KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Roundup: Penn. Hospital Replacing Nursing Assistants With All RNs

News outlets report on a variety of state health policy issues.

Los Angeles Times: Detained Immigrants With Mental Illnesses Face Barriers In Court
Immigrant advocates say there are hundreds of mentally ill immigration defendants such as [Ever Martinez Rivas], left to fend for themselves without any meaningful protections in court. As with Martinez, their cases are delayed repeatedly while immigration judges struggle to deal with them fairly. A recently certified federal class action suit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Los Angeles-based pro bono law firm Public Counsel and other advocacy groups, seeks to address the issue by compelling the government to provide competency hearings, lawyers and bond hearings for defendants such as Martinez (Esquivel, 2/7).

New Orleans Times Picayune: Louisiana Health Secretary Pledges To Help New Orleans Maintain Mental Health Services Amid Cuts
State Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce Greenstein, in a Monday letter to Mayor Mitch Landrieu, pledged that his agency will work to mitigate the effects of cuts to mental health services at Louisiana State University's New Orleans hospital. ... The closures at Interim LSU Public Hospital and the DePaul mental health campus include about 10 percent of emergency room general beds and inpatient/surgical beds; half of the emergency mental health beds; nine out of 38 mental health inpatient beds; and all chemical detox beds (Barrow, 2/6). 

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Hahnemann Boosts Use Of Registered Nurses In Bid To Improve Care
In a move that defies conventional wisdom, Hahnemann University Hospital is replacing less expensive workers with people who are paid more. Michael Halter, the hospital's chief executive officer, believes that ultimately the change will earn Hahnemann more money and customers, and create a more loyal staff when the labor market becomes competitive again. Halter said a pilot study done on one nursing unit found that using all registered nurses to care for patients instead of a combination of nurses and nursing assistants led to higher-quality care, and greater patient and nurse satisfaction. As a result, the entire hospital is transforming to the all-RN model (Burling, 2/7).

The Baltimore Sun: UM Medical School Program Aimed At Increasing Primary Care Physicians
The University of Maryland School of Medicine will use a five-year $877,000 grant on a program to increase the number of students who enter primary care fields. The school said Monday it will create a primary care track that will allow students to work one-on-one with faculty from family medicine, pediatrics, internal medicine and other primary care specialties. The new program is being developed as health care reform is expected to put further pressure on primary care doctors (Walker, 2/6).

Boston Globe: Health Firms Boost Patrick
Governor Deval Patrick's federal political action committee collected at least $52,250 from health care interests from July through December, just as Beacon Hill was gearing up for a major fight over how to overhaul payments in the multibillion-dollar industry. The total was collected from just 18 donors and committees and makes up a significant portion of the PAC's overall fund-raising tally for the latest sixth-month reporting period, which totaled $301,561 (Bierman, 2/7).

The Dallas Morning News: Dallas' Parkland Hospital Withholds Critical Patient Safety Report For Fear Of Lawsuits
Parkland Memorial Hospital's governing board refused Monday to release a federally mandated report on patient safety, citing a fear that it could be used against the embattled public facility in court. Dr. Lauren McDonald, Parkland's longtime chairwoman, announced the decision after board members met privately with their top lawyer for 4 1/2 hours (Egerton, 2/6).

California Watch: Prime Healthcare Drops Bid For N.J. Hospital
Prime Healthcare Services pulled its bid to buy a New Jersey hospital last week, saying it was deferring to the wishes of local elected officials who wanted to see the hospital remain a locally operated nonprofit. The proposed deal met strong resistance from a health workers union and a community group that aired concerns over Prime's business model. Prime leaders and Christ Hospital attorneys also faced tough questions from health regulators (Jewett and Williams, 2/7).

The Baltimore Sun: Most Private Employers Providing Health Insurance To Workers
Just 17 percent of Maryland's adult private sector workers went without health insurance in 2010, compared with 22 percent nationally, according to a report put out by the Maryland Health Care Commission. The commission looks at private employers biennially, and found more private sector employees were getting their insurance through work in Maryland though the employers weren't offering insurance more often than the national average — about 88 percent of employers offer insurance (Cohn, 2/6).

Kansas Health Institute News: Governor Proposes Cuts In Children's Programs
Citing uncertainty in the amount of money Kansas will receive from major tobacco companies as part of a long-standing legal settlement, Gov. Sam Brownback has proposed cutting $16 million from programs that promote parenting skills and early childhood development. ... Brownback's proposal also calls for eliminating $5 million in Family Centered Systems of Care grants that community mental health centers use to support families with children who are mentally ill or emotionally disturbed (Ranney, 2/6). 

California Healthline: Do Long-Term Care Patients Need a Stronger Advocate?
Sylvia Taylor-Stein runs a local ombudsman program in Ventura County, and she is frustrated. The state's Long-Term Care Ombudsman program is a network of local programs that use trained volunteers to investigate complaints and concerns in long-term care facilities and to make sure patients in those settings are treated properly. ... The issue, according to Taylor-Stein, is that the state ombudsman's office hasn't acted as an independent advocate for elders, but instead works in lock step with the governor, as management of the agency is a governor-appointed position (Gorn, 2/6). 

The Lund Report: Electronic Health Records Face Rapidly Changing Technology
[2010] was the year that the Community Leadership Council of the Archimedes Movement made recommendations on the state's Strategic Plan for Health Information Exchange, which the federal government approved a few months later. The Oregon Health Authority, through the Office of Health IT, has been developing the necessary policy ... with a focus on provider-to-provider communication to launch this spring. ... [T]he Google product they referenced in recommendations went defunct (Rendleman, 2/6).

California Watch: Prime Healthcare Drops Bid For N.J. Hospital
Prime Healthcare Services pulled its bid to buy a New Jersey hospital last week, saying it was deferring to the wishes of local elected officials who wanted to see the hospital remain a locally operated nonprofit. The proposed deal met strong resistance from a health workers union and a community group that aired concerns over Prime’s business model. Prime leaders and Christ Hospital attorneys also faced tough questions from health regulators (Jewett and Williams, 2/7). 

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