CT Veterans Suicide Rate Rises; VA Monitoring COVID-19’s Impact

In Connecticut, 47 veterans died by suicide in 2018, an increase of 10 from the previous year, newly released statistics show. The increase reflected a higher suicide rate than in the overall state population. The Connecticut veteran suicide rate was 25.1 per 100,000 compared with 14.6 in the overall state population. The state’s veteran suicide rate was 20.3 in 2017. The 2018 rate rose even though the state veterans population dropped by about 1,000 to 187,000.

Medicare Penalizes Hospitals For High Readmission Rates

Most Connecticut hospitals will lose some of their Medicare reimbursement payments over the next year as penalties for having too many readmitted patients, according to new data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Statewide, 25 of the hospitals evaluated – or 89% – will have reimbursements reduced, to varying degrees, in the 2021 fiscal year that started Oct. 1, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis of CMS data. Nationwide, almost half of hospitals, or 2,545 of them, will have their Medicare reimbursements cut, according to Kaiser Health News. The latest penalties were calculated using data from June 2016 through June 2019, meaning the influx of patients to hospitals seen amid the pandemic didn’t factor in.

Obamacare: What’s At Stake If The High Court Strikes Down The Law

Vyanne Dinh, 21, a senior at New York University, will be paying close attention next month when the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments in a lawsuit backed by the Trump administration to overturn the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Thanks to the ACA, the law known as Obamacare, a provision allows young adults to remain on their parents’ health insurance policies until age 26. Dinh, of South Windsor, is covered on her mother’s policy. “If I lost coverage under my parents, I would not know what to do,” Dinh said. “Chances are I would have to handle medical expenses out of pocket, which would definitely cause a financial strain and make me hesitant to go to the doctor’s unless it is a dire emergency.”

“I am also worried about COVID because the risks are too high under current circumstances to be uninsured,” said Dinh.

State Disciplines Nurses For Drug Abuse, Photographing A Young Patient Without Consent

Four nurses were recently disciplined by the state Board of Examiners for Nursing for drug and alcohol abuse and for photographing a patient without consent. The state placed Sara Scobie’s practical nurse license on probation for one year and fined her $500 for photographing a juvenile patient and sharing details of the patient’s personal and clinical information without parental consent, according to her signed order. Scobie was also reprimanded by the state Department of Public Health (DPH). Scobie of Milford, who was providing home care for a medically compromised child through All Pointe HomeCare of Cheshire, photographed the patient and then shared those photos without permission, according to the signed order. During the probation period Scobie cannot be employed as a nurse by any personnel provider service, home health agency, or assisted living agency, according to the order.

As Pandemic Grinds On, Domestic Violence Shelters Grapple With Budget Gaps And Growing Needs

Katherine Verano is wrestling with an 830% increase in costs compared with last year for hoteling victims of domestic violence during the coronavirus pandemic. After a quiet period during the first months of the pandemic, when much of the state was locked down, domestic violence shelters started running at about 150% capacity during the summer months. When providers ran out of room for social distancing, clients had to be placed in hotels and fed. It’s been a complex time, said Verano, the executive director of Safe Futures, a New London-based nonprofit dedicated to providing counseling, services and shelter to victims of domestic violence in 21 southeastern towns. Safe Futures’ budget for hoteling clients has increased steadily this year.

Survivors Struggle With Lingering COVID-19 Symptoms

In April, Rhonda Eigabroadt, 53, showed up at the ER at MidState Medical Center in Meriden, struggling to breathe. Doctors did not expect her to survive the night, she recalled. Ten days earlier, she had tested positive for COVID-19 and was recovering at home in Bristol before taking a turn for the worse. An occupational therapist at the Litchfield Woods Health Care Center in Torrington, she, along with scores of staff and residents, had contracted the virus during an outbreak. Eigabroadt beat the odds, though.

Pandemic Deals Another Blow To Nursing Homes: Plummeting Occupancy

While the deadly coronavirus seems to be subsiding in Connecticut for now, its impact on nursing homes has not. More than 6,700 beds are empty, and it may take many months of financial struggle before occupancy climbs back to pre-pandemic levels. Of the approximately 200 nursing homes in Connecticut that receive payments from Medicaid, the government health insurance program for low-income people, only 15 were 70% or less occupied in January, according to the Connecticut Health Investigative Team’s analysis of state data. By August, almost five times as many facilities saw occupancy drop to that level or less. While the statewide average decline was 15%, the number of residents in 19 nursing homes has plummeted to 55% and below since January.

Medical Board Fines Two Doctors $5,000 Each

The state Medical Examining Board agreed Tuesday to fine two doctors $5,000 each and issued a cease and desist order to a woman without a Connecticut medical license who performed a procedure that led to an infection. Dr. Bryan Boffi, of Avon, a psychiatrist at the Hospital of Central Connecticut, was fined $5,000 and his license was reprimanded after he issued a patient a prescription for Ativan, a sedative, without consulting with the person’s regular mental health clinician, documents said. Boffi cared for the patient while the person was admitted to HOCC’s psychiatric ward in May of 2016, but failed to talk to the person’s out-patient psychiatrist about the patient’s history or inpatient treatment strategy before prescribing the medication, a consent order said. The state Department of Public Health (DPH) began investigating Boffi after receiving a complaint from the patient’s family, papers said. Boffi has since completed 150 hours of continuing education in the treatment of depression, addiction and the use of Benzodiazepines, such as Ativan, DPH officials said.

State Disciplines Two Physicians, Fines A Bolton Doctor

The state Medical Examining Board voted Tuesday to discipline two physicians including issuing a $4,000 fine and one-year probation to a Bolton doctor who prescribed opioids to at least two patients but failed to provide adequate drug screening and documentation. The board also agreed to modify the terms of discipline for two physicians including a Fairfield County doctor who had done federal prison time as part of a compound medication cream scheme. The Department of Public Health (DPH) began looking into the practice of Dr. Ronald Buckman, of Bolton, in 2018 after receiving a complaint from an employee, according to a consent order. While the agency didn’t substantiate any issues with the way Buckman’s family-based practice was being managed, investigators did find that he had “deviated from the standard of care” for at least two patients for whom he had prescribed opioids, DPH papers said. Buckman failed to adequately document and examine one patient to whom he had prescribed painkillers while the patient was also taking muscle relaxers, an anti-seizure drug and possibly an antidepressant, prescribed by other physicians, the DPH said.