Hospitals Show Financial Gains, But Smaller Facilities Struggle

Connecticut’s acute-care hospitals ended the last fiscal year in slightly better financial health than in the prior year, with just five of 30 hospitals reporting losses, according to a new state report. Data filed with the state Office of Health Care Access (OHCA) shows that six hospitals had operating losses in the 2012 fiscal year – the same number as in 2011, but fewer than in 2010. When non-operating gains and losses are included, five hospitals had negative total margins, or deficits – down from eight in 2011. The annual OHCA report paints a positive picture of the overall financial health of hospitals, highlighting that Connecticut’s hospitals had a total gain from operations of about $513 million in the last fiscal year – a substantial increase, of close to 70 percent, over the prior year. Total hospital net assets also increased.

Medical-Legal Partnership Aims To Help At-Risk Children

Three months after a new children’s advocacy office opened at Yale-New Haven Hospital, Alice Rosenthal has conquered bedbugs, kept utilities from being shut off, and helped get adequate school support for a kid with severe medical needs. “We’re off to a fast, great start,” said Rosenthal, the attorney on site for the venture. The office is a partnership between the hospital and the Hartford-based Center for Children’s Advocacy, a nonprofit that advocates for the legal rights of children who suffer from abuse, neglect or lack of access to critical services. The partnership takes a holistic approach to care by tackling not only kids’ medical problems, but the issues at home and school that might be preventing them from getting well. Rosenthal, representing the Center for Children’s Advocacy, works with the hospital staff to identify and resolve those issues.

Hospitals Mobilize To Tackle Alarm Fatigue

At Bridgeport Hospital, “talking bed rails” programmed to speak to patients in the geriatric psychiatric unit are helping to reduce the number of alarms that sound when a patient at risk for falling tries to get out of bed. At the Hospital of Central Connecticut in New Britain, health care professionals are adopting techniques from aviation safety experts to reduce the chances of a catastrophic event happening before a clinical alarm goes off. These are among the many ways Connecticut hospitals are tackling a phenomenon known industry-wide as alarm fatigue. Health care experts worry that medical devices with built-in alarms – such as heart monitors, infusion pumps and ventilators – designed to alert caregivers that patients are in danger could potentially put patients at risk because caregivers are desensitized by the sheer number of alerts and false alarms and fail to respond in a timely fashion. Research shows alarms in intensive care units are accurate less than 10 percent of the time, and 90 percent are false alarms.

Solutions for combating alarm fatigue range from alarm integration technology that sends alerts to a caregiver’s telephone to the development of a new generation of “smart alarms,” including ones designed to monitor multiple vital signs.

Surgical Errors Climb, Bed Sores Decline In State’s Hospitals

Reports of wrong-site surgeries increased 62 percent in the past year in Connecticut hospitals, while the number of patient deaths or disabilities resulting from surgery or falls also rose, a new state report shows. At the same time, reports of patients suffering from serious pressure ulcers declined, as a number of hospitals made progress in preventing the painful bed sores. The new Adverse Event Report, compiled by the state Department of Public Health and covering 2011, marks the second year that acute-care hospitals and other medical facilities have been publicly identified by name, as they report errors that caused harm to patients. The five hospitals with the highest rate of adverse events in 2011, calculated per 100,000 inpatient days, were: Charlotte Hungerford Hospital, in Torrington (49.2); Sharon Hospital (35.4); New Milford Hospital (32.9); Stamford Hospital (19.7); and the Hospital of Central Connecticut, in Southington and New Britain (19.3). In terms of the sheer volume of events, Yale-New Haven and its affiliated Hospital of St.