The state’s weekly COVID summary: 1,027,729 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, with 3,827 testing positive over the last 7 days; the 7-day positivity rate is 15.56%, the state Department of Public Health (DPH) reported. The state reported 16,026,603 PCR/NAAT tests, with 24,598 residents testing positive over the last 7 days. Hospitalizations total 714. The state reported 37 deaths, bringing the death total to 11,770. DPH is releasing weekly COVID reports on Thursdays.
Joshalyn Mills of Branford and Nancy Witz of Kensington had the best possible results after being treated in clinical trials with immunotherapy drugs for aggressive breast cancer: Their tumors were eliminated. But while there are dramatic successes with immunotherapy drugs, there are also many failures, and researchers are trying to find out why in hopes of expanding the drugs’ effectiveness. Cutting-edge immunotherapy drugs use a person’s own immune system to fight disease. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first approved the drugs in 2011 for cancer treatment. Success has occurred in about 15% to 20% of patients with cancers such as melanoma, lung, kidney and bladder, according to a report by Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
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.
Felicia Tambascio’s first pregnancy was going fairly smoothly. But on July 20, at week 38, the 20-year-old Brookfield resident woke with horrible upper abdominal cramps, a searing headache, and vomiting. Her boyfriend took her to the hospital, but Tambascio was left to wait in a hallway alone. Per COVID-19 restrictions, no visitors were allowed unless the patient was admitted to labor and delivery. After it was discovered that Tambascio was suffering from the life-threatening condition preeclampsia, she was escorted to the labor and delivery ward and induced.
Stamford Hospital is treating most of its critically ill coronavirus patients with blood plasma from people who have recovered, after stunning turnarounds in several patients who were gravely ill. “We started with only the sickest patients on respirators. Then we offered it to all of the patients on respirators, then all the patients in the ICU, and now all the COVID patients in the hospital on 40 percent oxygen, not with a ventilator,” said Dr. Paul Sachs, director of pulmonary medicine. “So far, there has been cautious enthusiasm.”
Plasma transfusions are gaining traction at other hospitals throughout Connecticut and nationally as well, as doctors wait for a breakthrough treatment. Nuvance Health, which includes Danbury and Norwalk hospitals, reports more than 200 patients system-wide treated with plasma so far.
Leslie Radcliffe looks ahead to the planned reopening of Connecticut’s economy beginning on May 20 with a mix of hope and anxiety. Hope, because people in her working-class Hill neighborhood in New Haven will be able to return to work, but anxiety because she’s worried that the “reopening” won’t go smoothly. In particular, she is concerned about testing for coronavirus. Will there be enough testing so the disease won’t catch fire again and threaten the lives and livelihoods in her predominantly black and Latinx neighborhood? Radcliffe, an administrative assistant at Yale University, has been working from home, but last week she began driving her brother to his job at Costco.
Bridgeport Hospital has been sanctioned and fined $150,000 by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) after the hospital erroneously switched eight patient specimens, according to newly released documents. The errors in July 2017 resulted in two patients being given the wrong cancer diagnosis. In one case, a 41-year-old woman had a hysterectomy after being told she had cancer only to learn after the procedure that she did not. The second patient was a 66-year-old who was told that lab results were normal, only to learn later that there was a malignancy present, according to Bridgeport Hospital’s inspection report issued by the state Department of Public Health (DPH). The violations were found when DPH inspectors made unannounced visits to Bridgeport Hospital in July 2018.
Although Gov. Ned Lamont said nothing about health care policy in his inaugural speech to the General Assembly, it’s likely to be a major theme of at least his early months in office. Why? Depending on how it’s calculated, health care makes up 25 to 30 percent of the state budget, according to the Office of the State Comptroller. Lamont will have to balance the need to save money with the desire of many inside and outside the General Assembly to expand and improve health care coverage and lower costs for consumers. “There’s almost two levels,” said Patricia Baker, president and CEO of the Connecticut Health Foundation, which focuses on assuring health equity and access to affordable care for all.
Connecticut consumers were billed for more than $1 billion in facility fees for outpatient services in 2015 and 2016, documents filed with the state Office of Health Care Access (OHCA) show. Twenty-two of Connecticut’s 30 hospitals charged these fees, bringing in $600.7 million in 2015 and another $488.8 million in 2016, according to an analysis by Conn. Health I-Team. The state’s two largest hospital systems, Yale New Haven Health and Hartford HealthCare, accounted for almost half of the total facility fee revenue in 2016. Yale and its four hospitals billed $144.3 million; Hartford and its five hospitals, $80.9 million.
There’s no denying it: most of us are stressed. Stress levels in the country are at their highest in at least a decade, research shows, and a recent American Psychological Association (APA) study found two-thirds of respondents feel stressed about the future. To learn about the leading sources of stress, how stress affects your health and how to reduce stress, the Connecticut Health I-Team will host a community forum, “Getting Ahead of Stress: A Primer on Medicine, Mental Health and Mindfulness,’’ from 5 to 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 5, at the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University, 370 Bassett Road in North Haven. The free event is open to the public and you can register here.