The loss of phone service at a California hospital led to months of inconvenience, but also to better communication.
During a remodeling project at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center June 7, a worker cut through a high-pressure water pipe in the crawl space above the radiology department. The accident flooded the floor below and areas beneath, including the hospital's single phone switch, knocking out the entire phone system-4,200 phone lines-at the 816-bed facility, the fifth-largest hospital in Los Angeles County, with 1,300 physicians on staff.
For the first 36 hours after the mishap, paramedics had to be diverted from the hospital's emergency room because there was no way of communicating with them. Slowly, phone service was returned to critical areas like emergency rooms. There are now 1,200 phone lines running, but full phone service won't be restored until Sept. 12.
"There was no endangerment of patient care at any time, but you can imagine the scenario of doctors not being able to have patients admitted because they can't call the hospital, or not being able to check on a patient" by phone, said Ron Yukelson, director of communications for the hospital.
"The real silver lining is how our 3,500 employees had to start working together a lot more effectively," Mr. Yukelson said. For example, "we've had to have a lot more face-to-face communication. Departments have really learned to work more effectively together."
There's more to the silver lining. "This will never happen again," he said. "We now have two phone switches-in separate parts of our physical plant. And we've taken the opportunity to upgrade, adding a better voice-mail system."
Grave dancing.Republican Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas rallied a supportive crowd of several hundred people around his anti-healthcare reform message at Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp.'s flagship hospital in Dallas. At the invitation of 555-bed Medical City Dallas, the partisan Mr. Gramm promised to kill the Clinton healthcare plan, which he called "a dead corpse that we've been dragging around Congress, changing the clothes on it, putting on more powder....It's dead."
Smoking mad.An effigy of Hillary Rodham Clinton was doused with gasoline and burned as a congressman, a state senator and a gubernatorial candidate stood by during a tobacco rally against President Bill Clinton's healthcare reform plan last week in Kentucky.
"Burn, baby, burn," chanted Stan Arachikavitz, president of the Kentucky Association of Tobacco Supporters. "If we don't stand up for tobacco, we'll go down with it." Mr. Arachikavitz then poured gasoline on the effigy. A country band played as two women set the effigy ablaze. "Hillary didn't last as long as my Marlboro," Mr. Arachikavitz said afterward.
Matthew Wills, a Republican candidate for Congress, spoke at the rally, as did Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gatewood Galbraith and U.S. Rep. Ron Lewis (R-Ky.).
State Sen. David Boswell, who also spoke, said later that he had not known about the effigy: "I don't support that. I disagree with a lot of the policies that are coming out of Washington, but that was out of line."
Tour of duty.Nice work if you can get it: opening a new branch office for TDS Healthcare Systems Corp. in the middle of Paris. The River Seine and Cathedral of Notre Dame are a few blocks away. The big installation project on deck will require frequent trips to a five-facility hospital district on the French Riviera, nestled between Nice and Marseilles.
Actually there's a lot riding on taking that ride to Toulon, site of the Centre Hospitalier Intercommunal Toulon-La Seyne-sur-Mer. It's the acid test for the all-French version of TDS' comprehensive patient-care information system.
The translation was first developed an ocean away in French-speaking Canada, and more focused translation of the system's documentation materials commenced last year when TDS moved into Belgium, a center of French as well as Dutch fluency. Five French nationals are now completing the task as part of TDS' 11-person bureau in Paris, which started up in July, said TDS spokesman M.F. McKinsey.
The French government also is looking in on the project, which is the first in that country to include clinical order entry and results reporting in a healthcare information system, Mr. McKinsey said.
Heading the bureau is 12-year TDS veteran Gary Hicks, who was vice president of implementation until he started globe-trotting a few years ago as the set-up man in Europe. He managed implementation for the first British client, going abroad in 1992, and opened the Brussels office a year ago.
A volunteer forever. The helping hand of Mikie Wolff will remain at Tift General Hospital in Tifton, Ga., for many years to come, even long after Mr. Wolff has passed on.
Mr. Wolff, 78, has been visiting the 168-bed rural hospital's patients for the last 15 to 20 years, offering patients get-well wishes and candy. Now, he will be remembered through a bronze bust of his likeness at the hospital. "He's not a volunteer, but a wonderful community member who comes in every day delivering a pocket of candy and peppermint sticks to patients," said Valerie Hall, chief executive officer of the Tift General Hospital Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Tift General Hospital, which is honoring Mr. Wolff's years of dedication.
The community raised more than $20,000 to pay for the bust honoring Mr. Wolff. The sculpture was designed by Michael Jernigan, a Florida-based sculptor who had an exhibit at last month's American Hospital Association annual meeting in Dallas. The money has been allocated to a perpetual fund that will also be used to enhance patient care.
Mr. Wolff is a modest person who doesn't expect praise for his efforts, but the hospital could hardly dismiss his generosity and commitment, which has earned letters from patients from across the country. The bust will grace Tift General's lobby.