Hospitals Grapple With Increasing ER Visits; LA Officials Order Changes To Boost Patient Safety; Mass. Nurse Fired After Reporting Problem

The Connecticut Mirror: "Hartford Hospital opened an expanded emergency department this month, with new rooms and triage areas meant to keep up with an increase in patient visits. Across town, St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center is preparing to double its emergency department space as part of a new 10-story tower set to open next spring. UConn's John Dempsey Hospital expanded its emergency department earlier this year in response to rising patient volume, but there are still days when patients wait in the hallways because the rooms are full. Emergency department visits are increasing in Connecticut and across the country, and doctors say they are likely to become even busier as health reform rolls out."

"While many discussions of the health care system have focused on people without insurance crowding emergency rooms, research suggests that much of the traffic comes instead from people with Medicaid, a public insurance plan that many doctors do not accept. Nationally, emergency room visits increased by 23 percent from 1997 to 2007 -- almost double what would be expected from population growth, and the result largely of more visits by adults with Medicaid, according to an analysis published earlier this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association" (Levin Becker, 8/18).

The Los Angeles Times: "Los Angeles County supervisors on Tuesday ordered improvements intended to shore up patient safety at the county's hospitals and clinics after reviewing a study commissioned to look at malpractice payouts. The risk management study, conducted by the Abaris Group ... found that payouts for malpractice cases settled between 2005 and 2007 increased from more than $8 million to more than $12 million." The supervisors ordered key country officials "to return in two months with a plan to satisfy consultants' recommendations, including creation of a database to track and report patient safety measures and a new website where the data would be publicly available" (Hennessy-Fiske, 8/18).

The Associated Press/CNBC: "A new law in New York will soon require hospitals to inform women who undergo mastectomies about reconstructive surgery and where to get it." The bill "is meant to make sure poor women are told of their options, which are covered by health insurance, Medicaid and Medicare" (8/17).

The Boston Globe: "Margaret 'Peg' O'Connor, a nurse who worked at Jordan Hospital in Plymouth for more than 38 years, said she was fired in May for doing the right thing. She reported a violation by the hospital that allegedly put a pregnant patient and her unborn twins at risk. O'Connor, who filed a lawsuit yesterday, had told federal authorities that the woman, who was six months pregnant when she arrived in the Jordan emergency room in March with flulike systems and went into labor, was transferred to another hospital without being examined by a doctor. … The mother and babies recovered. But a state Department of Public Health inspector found in May that the hospital violated a federal law that prohibits hospitals from transferring patients without making sure they are stable and have been examined by a physician." Jordan Hospital said in a statement that O'Connor's termination was not related to her report about "the incident involving the pregnant woman and that the hospital had told state officials about the case (Murphy, 8/18).

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