) had been hit by a car while in his wheelchair crossing Pine Street at the intersection of Flynn Avenue — near his home. He was rushed to the hospital that night, treated and released a few hours later.

Stamatis was found dead the following morning by a caregiver. According to an autopsy conducted by the state medical examiner, Stamatis died as a result of a brain injury due to a skull fracture he sustained from the crash.

Immediately following news of Stamatis' death, FAHC officials said they would conduct an internal investigation into Stamatis' care to determine what, if anything, went awry.

Apparently the hospital did make mistakes, but officials aren't saying exactly what went wrong.

Continue reading "Fletcher Allen Admits "Errors Were Made" in Case of Pedestrian Who Died After Being Released" »

August 15, 2011

Lakeview Group Home Residents Move into New Home

IMG_2730 Today was moving day for 16 residents of a group home formerly located in a single-family home at the former diocesan property on North Avenue.

Their new home is on St. Paul Street, in a newly renovated building next to Smalley Park. The building is owned by Champlain Housing Trust and has been under extensive renovations this summer.

Earlier this year, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington asked a Vermont judge to expedite its eviction process in hopes of getting the residents moved out of the North Avenue home by June.

Continue reading "Lakeview Group Home Residents Move into New Home" »

August 09, 2011

Poll: Vermonters Say Yes to Vermont Yankee, Single-Payer Health Care

Vy Oh, Vermonters are a fickle bunch. A new poll finds that most Vermonters want Vermont Yankee to remain open and support Gov. Peter Shumlin's call to create a single-payer health care system.

Those are the latest, and final, results from a poll conducted late last month by Public Policy Polling out of North Carolina. The firm began to release its poll results last week. The final results were released this morning.

Among the last were miscellaneous questions PPP asked more than 1200 Vermonters related to Vermont Yankee, single-payer health care and same-sex marriage. They also asked what Vermonters thought of Sen. Patrick Leahy, Rep. Peter Welch and possible candidates running for Vermont Treasurer. The poll's margin of error was 2.8 percent.

According to PPP, Vermonters are closely divided on VY and health care: 40 percent support the new health care law while 35 percent are opposed and 25 percent remain unsure. The polling firm called it a "single payer health care" law, but the law doesn't establish a single-payer system. Rather it merely moves the state in that direction. The state would need to receive multiple waivers from the federal government, and come up with a way to finance it, before enacting the system.

Continue reading "Poll: Vermonters Say Yes to Vermont Yankee, Single-Payer Health Care" »

August 02, 2011

Not Your Granny's Bath Salts

Drug users across the country are going crazy — literally — over bath salts, and Vermont druggies could soon join the trend.

No, today's stoners aren't desperately seeking a high from Calgon: "Bath salts" is the street name for mephedrone and methylenedioxypyrovalerone, a powdery substance said to have effects similar to cocaine or methamphetamines, only more so.

Bath salts, which can be smoked, snorted or injected, produce a high lasting anywhere from 20 minutes to three hours. The drug, still legal in Vermont, also produces some nasty side effects, including suicidal depression, manic behavior, delusions and violence.

It can be difficult to bring a bath salts user back from the brink, said Karen Simone, director of the Northern New England Poison Center. There's no simple, specific antidote available to hospital emergency room personnel. Medical workers "have to administer high doses of sedatives and sometimes anti-psychotics as well," Simone explained. In cases where bath salts experiments have gone totally amok, "you may have to put people into a light coma," she added.

Continue reading "Not Your Granny's Bath Salts" »

June 21, 2011

Fletcher Allen CEO Likely Leaving Post for Midwest Hospital

Estes The chief executive officer of Fletcher Allen Health Care, Vermont's largest hospital, is likely leaving to become the new chief at a Midwestern hospital, FAHC officials told staff today.

In an email sent to all Fletcher Allen staff late Tuesday morning, Board of Trustees Chairman Roger Stone said Dr. Melinda Estes "is in discussions with a hospital system in the Midwest regarding the possibility of becoming their next CEO."

Stone did not name the hospital.

Estes (pictured) was hired in 2003 following a financial scandal related to a multimillion-dollar renovation — dubbed the Renaissance Project — that landed her predecessor in federal prison and shook confidence in the hospital's finances. Stone and other hospital officials credit Estes for repairing the hospital's images and strengthening its bottom line.

A neurologist and neuropathologist who also has an MBA, Estes is one of the highest paid CEOs in Vermont, earning a total compensation of $1.9 million in 2009, up from $700,000 when she was first hired in 2003. Prior to joining Fletcher Allen, she spent most of the previous two decades in The Cleveland Clinic health care system.

Continue reading "Fletcher Allen CEO Likely Leaving Post for Midwest Hospital" »

June 08, 2011

With Single-Payer on the Horizon, a New Survey Finds Vermont Docs Unhappy About Care System

Vermont Medical Society Ever wonder why your blood pressure goes up at the doctor's office? It's not too surprising, given that you spend 45 minutes reading year-old magazines in the waiting room, then another 15 minutes sitting on tissue paper in your underwear before your doctor finally drops in to the exam room for no more than five minutes.

Well, guess what? Vermont's docs aren't any happier about their time crush than their patients are. At least, that's one of the major findings in a new report, published June 7, by the Vermont Medical Society Education and Research Foundation. The "2011 Physician Needs Assessment" was put together from interviews with a broad cross-section of Vermont physicians working in a variety of medical disciplines.

Among the report's key findings: Vermont's physicians say they don't have nearly enough time to devote to each patient because more and more time is spent attending to non-medical — i.e., financial, regulatory and administrative — business. In effect, doctors are forced to see more patients than they want to each day just to keep their doors open.

Will Vermont's recent adoption of a single-payer health care system, the first of its kind in the nation, do anything to address the problem? Too early to tell, suggests Paul Harrington, the Vermont Medical Society's executive vice president. The new law acknowledges the shortage of primary-care physicians in Vermont — currently at 25, and expected to grow to 63 by 2015. However, because Vermont competes on a national stage for medical professionals, a lot will depend upon the details of how the single-payer system is implemented, particularly in terms of doctors' reimbursement rates.

Continue reading "With Single-Payer on the Horizon, a New Survey Finds Vermont Docs Unhappy About Care System" »

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