Community health centers that provide medical care to 400,000 low-income patients throughout the state are adapting to the coronavirus pandemic by shifting to telemedicine and reconfiguring the way the staff is offering in-person health services. But like many hospitals and businesses throughout the state, they are also facing deep financial losses during the public health emergency. Nevertheless, they continue to provide frontline medical services—from essential wellness checks such as childhood immunizations to COVID-19 screenings, officials said. “They are the frontline helping patients get to the right place at the right time during this very difficult circumstance,” said Ken Lalime, chief executive officer of the Cheshire-based Community Health Center Association of Connecticut. “It’s what they do all the time, but during this crisis, it becomes incredibly important.”
A network of community health centers throughout the state provides health care for about 11% of the state’s population by offering services on a sliding scale for those who don’t have insurance and by accepting Medicaid, Lalime said.
As coronavirus cases increase, posing heightened risks to the elderly, nursing homes will face growing scrutiny from state health inspectors. In Connecticut and nationally, complying with federal infection-control requirements is a challenge for some nursing homes. Between 2017 and 2019, 145 of Connecticut’s 217 nursing homes – or about 67 percent – were cited for infection-control violations, according to a Conn. Health I-Team analysis of data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). (View list of nursing homes cited below).
In cities throughout Connecticut, urban farms and community gardens are sprouting up to address a significant health challenge: Many people don’t have access to enough food or access to healthy food. About 13% of Connecticut residents said they did not have enough money to pay for food at least once in the previous year, according to the most recent Community Wellbeing Survey conducted by DataHaven in 2018. Black and Hispanic residents were more likely to struggle, with 23% and 28%, respectively, reporting food insecurity. In several cities, about a quarter of all residents struggle to pay for food. Urban residents are also less likely to have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, according to the survey.
Four nursing homes have been fined by the state Department of Public Health (DPH) for various violations that jeopardized residents’ safety or caused injuries. Western Rehabilitation Care Center in Danbury was fined $10,000 following several incidents. On Nov. 15, 2019, a licensed practical nurse (LPN) mistakenly discharged a resident with another resident’s medications. The error was realized on Nov.
The state Board of Examiners for Nursing last week disciplined three nurses, including issuing a total of $1,500 in fines and placing two nurses’ licenses on probation. The advanced practical registered nurse (APRN) license of Jane M. Buckley of Wallingford was placed on probation for a year and she was fined $500 by the board for inappropriately prescribing controlled substances from January-July 2018 to a patient despite evidence of addiction, according to her signed consent order. Buckley also failed to provide requested medical records in a timely manner, failed to maintain adequate treatment documents, and failed to appropriately assess, manage and/or treat addiction and/or mental health issues, according to the consent order. Buckley’s license had previously been reprimanded and placed on probation in June 2018 for prescribing a controlled substance to a family member without adequate treatment records in 2015 and 2016, according to the consent order. Buckley successfully completed that probation on Dec.
Purdue Pharma, in bankruptcy and embroiled in thousands of lawsuits for its role in the opioid crisis, paid Connecticut doctors and nurse practitioners $394,662 in 2018, a slight drop of 9% from $433,246 the prior year, federal data show. But more significantly, the number of doctors and nurse practitioners who reported receiving payments shrunk by 51%, from 204 to 99. “I would assume it was the stigma,” said Dr. Arthur Gale, contributing editor at Missouri Medicine. “You can’t pick up a newspaper and not read about Purdue. Even the greatest promoter of OxyContin and narcotics, Dr. Russell Portenoy, is now saying he was exposed to false information.”
Data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) show that a small group of doctors in Connecticut received the bulk of payments during the two years.
When Amy Klobuchar gave birth a quarter century ago, her baby, who couldn’t swallow, was rushed to intensive care. Though her daughter was being tested and fitted with a feeding tube, Klobuchar, now a U.S. senator from Minnesota, was sent home. Klobuchar’s insurance required new mothers to be discharged within 24 hours of birth. Despite her daughter’s precarious health, Klobuchar’s time was up. The future Democratic presidential candidate checked into a nearby motel and wore a rut—still in her hospital gown—between her room and the hospital so she could pump breast milk for her newborn.
“Potentially preventable” cancer deaths plunged in Connecticut over the last decade, according to a federal study, with two rural counties, Litchfield and Windham, experiencing a nearly 49 percent decrease, the best in the nation. Though cancer deaths fell overall in the United States, the trend in rural areas was not universal. In neighboring Massachusetts, for example, preventable cancer deaths rose in non-metropolitan areas. “The disparities were quite stark,” said Dr. Macarena Garcia, a senior health scientist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and lead author of the study. In general, cancer patients in rural areas, where residents tend to be older, sicker and poorer, die sooner than urban dwellers, Garcia noted.
A total of 1,665 Connecticut children under age 6 had lead poisoning in 2017, a drop of almost 17% from the year before and the largest one-year decrease in five years, according to a just-released report from the state Department of Public Health (DPH). But more children showed higher levels of the toxin in their blood than in 2016, the report says. In 2016, there were 105 children whose blood lead level was 20 micrograms per deciliter of blood or higher, at least four times the measure at which they’re considered poisoned. In 2017, the number had risen to 120 children. DPH epidemiologist Tsui-Min Hung said the improved overall numbers were at least partially due to the department’s more aggressive prevention activities, which 42 local health departments took advantage of, as well a social media campaign.
Fourteen Connecticut hospitals are being penalized by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), losing 1% of their Medicare reimbursements this fiscal year for having high rates of hospital-acquired infections and injuries, new data show. The hospitals are among 786 nationwide being penalized under the Hospital-Acquired Conditions Reduction Program, which was created under the Affordable Care Act, according to a Kaiser Health News (KHN) analysis. The program is in its sixth year and the latest Medicare reimbursement penalties are for the current fiscal year, which began in October 2019 and runs through September. When assessing penalties, CMS considers the number of infections, blood clots, sepsis cases, pressure ulcers, and other complications that may have been prevented. The 14 hospitals losing 1% of their Medicare reimbursements are: Waterbury Hospital, Stamford Hospital, Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London, Johnson Memorial Hospital in Stafford Springs, Charlotte Hungerford Hospital in Torrington, Midstate Medical Center in Meriden, Middlesex Hospital, and Windham Community Memorial Hospital & Hatch Hospital in Willimantic.