News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Soap, Swabs Slash Infection Rates by 44%
Health Leaders Media

A study conducted at 43 HCA-affiliated community hospitals saw bloodstream infections, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), drop by 44% when all ICU patients were subjected to daily “universal decolonization” using antimicrobial soap and nasal swabs.

“The magnitude of this trial is such that it will create a standard of care for most ICUs in the U.S.,” study coauthor Ed Septimus, MD, told HealthLeaders Media. “Obviously once this study results are well known we do expect a rapid adoption across most hospitals in the United States.”

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SGR Repeal Plea Backed by 110 Physician Groups
Health Leaders Media

More than 110 physician specialty and state medical society organizations this week renewed what has become an annual plea for Congress to repeal the sustainable growth rate formula.

If implemented according to schedule, the SGR will cut doctors’ Medicare pay 27%, leaving doctors with only 73 cents of every dollar the program pays them today starting on Jan. 1.

The cost of repealing the SGR to restore those payments would be $245 billion over the next 10 years, according to August projections from the Congressional Budget Office.

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Lawmakers to CMS: Nix multiple-procedures pay cut
Modern Physician

Sixty members of Congress have urged the CMS to drop plans for a proposed cut in physician payments when similar clinical activities are performed at the same facility on the same day.

The expansion of multiple-procedure payment reductions and a 25% cut in the so-called technical component for “potentially redundant direct practice expense inputs” was proposed earlier this year, and a final rule is expected in November.

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Fort Bragg hospital files for bankruptcy
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

The Mendocino Coast District Hospital board of directors on Wednesday filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy, an effort to save the long-foundering Fort Bragg facility from drowning in debt.

“It is a way of revising our debt structure,” said Sean Hogan, the board president and an attorney.

It also gives the hospital more leverage in labor negotiations with its 320 employees, hospital officials said.

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UCSF to join hospitals in cutting jobs
San Francisco Business Times

UCSF Medical Center and its UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, in the midst of building a $1.5 billion new campus at Mission Bay, now say they must cut 300 full-time-equivalent jobs to lower the cost of care and prepare for the full onset of health reform and other challenges. “As national healthcare leaders, (the medical centers) must strategically invest our dollars to improve care, grow our market share, plan for reduced payment increases, and lower our total costs overall,” said CEO Mark Laret and Chief Operating Officer Ken Jones in an Oct. 16 memo to employees.

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Senators ask to meet with CMS, ONC about EHR program
Modern Healthcare

Two weeks after top House Republicans called for HHS to halt meaningful-use incentive payments to providers, four senators have requested a meeting with staff members from the CMS and HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to discuss the program.

Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) of the Senate Finance Committee and Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) of the Senate Help, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, sent a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius indicating that a recent briefing with the administration’s staff was not long enough for lawmakers to get answers to all of their questions about the final rule for the second stage of the government’s electronic health-record system incentive program.

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Critics charge that drug-compounding pharmacies require government oversight
Washington Post

Shiri Berg was a 22-year-college student when she went to a spa in Raleigh, N.C., in late 2004 for laser hair removal. Soon, she was dead, killed by a powerful pain-numbing cream, called Lasergel, that she bought from the spa, applied over a “substantial portion of her body” and covered with plastic wrap, according to state regulators.

The spa’s two doctors were disciplined — one had his license suspended and the other was reprimanded — by the state medical board for dispensing the medication without a prescription.

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ONC launches two new health IT video contests
Modern Healthcare

HHS‘ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology is launching two new contests calling on patients and families to create short videos showing how they use technology to manage their care and meet health-related goals.

The first contest, the Cancer Care Video Challenge, instructs applicants to submit videos—running two minutes or less—that demonstrate how they have used health IT as a tool to meet a cancer-care goal. Submissions are due Dec 12 and will be judged on criteria such as creativity, video quality and number of video plays on sites such as YouTube, the ONC said.

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CEP America expands control of local ERs
Sacramento Business Journal

There’s a big shift under way in the balance of power among emergency room doctors in Sacramento — and more than a dozen Mercy doctors are threatening to leave the market because of the change. Over the next few months, CEP America, a national partnership of emergency medical physicians, will begin managing and staffing emergency departments at three Mercy hospitals in the region. The company already provides services at Mercy Folsom.

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California Technology Assessment Forum Recommends Use Of Cell-Free DNA Technology
Sacramento Bee

Sequenom, Inc. (NASDAQ: SQNM), a life sciences company providing innovative diagnostic testing and genetic analysis solutions, today announced that the California Technology Assessment Forum completed an independent evaluation of the cell-free fetal DNA technology used in the Sequenom Center for Molecular Medicine’s (Sequenom CMM) MaterniT21 PLUS™ laboratory-developed test (LDT).

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Democrats Use Health Law to Assail Republicans
New York Times

A little-noticed provision of the new health care law is causing big headaches for some members of Congress in this year’s elections. And it is likely to cause even bigger headaches for lawmakers next year.

The provision, written into the law at the behest of a Republican senator, says members of Congress must get their health benefits through new insurance exchanges being established in every state. Republicans have voted repeatedly to repeal the whole law. Now, in a barrage of television ads, Democrats are roasting those Republicans, saying they voted to give themselves “taxpayer-funded health care for life.”

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Kaiser Permanente donates to Vacaville’s Measures I, M
The Reporter

Kaiser Permanente is expanding its care of the local community beyond healthcare, and is throwing its support behind “other essential services” through a $5,000 donation Thursday to the Committee Supporting Vacaville Measures I and M, officials with the healthcare provider said. The medical group on Monday announced its intent to make the donations, $2,500 toward each of the measures that, if approved by voters, “will virtually allow (Vacaville) to bridge the $3 million deficit and fill the reserves,” said campaign committee chair Steve Wilkins.

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New ER Supervisor at BGMH
Gridley Herald

The patient count at Biggs-Gridley Memorial Hospital’s Emergency Department has grown considerably in the past three years since the community took the hospital back and new services and equipment have been added. The monthly census is up to nearly 700 per month and 70 percent of the in-patient census is due to the ER. RN Ruthie Callaway, no stranger to Gridley, the hospital, or the ER is now the ER Supervisor, a job she is very excited about.

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Walmart Moves Health Care Forward Again
The Health Care Blog

Walmart’s sheer size makes almost any of their initiatives newsworthy. That said, despite being a lightning rod for criticism on employee benefits and health care, they have introduced initiatives with far-reaching impacts. Their generic drug program began in September 2006 – more than 300 prescription drugs for $4/month or $10 for a 90-day supply – and was widely emulated, disrupting retail drug markets and generating immense social benefit. Imagine the difference it made to a lower middle class diabetic who had been paying more than $120 per month for medications, and suddenly could get them for about $24.