Author Archives: Sarah Strasburg

Series reveals gaps in communication of hospital inspection results

Jodie Jackson Jr. of the Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune took an in-depth look at patient safety at University Hospital, part of the University of Missouri Health Care system.

Jackson found that inspections, by CMS and the FDA, have repeatedly turned up systemic practices that compromised patient safety. At the same time, the Joint Commission awarded the hospital a full accreditation, raising questions about why the agencies don’t share information.

In a blog post, Jackson, a Midwest Health Journalism Program Fellow, says he has “examined some 700 pages of documents and have had national infection control leaders examine the reports that formed the basis for the series.”

Uninsured overwhelm ERs, clinics in Calif. county

Uninsured out-of-work professionals and laid-off blue-collar workers are stressing the health system in Stanislaus County, Calif., as reported by Jocelyn Wiener of the the California HealthCare Foundation Center for Health Reporting and the Modesto Bee‘s Ken Carlson.

Wiener and Carlson give us a few examples:

• A 56-year-old truck driver, uninsured since he was laid off in September 2009, who spent months unable to refill his diabetes and hypertension medications because he couldn’t afford to see a doctor

• A 28-year-old businessman, uninsured since his business closed in the fall of 2009, who came to the county for follow-up care after being shot in an attempted carjacking

These newly uninsured have few good options. Some suffer through medical issues; others postpone doctor’s visits, use over-the-counter medications or try less-expensive, alternative therapies. Some become so ill by delaying care that they end up in the hospital. Local emergency rooms have seen a 64 percent increase in visits by the uninsured since 2006.

Indigent health services programs, offering some relief to the uninsured, have seen a 32 percent jump in applicants, from 5,953 in 2006 to 7,829 in 2010. Meanwhile, program funding has dropped from $14.4 million to $12.6 million annually.

Furthermore, programs such as AIDS and HIV case management, testing and outreach; guidance for pregnant and parenting teens; support for families with mental health and substance abuse problems; and case management for seniors have been reduced or cut entirely.

The package includes multimedia profiles, graphics, a chat transcript and more.

Review: Doctors experimented on healthy people

The Associated Press’ Mike Stobbe found more than 40 instances of doctors making patients sick for the sake of experimentation throughout U.S. history. Last fall’s government apology for doctors infecting Guatemala prisoners with syphilis 65 years ago sparked the review.

Stobbe, a member of AHCJ and a past board member, found healthy people were infected with malaria, Asian flu, gonorrhea, hepatitis and even a deadly stomach bug for the sake of broadening knowledge. Doctors violated the fundamental medical principle to “first do no harm.” Stobbe points out:

Attitudes about medical research were different then. Infectious diseases killed many more people years ago, and doctors worked urgently to invent and test cures. Many prominent researchers felt it was legitimate to experiment on people who did not have full rights in society – people like prisoners, mental patients, poor blacks. It was an attitude in some ways similar to that of Nazi doctors experimenting on Jews.

Disturbingly, some of these stories were never covered in the media.

Family writes about son’s schizophrenia

NPR’s All Things Considered featured the story of Henry Cockburn and his father, British journalist Patrick Cockburn. While the father was reporting in Afghanistan in February 2002, he learned in a shocking phone call that his son nearly drowned when he took a swim in the icy waters of England’s Newhaven Estuary. Henry was admitted to a mental hospital and diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Nearly 10 years later, after hospitalization and many medications, Henry is living on his own and the two  have written “Henry’s Demons: Living With Schizophrenia, a Father and Son’s Story.” The book features alternating chapters written by Patrick, Henry and Jan Cockburn about coping with the diagnosis and Henry’s experiences in mental hospitals.