A two-month strike by registered nurses at Jersey Shore Medical Center has taken a nasty turn.
The Hospital Professionals and Allied Employees Union of New Jersey, which represents 680 of the hospital's nurses, has been fighting to prevent nurses from being included the hospital's merit-pay system. Since negotiations broke off in early January, the Neptune, N.J., hospital has been bombarded with questions concerning its patient care and financial practices.
At the union's request, the state Department of Health has investigated three deaths in recent weeks. It found no deficiencies in two cases and recommended corrective actions in the third.
And now a report by the union, titled "Milking the Cash Cow," questions the $256,000 salary earned by John K. Lloyd, the hospital's president, and accuses Jersey Shore of taking advantage of its not-for-profit, tax-exempt status "to generate and accrue enormous profits."
The report "raises serious questions concerning the use of patient-care dollars by this hospital and its board of directors," said Anne Twomey, the union's president. The union has said it may ask the Internal Revenue Service to investigate. It's also seeking to block a certificate-of-need request for a new ambulatory-care center.
In a 21-page response, executives of Jersey Shore said the allegations have no merit. "The union has been unsuccessful at the bargaining table and is now resorting to tabloid journalism tactics to scare the public into supporting its position," Mr. Lloyd said.
Off and running. Kevin Vigilante, M.D., a Brown University medical professor and hospital manager, has begun a run for Congress, prompted, he said, by the consequences of crime and poverty he's witnessed in the emergency room.
Dr. Vigilante, director of ambulatory services at Miriam Hospital in Providence, R.I., also took aim at President Clinton's healthcare reform plan, denouncing it as bureaucratic and a threat to the quality of care available under the current system.
Dr. Vigilante, 39, a Republican, is challenging state Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-Providence) for Rhode Island's 1st District seat being vacated by Republican Ronald Machtley. Mr. Machtley is vying for the GOP nomination for governor.
A political newcomer, Dr. Vigilante said he's not intimidated by a race against the 26-year-old Mr. Kennedy, son of Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), now in his third two-year term in the Rhode Island House, saying, "I think that when you run against your opponent, you keep your eye on the issues and have faith in the wisdom of the people."
He said he's willing to temporarily give up practicing medicine, as well as his university teaching position, because he believes there's a need for change in government.
"One gets the sense that government doesn't seem to be making anything better and is making things worse in several instances," he said, pointing to a welfare system that "traps people in poverty" and "overtaxation" that's killing jobs, particularly in small businesses.-Associated Press
Towering presence. The last time St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital built a medical office building in Houston, it got people's attention.
After all, the 949-bed hospital didn't build one of those run-of-the-mill MOBs. In 1990, it opened a $70 million, 26-story structure designed by renowned architect Cesar Pelli. Called St. Luke's Medical Tower, the blue-glass building is topped by twin-spired octagons that some say resemble hypodermic needles.
Needless to say, the tower, the spires of which are lighted at night, quickly became a landmark for the Texas Medical Center, a 675-acre healthcare complex just south of downtown Houston.
Now, just four years later, St. Luke's is building a second medical office building. While it's going to cost a little more than the first one-$80 million-the new St. Luke's Medical Towers-West won't be quite as flashy. And it will be shorter, although just by one floor. Designing the building is Hoover & Furr Architects of Houston.
"We wanted something totally different that did not compete in any way with that building," said Giorgio Borlenghi, president of Interfin, a Houston real estate development firm. The project will be a 50-50 joint venture between the firm and St. Luke's.
Is there a need for a second building? Apparently so. Mr. Borlenghi said the building, set to open in 1996, is 50% pre-leased.
Health food. The Washington Press Club Foundation conducted its 50th annual congressional dinner recently, and the Clinton administration's healthcare reform plan was on the menu.
One night after President Clinton made healthcare the centerpiece of his State of the Union address, the press made it the centerpiece of dinner. The menu included "Hillary's Rapidly Rising Dough" (breads) and "Healthcare on the Sheep with HMO" (lamb with herbs, mustard and onions) and "Damn Yankee Flu Shot," (clam and oyster chowder).
Attendees included numerous senators, members of the House and even White House senior healthcare adviser Ira Magaziner.
Rock and reform. The latest sign that healthcare reform has worked its way into the nation's consciousness comes from the world of pop music.
A New York City band called The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black has recently released an album called "A National Health Care" and is currently touring to support the disc.
Now before you go out to see this band be warned; they are a little strange. The music is best described as a form of punk-rock that tends to lean toward MTV-like heavy metal. What's more, lead singer Kembra Pfahler generally wears little more than garish horror make-up as do the bands back-up dancers giving the entire production a "Rocky Horror Picture Show" look.
It's not known if the band members favor a market-based or government-controlled healthcare reform system.