The sleepy town of Colebrook has no traffic lights, no police department, no public sewer or water system and no confirmed cases of COVID-19. “Knock on wood,” said Colebrook Board of Finance Chair James Millar. “I think we’re lucky. I wouldn’t say that we are doing anything that’s not being done by the rest of the state.”
On the Massachusetts border in Litchfield County, Colebrook is among eight small towns in the western and eastern portions of Connecticut that so far have not had a resident test positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, which has killed hundreds of thousands worldwide. Litchfield County had 446 confirmed cases and 24 deaths as of Monday afternoon.
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 an ordained pastor, the Rev. Robyn Anderson will preach via the web Sunday, sharing a message of hope and healing with members of Blackwell AME Zion Church as her parishioners deal with the economic and personal toll brought on by the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. “We don’t want to panic. We want to be in prayer,” Anderson said this week as she prepared with a consortium of other African American and Latino ministers to bring web-based church services to their flocks—in some cases for the first time. “It’s a scary time for everyone. But it’s something that we know we will get through.”
As a licensed therapist and social worker and the director of the Ministerial Health Fellowship, Anderson will also be brainstorming ways to deal with the potential loss of health care due to lay-offs of congregants who are already at higher risk for diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure and other chronic medical issues that make them more likely to have complications if they contract the coronavirus.
The state Medical Examining Board voted Tuesday to discipline two physicians including issuing a $7,500 fine and one-year probation to a Weston doctor who prescribed opioids to six people without discussing pain management treatment goals or informing the patients of the risks in taking the drugs. The board also agreed to discipline a physician assistant who had told a patient suffering from a pulmonary blood clot to “lose weight.”
While working at the PCA Pain Care Center in Wallingford from 2014–2016, Dr. David Marks, of Weston, primarily prescribed opioids and no other pain care treatment to six people, according to a consent order. Marks failed to obtain patient histories pertaining to their injuries or previous pain management treatment, failed to discuss treatment goals, or warn people of the risks associated with opioids, the consent order said. He also failed to consult the state’s Prescription Monitoring and Reporting System to see if the patients were receiving prescriptions from other practitioners and failed to assess the patients’ mental status for depression or suicidality or document his findings, the consent order he signed said. The board fined Marks $7,500 and placed him probation for one year during which he’ll be required to have supervision when prescribing Schedule II or III controlled substances.
Jesus Manuel Gomez quit his restaurant dishwashing job when he saw the effect his long work days had on his 10-year-old son with special needs. Although he was scheduled to work from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., the Honduran native said through a Spanish-speaking interpreter that he would get out between midnight and 1 a.m. and then still be asleep when his son left for school the next morning. “He takes medication so he can concentrate and gets treatment at school,” Gomez said of his son. “But when I saw what was happening with my schedule, that it was impacting his ability to focus even though he was getting treatment, I only worked there a couple of weeks.” More than one-fourth of the state’s 885,000 hourly employees who potentially face wide swings in work schedules are parents of children under the age of 18, putting their kids at risk for behavioral issues, a newly released report by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth concluded.
The state Medical Examining Board on Tuesday disciplined two physicians with fines of $10,000 or more, including a Stamford doctor for a lack of documentation while prescribing to employees. The board also agreed to withdraw charges against two other physicians who either voluntarily relinquished their medical license or agreed to allow their license to lapse. Dr. Laurence Kirwan of Stamford, was fined $12,500 for a lack of adequate documentation while prescribing medication to three of his employees who were also patients from 2009 to 2017, according to a consent order. It was Kirwan’s second reprimand and fine before the board, according to state records. In 2017, he was fined $2,500 for failing to maintain adequate treatment records and documentation for a surgical patient from March to July 2014.
The state Medical Examining Board voted Tuesday to place two doctors on probation, including a pediatrician accused of excessive alcohol use. Dr. Christine Cornachio of Simsbury, the pediatrician, is required to submit to random urine testing and individual therapy with a licensed professional as part of a consent order approved by the board that will allow her to continue practicing at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center during the five-year probationary period. Cornachio came under investigation by the state Department of Public Health (DPH) in June after the agency was notified by the Health Assistance Intervention Network, known as HAVEN, in accordance with state law. HAVEN helps medical professionals with mental health, medical and substance abuse problems. State statute requires HAVEN to report any licensed medical practitioner who did or could pose a harm to patients or declines services after being referred due to a mental health, medical or substance abuse problem. An investigation determined Cornachio utilized alcohol to excess on at least four occasions from 2014 to March 2019, the consent order said.
The death rate from heart disease plummeted nationally over several decades for all racial and ethnic groups, but the rate of decline has slowed slightly and African Americans and low-income individuals are still at a higher risk of developing the disease and dying from it, according to a report from the National Center for Health Statistics. The report isn’t surprising to Dr. Edward Schuster, medical director, Stamford Health Cardiac Rehabilitation Program. “In the United States, there’s a lot of talk about income disparity, which is a political hotcake,” Schuster said. “But what we are seeing is a life expectancy disparity. According to a recent Journal of American Medical Association, if you’re a man in the top 1 percent of income, you can expect to live 13 years longer than someone in the 1 percent at the bottom.”
Heart disease is largely preventable by maintaining a balanced diet, a healthy weight and moderate exercise, with only 20 percent of cases involving genetics, said Dr. David L. Katz, who heads the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, which works with communities to develop programs to control chronic diseases. But significant groups in lower income and urban areas don’t—or can’t—act on the message, Katz said.
Getting to the hospital quickly after suffering a stroke improves your chances of survival, but in Connecticut there are areas where access to the top level of stroke care is limited, health experts say. Two hospitals, Yale New Haven Hospital’s main campus and Hartford Hospital, are nationally certified as Comprehensive Stroke Care Centers, providing the highest level of stroke care available, which includes 24-hour access to neurological practitioners and the ability to perform complex endovascular therapies, including thrombectomies and endovascular coiling of an aneurysm, among other surgeries. Yale and Hartford hospitals are two of only 178 certified nationally as comprehensive stroke centers, according to The Joint Commission, which certifies hospitals. But when time is critical, traveling to New Haven or Hartford can be a risky commute from the northwestern and northeastern parts and other parts of the state, where hospitals certified in stroke care are sparse. In all, the state has 23 hospitals that are certified in some level of stroke care, up from 16 in 2013.