For the roughly 9 percent of Connecticut’s population who live with diabetes, eating healthy and knowing how foods can affect the disease is crucial to managing it. The Conn. Health I-Team, (www.c-hit.org) in collaboration with ConnectiCare and the Hispanic Health Council, is hosting a public forum featuring a sampling of healthy food choices on Thursday, Sept. 29, at the Lyceum in Hartford, where experts will discuss the latest developments in diabetes treatments and offer advice about how adopting a healthy lifestyle can help combat the disease. The free event, “Recipes for Healthy Living: Defeating Diabetes,” will include a social hour, cooking demonstration and food tasting starting at 5 p.m. Billings Forge Executive Chef Becky Stevens-McGuigan will present her picks for good food choices, including grilled chicken skewers with salsa verde, watermelon and feta skewers, roasted sweet potato salad and a roasted cauliflower salad.
Five Connecticut facilities have won national quality awards and a West Hartford nursing home is one of only three homes in the U.S. to receive the highest level of recognition from the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living. Hughes Health and Rehabilitation Center in West Hartford, which was started 55 years ago by Dr. Eugene Flaxman and is still owned by him, won the Gold Quality Award. Nationally, only 31 nursing homes have gained the distinction and before this, Manchester Manor Health Care Center and Glen Hill Center in Danbury were the only Connecticut homes to reach the gold level, Matthew V. Barrett, president and CEO of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities, said in a press release. Touchpoints at Manchester received a Silver Quality Award, and three Connecticut facilities, Arbors of Hop Brook in Manchester, Lutheran Home of Southbury and Brighton Gardens of Stamford, received the Bronze Quality Award this year. Mark Finkelstein, the administrator and vice president at Hughes Health, said winning the award was years in the making.
Five technical high school programs that prepare students to become licensed practical nurses have stopped taking applications for new students as state officials are debating their future. While no decision has been made to close the programs, Ed Leavy, president of the State Vocational Federation of Teachers, said administrators have been told to stop accepting new students who would have started class in January. “I am obviously concerned about the future of these programs,” he said. “We think these programs are too important to eliminate.”
Leavy said his union will lobby legislators to save the programs, if need be, because they are affordable programs that set people on a solid career path. The union represents about 25 LPN teachers and department heads.
In hospitals across Connecticut and nationwide, workarounds to compensate for medication shortages are daily routines for treating patients – and health experts say it’s not about to change any time soon. Some acute-care drugs in short supply nationally are antibiotics, antipsychotics, intravenous saline, and morphine, according to the most recent shortage list from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In Connecticut, hospital officials say they are turning to alternative drugs, rationing supplies, or seeking new suppliers to work around the shortages. At St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford, Dr. C. Steven Wolf, chief of emergency medicine, said doctors most recently have been dealing with shortages of dextrose, used to treat dehydration and low blood sugar, as well as intravenous saline and other basic medications.
By 1900, there had already been some three-dozen deaths by motor vehicles. This was at a time when the top speed of the Columbia, made by Hartford-based Pope Manufacturing, was 13 miles an hour. Cars got faster, and ubiquitous. Just a half century later, the number of motor vehicle deaths had reached epidemic proportions, 53,000 and rising. All along, safety features were being added, from turn signals in the ‘20s to padded dashboards in the ‘40s.
Over a dozen of the cooperative health insurers that started under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have failed, but leaders of Connecticut’s co-op say it is on track to turn a profit next year. “We’re very viable,” said Ken Lalime, CEO of Wallingford-based HealthyCT, a member-run, nonprofit health insurance co-op. “There are a lot of stable pieces of” HealthyCT. The co-op is enduring when others have died off, he said, by strategically adapting to changes in the ACA, and diversifying its portfolio. About a third of its business is insuring individuals, a third is small group policies and a third is large group insurance policies, he said.
More than 60 medical experts, state health directors and advocacy groups have asked federal Medicare officials to remove questions related to pain treatment from hospital patient surveys that are used to rate hospital quality, saying such questions “have had the unintended consequence of encouraging aggressive opioid use in hospitalized patients and upon discharge.”
In a letter to Andy Slavitt, acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the group said “aggressive management of pain should not be equated with quality healthcare, as it can result in unhelpful and unsafe treatment, the end point of which is often the inappropriate provision of opioids.” The coalition asked that CMS survey questions such as “During this hospital stay, how often was your pain well controlled?” be removed. The group sent a similar letter to the Joint Commission, which accredits U.S. hospitals, asking that it revise its pain management standards – specifically, guidelines directing doctors to ask patients to assess their pain, as they assess other “vital signs.”
“Mandating routine pain assessments for all patients in all settings is unwarranted and can lead to overtreatment and overuse of opioid analgesics,” they wrote. The letters come as Connecticut and other states grapple with a surge in opioid-related overdoses. Last week, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., joined several other senators to support a bill that would factor-out the pain-related questions on patient surveys from hospitals’ Medicare reimbursement determinations. Meanwhile, at the state legislature, the Public Health Committee has proposed a bill that would cap initial prescriptions of opioids to seven days for acute pain.
Citing the escalating incidence of opioid addiction and overdoses in Connecticut, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Monday that the state needs a “comprehensive, multifaceted” approach to combat the problem and identify areas in which federal funds might support those efforts. More than a dozen educators, physicians, law-enforcement representatives, substance-abuse experts, public-health professionals, and members of advocacy groups joined Blumenthal at the standing-room-only event at the offices of Community Mental Health Affiliates in New Britain. Also attending were two young adults who were in recovery after years of addiction that led to their incarceration and eventual treatment, along with a mother who lost her 26-year-old son to an overdose. “Drug addiction among young people is a horrendous and life-threatening epidemic – a deadly epidemic, as we have seen in the last few days,” Blumenthal said, referring to the nine heroin overdoses, one of them fatal, that occurred in New London County this past weekend. Blumenthal said that educators, physicians, social services and lawmakers must work together.
Patients billed for a facility fee for outpatient hospital services will get a clearer explanation of the charge, under legislation taking effect Friday. Connecticut has taken various steps to educate patients about the fees. The latest changes, passed this year as part of a broader health care bill, put further mandates on institutions that charge the fees. Patients have complained they were blindsided by the fees on their medical bills, and patient advocates say the fees are difficult to understand. A facility fee is charged by a hospital or health system for outpatient services provided in a hospital facility, intended specifically to compensate the facility for operational expenses.
Despite national debate on whether doctors should use social media, some physicians are forging ahead, using platforms such as Twitter to interact with colleagues, expand their knowledge and even connect with patients. Dr. Nick Bennett, the infectious disease and immunology medical director for Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford, said he benefits professionally from Twitter. He created his account, @peds_id_doc, a few years ago to see what Twitter was about, and he’s remained a loyal user. Bennett started by following health-related accounts and live tweeting from conferences. He also joined Twitter chats – conversations that use hash tags to link tweets.