Sweating in his black jacket under a brilliant spring sun, Keith J. DuPerry, 40, waited in line on the New Haven Green. Destination: FEMA’s first-in-the-nation COVID-19 mass vaccination trailer, administered by Griffin Hospital of Derby. Earlier that morning, DuPerry had taken a bus from the sober house where he lives to an addiction treatment center downtown. The buzz of activity on the Green—party tents and comfortable seating, trailers custom shrink-wrapped with photos of smiling, diverse, shot-giving caregivers and grateful patients—got him thinking. He returned to the Green after lunch.
When she became a nurse 10 years ago, Sara Keiling never expected that she’d be wearing a pink hard hat and a life jacket and climbing a steep, 30-foot ladder to vaccinate her patients in a global pandemic. But that’s what she and other nurses from the Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center in New Haven have been doing since May to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to more than 90 crew members on oil tankers that regularly arrive in the port. The nurses provide the shots on board the ships because many of the crew members lack valid visas. The crew members are among 200,000 merchant seafarers worldwide who have been unable to leave their ships in many ports due to strict COVID-19 restrictions. Some have been at sea for more than 18 months, and getting vaccinated means they can finally take shore leave or go home, David Heindel, chairman of the seafarers section of the International Transport Workers’ Federation, said.
The state’s failure to pass a ban on flavored tobacco products may have put it in a better strategic position to prevent and combat teen tobacco use. Legislators could not agree on the ban in June, but a new—albeit small—study by Abigail Friedman, assistant professor of health policy at the Yale School of Public Health, found that after San Francisco banned flavored tobacco products in 2018, including flavored e-cigarettes, cigarette smoking increased among the city’s high school students. In comparatively similar school districts across the country with no flavor ban, cigarette smoking continued to decline, according to Friedman’s study, published in May in JAMA Pediatrics. “This raises concerns that reducing access to flavored electronic nicotine delivery systems may motivate youths who would otherwise vape to substitute smoking,” Friedman wrote. The results of the Yale study may be a case of correlation rather than causation.
With federal and state eviction moratoriums ending soon, a team of researchers from Yale University and two other universities has found an apparent link between landlord-related forced housing moves and risky sexual behavior. In a study of 360 New Haven residents between 2017 and 2018, the researchers from Yale, American University and Drexel University found that such forced moves made some people sexually vulnerable and less likely or able to negotiate the use of condoms in a relationship. Seventy-seven New Haven residents in the study reported having been evicted or forced to move in the last two years because a landlord raised the rent or went into foreclosure, or for other reasons such as illegal drug use or sales. The study consistently found that those participants were more likely to report having unprotected sex or multiple sex partners than others in the study. Four percent of the residents who reported a forced move also reported providing sex for a place to live, and 8% reported having sex in exchange for money or drugs, said one of the researchers, Allison K. Groves, an assistant professor of community health and prevention at Drexel.
The state Medical Examining Board voted Tuesday to discipline two physicians with fines and ordered a Newington woman to stop providing injections for a fee without a medical license. In the first case, Dr. Richard Kravitz, who works at the Veterans Administration Hospital in West Haven and a private office in Hamden, came under scrutiny in August of 2018 after a female patient in his private practice reported that he had failed to inform her about side effects from the medication he prescribed, according to a consent order approved by the board. The woman contended in a letter to the board that Kravitz prescribed toxic levels of Lithium for three years but never sought blood tests, even though she complained of neurological symptoms. He also prescribed a “cocktail” of five other drugs, leaving the woman with side effects that changed her personality and appearance, she said. An investigation into the allegations revealed that Kravitz had failed to order laboratory testing for the woman and failed to document her treatments for three years, beginning in December 2015, documents said. Under a consent order, Kravitz must pay a $10,000 fine and follow the stipulations of an 18-month probation period including attending classes in proper documentation and laboratory monitoring of prescriptions.
When the pandemic began, LaVita King of Bridgeport worried about how she would continue to see her behavioral health therapist and primary care physician at Southwest Community Health Center. She lives close enough to walk to the federally qualified health center but didn’t feel comfortable leaving her home in those early days, let alone venturing into a medical office. But she’s been able to access care through phone and video chats. “For me, it’s been such a lifesaver, such a blessing,” said King, 69. “Otherwise, I would not have been able to talk to my behavioral health therapist for this whole entire time.
The Medical Examining Board issued this week a four-year probationary period to a psychiatrist who is accused of excessive drinking and failing to follow state law on utilizing Connecticut’s prescription monitoring program. Department of Public Health (DPH) investigators determined that Dr. Susannah Tung, a psychiatrist, who runs a private practice while also working for the state Department of Correction (DOC), abused alcohol to excess at least twice; on Oct. 11 2017 and Feb. 20, 2020. The board, in addition to the probation, reprimanded Tung’s license.
Every day, Dr. Leslie Miller of Fairfield thinks about selling her practice to a hospital health system. “Everybody who is in this environment thinks every day of throwing in the towel and joining a hospital,” said Miller, a sole practitioner in primary care for 20 years. “The business side is the problem,” she said, referring to expensive and time-consuming requirements of medical insurance and government regulations. Dr. Khuram Ghumman took the unusual route of working in a hospital system first, then going into private primary care practice because he objects to the “corporatization” of health care. He said conflicts of interest can arise if an owner and its employed physicians have different objectives.
New Haven Community Health Worker (CHW) Katia Astudillo helps dozens of her clients navigate the logistics of getting vaccinated and connects them with other health services. She even helps them find rental assistance. In and around New London, CHW Lizbeth Polo-Smith hands out flyers about COVID-19 safety and vaccinations at churches, laundromats, stores, warming centers for the homeless—anywhere she can. As COVID-19 laid bare Connecticut’s health care deserts, it now highlights the efforts of CHWs who labored in forgotten neighborhoods for years. In many ways, they have become a key factor in the state’s public health response for marginalized communities during the pandemic.
After 35 years as an oral surgeon, Dr. Arthur Wilk closed his practice in Clinton following “daunting challenges” caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In Darien, Dr. Cecile Windels sold her pediatric practice to a hospital health system after enduring significant income losses. They are among thousands of physicians and other health care professionals across the country who have made coronavirus-prompted career changes such as closing practices, joining larger health systems and retiring early. The reasons for the moves vary from declines in income due to fewer inpatient visits to increased operational costs for personal protective equipment (PPE) and fears of contracting the coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2. Health care advocates say the changes will exacerbate physician shortages, further erode the existence of private practices, decrease patient choice of doctors and obstruct continuity of patient care. A January report in Health Affairs, a peer-reviewed journal of health policy research, said: “Consolidation tends to lead to higher prices without strong evidence of quality improvements.”
“The national trends are definitely happening in Connecticut,” said Dr. Gregory Shangold, president of the Connecticut State Medical Society.