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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Today's Globe: Travaglini offer, autopsies, insomnia pills, handgun surcharge, psychiatric hospital funds, college substance abuse, weekend heart attacks, Texas HPV vaccine, healthcare advocate

The Massachusetts Council of Community Hospitals plans to offer Massachusetts Senate President Robert E. Travaglini its top job tomorrow, with an annual salary of more than $300,000, according to someone briefed on the council's discussions.

State public safety officials said yesterday they are looking into problems at the medical examiner's office, which acknowledged that an increase in autopsies has recently led to a shortage of body bags, more autopsy-related injuries to staff, and on one occasion an overwhelmed plumbing system that resulted in blood and water pooling on the floor.

All prescription sleeping pills may sometimes cause sleep-driving, federal health officials warned yesterday, almost a year after the bizarre side effect made headlines when US Representive Patrick J. Kennedy crashed his car after taking Ambien.

MacArthur Williams and other paralysis patients and advocates yesterday urged state legislators to impose a $25 surcharge on all handgun purchases in Massachusetts to fund spinal cord injury research. Dr. Eric Ruby, a Taunton pediatrician who is leading the effort, said that despite world-class medical talent, Massachusetts lags far behind some other states in funding for such research.

Governor Deval Patrick and legislative leaders proposed yesterday an emergency $1.47 billion borrowing package they said is needed to repair crumbling roads, bridges, and state buildings; to build a new psychiatric hospital for Central Massachusetts; and to begin work on promised transit projects meant to offset air pollution from the Big Dig.

Substance abuse on college campuses is nothing new, but it is taking a more extreme and dangerous form, with higher rates of frequent binge drinking and prescription drug abuse, and more negative consequences for students such as arrests and risky sexual behavior.

Heart attack patients have a slightly higher risk of death if they go to the hospital on the weekend, when they are more likely to miss or wait longer for crucial treatments, one of the largest studies of the issue finds.

The Texas House of Representatives voted yesterday to overturn Governor Rick Perry's executive order that sixth-grade girls be vaccinated against the virus that causes cervical cancer.

When it comes to healthcare, Governor Deval Patrick said he is speaking up for the little guy. He needs to do it more loudly, more often, and more effectively, Joan Vennochi writes on the Op-Ed page.

Posted by Elizabeth Cooney at 06:26 AM
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