Tufts Medical Center
Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. will announce this afternoon a partnership with leading Boston-area hospitals, medical schools, and universities -- in a novel attempt to address a major hurdle in medicine: the years-long gap between basic science advances and the testing of drugs in patients.
Under the unusual arrangement, the company will invest $100 million over five years and establish a research space in the heart of the Longwood Medical Area where Pfizer scientists will work in close proximity and team up with academic scientists. The new Center for Therapeutic Innovation, which will create about 50 new jobs, is part of a global Pfizer initiative to foster new kinds of collaboration with academia to accelerate drug development, a program that will be headquartered in Boston.FULL ENTRY
Cap on premium increases to being in September: The US Department of Health and Human Services yesterday issued a rule requiring health insurers to justify any rate increases over 10 percent. Robert Pear of the New York Times reports that states will have prime responsibility for enforcing the rule, thought the federal government would step in as necessary. The measure is an attempt to control ever-increasing rates, particularly at a time when insurers have posted considerable gains.FULL ENTRY
Derek Miller of Burnaby, Canada, made headlines when he blogged his own death. Miller had been writing since 2007 about life with colorectal cancer. He died May 3. The next day, his family posted the last entry on his blog.
"Here it is," it starts. "I'm dead." The post is a beautiful tribute to Miller's wife and two daughters, an elegy to the moments he will miss with them, and an acceptance of the end. Hundreds of people commented on the post, from longtime friends to strangers who said simply that Miller made them think about their day differently.
The post was unusual in its timing. But Miller's decision to track his life and his decline seems to be an increasingly common one. Researchers at Tufts School of Medicine are trying to analyze what makes bloggers write about their illnesses. They've created a survey to ask patient bloggers what impact the writing has had on their physical and mental health.FULL ENTRY
A senior neurologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center says many hospitals inappropriately use the antipsychotic Haldol "like water" in agitated elderly patients, putting them at risk for serious complications.
Dr. Louis Caplan, a neurology professor at Harvard Medical School, said a recent government report that found pervasive use of antipsychotic medications in elderly nursing home patents underscores the "overuse" problem with this class of drugs.
Caplan said Haldol is typically given to agitated patients to calm them quickly, but he said older patients, especially, can become over-sedated and stiff, putting them at risk for pulmonary and urinary infections, because they have trouble moving and couging.
Negotiators for Tufts Medical Center and the Massachusetts Nurses Association agreed on an 18-month contract extension early this morning, only hours before 1,100 registered nurses were set to walk off their jobs at the Boston teaching hospital.
The tentative deal, reached after 15 hours of bargaining yesterday and overnight, avoided what would have been the first nurses strike at a Boston hospital in 25 years. The nurses association withdrew its strike notice and scheduled a ratification vote for May 19.
While the contract extension does not resolve the dispute over the union's demand for mandatory staffing levels, the key sticking point in the contentious talks, the parties agreed that Tufts would continue its current practice of not assigning more than five patients to a single nurse on the day or evening shift for the life of the pact. The hospital agreed to limit patient assignments to no more than six on the night shift during the next year and a half.FULL ENTRY
Negotiators from Tufts Medical Center and the Massachusetts Nurses Association have started the final session of talks before a strike scheduled for tomorrow.
The Tufts contract is being held up by a disagreement over the maximum number of patients assigned to each nurse. The union last night announced that it had come to a tentative agreement that averts a strike at St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester. The three-year agreement would limit staffing ratios to no more than five patients per nurse, the same measure that nurses at Tufts are pushing for. The hospital wants the flexibility to make it six as needed on certain shifts.
The hospital this morning released this statement:
The federal mediator has called both sides together for a final session to try to reach a resolution and avert a strike. We remain hopeful that a settlement is possible between Tufts Medical Center and MNA/NNU. We are encouraged by recent NNU agreements in Worcester, Maine, and Washington DC, and will continue do what we can to avoid a strike and call on union leadership to do the same. It (is) particularly encouraging to note that no hospitals have settled for mandatory staffing ratios that did not already have them in their contracts.
This is particularly significant because the one remaining issue for resolution at Tufts Medical Center, according to union leadership, is the demand for contractually-mandated staffing ratios. But that demand is based on the false premise that staffing ratios are needed to guarantee quality care. The quality and safety at Tufts Medical Center is superb, and has been verified by the Joint Commission, University HealthSystem Consortium and Massachusetts Department of Public Health. We have been consistent from the start of these negotiations that we will not agree to rigid ratios, but that we do want to work with our nurses on issues important to them.
We have listened to our nurses. We have heard their needs. As a result, we have offered real and significant additional resources so that these professionals can continue to provide outstanding care with confidence. In addition, we have offered a salary increase, and, unlike many employers in this economy, have committed to maintaining current retirement and health benefits.
Again, NNU affiliates in Maine, Minnesota and Washington DC have agreed to contracts that do not contain rigid staffing ratios. We hope that these agreements demonstrate the NNUís willingness to reach resolutions that are based on the distinct needs of nurses at different hospitals with varying patient populations and complexity of care. We call on the MNA/NNU bargaining committee to allow our nurses to review and vote on this significant contract extension offer so we all can start working together and move forward rather than to strike.
St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester has avoided a promised nurses strike Friday by reaching a tentative three-year contract agreement with the Massachusetts Nurses Association.
The same union represents nurses at Tufts Medical Center, where no agreement has been reached and hospital officials are training replacement nurses to prepare for the strike, also scheduled for Friday. The Boston teaching hospital and its nurses are at loggerheads because the hospital wants nurses to cover six patients at once on certain shifts when necessary, a provision the nurses consider unsafe. A final bargaining session is scheduled for tomorrow.
The St. Vincent agreement reduces the patient load from up to seven patients per nurse on night shifts to no more than five.FULL ENTRY
Nurses typically are assigned no more than five patients now, but the hospital wants flexibility. Nurses want protection from what they believe are unsafe workloads.
"Believe me, I wish it were true that we were basically just trying to hammer out the last thing, but the last thing is the big thing," Jette said. She felt my take was overly optimistic.
A look at the morning's top health industry news.
Change of heart: Fewer people are getting heart bypass surgery even as more hospitals are offering the procedure, Salynn Boyles of WebMD Health News reports. A new study from the Journal of the American Medical Association says about one-third fewer patients received a bypass in 2008 as did in 2001. But, the number of hospitals performing the coronary artery bypass graft, or CABG, grew 12 percent. Experts say that's cause for concern: A drop in volume can also signal a drop in the quality of care.FULL ENTRY
Tufts Medical Center nurses and management met for 20 hours Sunday and Monday and are excruciatingly close to agreeing on a new contact that would avert a strike on Friday. But as often happens with serious labor-management disputes, the nurses won't decide whether to strike until the very last minute. Another negotiating session isn't scheduled until Thursday.
Nurses said today that one last issue stands in the way of a resolution: Whether nurses on the day and evening shifts at the Boston teaching hospital can be required to care for six patients at a time, or whether they win language limiting the maximum number of patients to five.
Nurses say caring for more than five patients is unsafe. Hospital executives respond that nurses almost always care for no more than five patients now -- but they want the flexibility to increase that number depending on patients' conditions and how much care they require.FULL ENTRY
About white coat notes
|White Coat Notes covers the latest from the health care industry, hospitals, doctors offices, labs, insurers, and the corridors of government. Chelsea Conaboy previously covered health care for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Write her at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter: @cconaboy.|
Gideon Gil, Health and Science Editor
Elizabeth Comeau, Senior Health Producer