When National Medical Enterprises completes its $3 billion acquisition of American Medical International, it will be back-to-the-classroom time for AMI's 35,000 employees.
As part of NME's agreement with the U.S. Justice Department, all NME employees have to go through an annual ethics training program. The federal government mandated the program when the Santa Monica, Calif.-based firm agreed to pay a $379 million fine to settle criminal and civil fraud charges involving its psychiatric hospitals (July 4, p. 2).
Ironically, even though Dallas-based AMI had no part in the fraud probe or settlement, its employees will also learn the importance of ethics.
"Under our corporate integrity agreement, we have the obligation to extend (the classes) throughout the organization," said NME spokeswoman Christi Sulzbach. She noted that all NME employees have gone through the first part of the training, which started before the federal settlement was announced in June.
Each NME employee attended an initial class lasting from a couple of hours to half a day. They also must attend a refresher class once a year for five years.
However, Ms. Sulzbach said NME is so happy with the ethics program it may continue it beyond the five-year requirement.
On hold.An announcement is expected soon in the naming of the next AIDS czar in the Clinton administration. But at deadline, it looked as if it was going to come after the elections.
The turbulent 11-month tenure of Kristine Gebbie as the nation's first AIDS policy coordinator ended 31/2 months ago (July 18, p. 22). The interim AIDS czar is Patsy Fleming, a special assistant to HHS Secretary Donna Shalala, but Ms. Fleming doesn't want the job permanently.
The administration has a short list of nominees, said Richard Sorian, an HHS spokesman. But he said the president's decision was delayed by his Middle East trip. Those considered likely successors are Daniel Bross, who is leaving his post later this month as executive director of the Washington-based AIDS Action Council; Timothy Westmoreland, an aide to Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce health subcommittee; Phillip Wilson, policy director for AIDS Project Los Angeles; and Oregon Gov. Barbara Roberts, who is not seeking re-election.
Ms. Gebbie was a figurehead, according to some healthcare providers and AIDS activists, who told Outliers she didn't even show up at a major meeting with them early in her tenure. With the struggles hospitals face to provide cost-effective AIDS care, activists hope the new AIDS czar is taken more seriously by the administration, and that the new person pays more attention to the job.
Hindsight.Dennis O'Leary, M.D., believes a key failing of healthcare reform advocates was not following his advice.
At a speech during the recent National Forum on Health Care Quality, Dr. O'Leary, president of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, spoke about reform, which he called an "information-driven process."
He said public-policy decisionmakers needed to put in place an "information-gathering, performance measurement, quality oversight mechanism as the first piece of legislation for healthcare reform." Only when that was in place and useful information was generated could Congress have made intelligent reforms in the healthcare system.
"Now history will show they did not follow my advice. And see what happened," he said.
More docs on TV.Not to be outdone by the hospital fare on the three main networks, the Fox Network is offering viewers a glimpse inside the nation's trauma centers.
In the fashion of "Cops," another Fox show, "Trauma Center," documents real life-and-death dramas as they unfold, without narration.
So far, 12 of the nation's 400 trauma centers have allowed film crews in. Fox spends about five weeks at each site. Participating trauma centers receive an honorarium, generally $1,000, as well as some good publicity.
At St. Vincent's Hospital and Medical Center of New York, cameras captured a "romantic story" about a couple involved in a motorcycle crash. At Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, the crew filmed medical professionals resuscitating a man who "coded" on an emergency room table.
Fox and participating hospitals seek signed consent forms from every patient filmed. Patients may decline to have their stories filmed and aired, no questions asked.
John Miller, manager of program development for Fox Television Station Productions, said he's particularly interested in urban trauma centers with heavy traffic where healthcare workers believe in the show's concept.
Fox's production team will create 26 shows this season with hopes of being picked up next year. With 168 stations airing "Trauma Center," the show is seen in 92% of all television markets.
Buried rumor.Contrary to numerous reports buzzing around Wall Street, as well as within the home-care industry, Caremark International said last week it has no intention of selling its home infusion business to W.R. Grace subsidiary National Medical Care.
When MODERN HEALTHCARE asked Caremark officials on Oct. 26 to confirm or deny reports of a possible sale, they declined to comment (Oct. 31, p. 6). But when officials saw the story, they decided to respond in an Oct. 31 statement: "While it is our customary policy not to respond to rumors of possible divestitures or acquisitions, in this case be advised that the rumors referred to (in the article) are totally false."