Henry Ford Health System scored an international public relations coup last week when Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng arrived at the doors of its flagship hospital in Detroit.
Not since Toronto Raptors player Carlos Rogers offered to donate a kidney to his dying sister last winter has the hospital garnered so much media attention, says Henry Ford spokesman Dwight Angell.
Some 50 media outlets worldwide covered the story. Meanwhile, Henry Ford's World Wide Web site, which normally logs fewer than 2,000 visitors a day, received 30,000 the day after Wei arrived.
Wei is perhaps China's most prominent dissident, having served the past 18 years in prison for his pro-democracy activities.
His arrival at Henry Ford was partly a matter of dumb luck. Detroit happens to be the destination of the only nonstop flight to the U.S. from Beijing, operated by Northwest Airlines.
Several hospitals in the area were equipped to treat Wei, 47, who had mild hypertension and other conditions. But Henry Ford ended up with the honor thanks to a recommendation by a White House physician, who was consulted by the State Department.
Gail Warden, Henry Ford's president and chief executive officer, is on the President's Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry. However, a White House spokesman says he was "not aware" that Warden's political connections had any role in the doctor's recommendation.
The publicity wasn't free. It appears Henry Ford will pick up the tab for Wei's four-day stay, Angell says.
On call.Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. spokesman Jeff Prescott is wondering whether the company hit some sort of Guinness Book of World Records high for handling media and stock analyst inquiries after the company's restructuring announcement Nov. 17.
More than 400 stock analysts listened in on a conference call that day, and more than 70 reporters participated in a separate media call, Prescott says. Both conference calls had the largest attendance Prescott could remember. Plus, his office fielded about 180 additional media calls during the day.
"We managed to get back, I think, to everybody," Prescott says.
The big leagues.A nursing home maven in North Carolina is angling to buy the Minnesota Twins major league baseball team and move it to his home state.
The team's current owner, Carl Pohlad, reportedly has agreed to sell the team to Don Beaver, former vice chairman of the board of Living Centers of America, if he can't secure funding for a new stadium in Minnesota by Nov. 30.
Beaver built Hickory, N.C.-based Brian Center Management Corp. into a chain of more than 40 nursing homes in five Southeastern states. He joined the board of Living Centers in July 1995 when the Houston-based long-term-care concern acquired his privately owned chain for $209 million in stock.
Living Centers recently merged with Atlanta-based GranCare to form Paragon Health Network, one of the nation's largest long-term-care companies. Beaver is a member of the new company's board of directors.
The News and Observer in Raleigh, N.C., reports that Beaver may get his chance to bring the Twins to the Greensboro, N.C., area: Minnesota taxpayers have not yet stepped up to the plate to put their public money toward a new stadium.
Residents of North Carolina's Forsyth and Guilford counties are expected to hold a referendum May 5 on whether they want to pony up about $70 million to help pay for a new $210 million home for the Twins down South.
Electronic consultation.Medical information already is flooding the World Wide Web, posing a problem for consumers trying to wade through it all for supportable facts that are relevant to their situation.
A Bermuda-based company, Mediconsult.com, is trying to tackle that problem and make some money off the predicted demand for customized answers from real doctors. A new service called MediXperts links more than two dozen physicians -- touted as tops in their field -- with consumers who don't want to wait months for an appointment or pay for travel.
Visitors to the Web site select from a list of medical conditions, choose a physician from a list of profiles, and type in a medical scenario, including responses to a questionnaire. A three- to five-page report follows in two to five days, including a recommended plan of action for the consumer and his or her primary-care physician.
The bill, payable over the Web with a credit card, is $195. Information between consumer and physician is transmitted through a password-protected and encrypted Internet security design. The company's Web address is the same as its name.
All flown away.It was a situation that was for the birds, so Maricopa County Integrated Health System had to go after them.
Phoenix's public health system just spent $37,000 to install miniature electrified fences above the walkway that links 481-bed Maricopa Medical Center with a nearby outpatient clinic.
When the 500-foot walkway was installed four years ago, pigeons were attracted to the vapors from its misting system, a staple in Phoenix's kiln-like environment. But the avian presence meant few people kept cool: Complaints abounded that more than just mist tumbled from the walkway.
The complaints have ceased with the new fencing, and its low voltage has ensured no feathers have flown. "It's really made a big difference without harming the pigeons at all," says health system spokeswoman Catherine Menor.