Tag Archives: associated press

Outpatient inspections show serious lapses

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

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AP medical reporter and AHCJ board member Carla K. Johnson used FOIA requests to uncover a wealth of infection-control violations at outpatient clinics in Illinois. The majority of Illinois ambulatory centers have yet to be inspected under the tough new rules, but 76 percent of those which have been inspected also have been cited. The inspections are part of a national push to increase the oversight of ambulatory care centers.

Previously, inspectors from the Illinois Department of Public Health visited the centers about every seven years. But the state last year began more vigorous and frequent inspections of outpatient surgery centers, following directives from national health officials. The state now plans to inspect a third of Illinois centers each year, said Karen Senger, a supervisor in the Health Department’s Division of Health Care Facilities and Programs.

The crackdown resulted from a hepatitis C outbreak in Las Vegas believed to be caused by unsafe injection practices at two now-closed clinics.

Johnson’s state request turned up a laundry list of specific violations, all of which she summarized in one nifty sentence: “The five-second rule appears to be alive and well in Illinois same-day surgery centers, where medical staff were observed picking up items that had fallen to the floor and behaving as if they weren’t contaminated by germs,” Johnson wrote. In an e-mail to Covering Health, Johnson said her story should be easy to localize and explained just how she obtained the inspection reports and why they are now available.

I FOIA’d state inspection reports (CMS-2567s) for ambulatory surgery centers in Illinois that were cited for deficiencies in infection control during the past 12 months. States have been directed by HHS to use a new audit tool to look for infection control problems, following an outbreak linked to two centers in Las Vegas.

Advocates urge clear ingredient lists for cleansers

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Writing for the Associated Press, Jennifer Peltz covers a push by environmental advocates for clearer labeling that lists the ingredients of household cleansers. The article was spurred by a recent attempt by advocacy groups to get a court to use a 1971 New York law to force cleanser manufacturers into disclosing ingredients. Peltz also looks into the industry’s voluntary disclosure efforts (a trade group has linked to companies’ ingredient lists here) and various efforts to require full disclosure nationwide.

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Photo by rubberglovelover
via Flickr.

For its part, Peltz says industry representatives say “that the legal case is unwarranted, and that fears about health risks are misinformed.” Consumer advocates reply that current voluntary disclosures can be too vague, and that only government regulation will enable the sort of full disclosure necessary to ensure consumer safety.

If advocates win the New York case, cleanser contents would then have to be disclosed to the state. Other regulation efforts are significantly more ambitious.

The case comes amid growing concerns about potential toxins lurking in consumer goods, from the heavy metal cadmium in jewelry to the chemical bisphenol A in baby bottles. While lawyers argued the cleaning-products case in New York, a Senate subcommittee in Washington held a hearing to examine current science on the public’s exposure to toxic chemicals.

Some studies have linked cleaning product components to asthma, antibiotic resistance, hormone changes and other health problems. The industry’s major trade group, the Soap and Detergent Association, assails the research as flawed, says the products are safe if used correctly and notes that cleaning can itself help stop the spread of disease.

Federal environmental laws don’t require most household cleaning products to list their ingredients, though there are congressional proposals to change that. The Consumer Product Safety Commission requires hazard warning labels on some cleansers, and the National Institutes of Health offer some health and safety information for hundreds of cleaning products, drawn from data gathered for industrial use.

Related HHS product database

The National Institutes of Health maintains a database of health and safety information related to household products. It includes detailed information on ingredients and potential safety hazards, among other things.

AP looks at drug resistance worldwide

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

The Associated Press has neatly wrapped up its wide-ranging look at drug resistance and the threat it poses to global health into a flash-based multimedia presentation. The presentation consists of stories, infographics, videos and a photo/audio slideshow.

The two videos explain drug-resistant strains of various infectious diseases. The first looks at the wide availability of powerful antibiotics without guidance or prescription, addresses the problem as it has emerged both in the United States and in locales like Mexico and the Philippines. The second, which is about the use of antibiotics in large-scale livestock operations, relies on just one source, Dr. Craig Rowles of Elite Pork Partnership.

The AP uses infographics to establish the spread and scope of the problem, relying heavily on various world maps. I particularly like the timeline that accompanies the malaria graphic (click “statistics” in the upper right, then “malaria”); it shows the span of time from when each malaria-fighting drug was introduced to the date at which a resistant strain emerged.

Finally, they drive the problem home with three strong anecdotes, including a Southeast Asian boy with drug-resistant malaria, a man fighting the drug-resistant tuberculosis that killed his HIV-positive partner, and a woman who lost an infant daughter to MRSA.

Stories in the series:

The package is accompanied by this video.


Doctor’s path shows licensing’s weaknesses

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

The Associated Press’ Jay Reeves exposes systemic flaws in state medical licensing through the story of a physician who was twice accused of sexual misconduct and thrice fired in Tennessee, and who subsequently set up shop in Alabama, where he has been charged with rape and possession of child pornography.
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The doctor’s offenses had never been reported to regulators, and he seems to have been able to repeatedly outrun his transgressions. Reeves reports that unfortunate situations like this are not unusual:

Patient safety advocate and consultant Ilene Corina said states too often let troubled doctors move and switch jobs when they get in trouble.

“There is not sufficient oversight in many cases,” said Corina, of Long Island, N.Y., a board member of the National Patient Safety Foundation. “Is it a problem? Absolutely.”

How will health reform affect Medicare?

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

The Associated Press’ Carla Johnson looks at how health care reform might affect those currently covered by Medicare, focusing on five key areas: Medicare Advantage, prevention, hospitalization, electronic medical records and prescription drug coverage. Here are the basics:

  • Medicare advantage is popular but relatively expensive. Some private insurers may leave the program if funding is cut, forcing some seniors to change providers. Cuts may also hit extras like hearing aids and health club memberships.
  • Preventative services such as mammograms and diabetes classes will be better covered under most proposals.
  • Some plans may punish hospitals with high readmission rates and encourage all hospitals to work to keep patients from coming back.
  • Any move to electronic medical records and better coordination of care would benefit Medicare patients and providers, as Medicare suffers from many of the same inefficiencies as the system at large.
  • As for the notorious prescription drug coverage “doughtnut hole,” the house democrats have proposed a plan that would fill it in by 2023.