A good, old fashioned labor battle -- complete with car chases and spies -- is brewing in Arizona.
Registered nurses and skilled maintenance workers at St. Joseph Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix are scheduled to vote April 2 on whether to join the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Early organizing efforts have been marred, however, by allegations of misconduct on both sides. The Teamsters charge that the hospital has engaged in illegal surveillance and harassment of pro-union employees, while the hospital claims the Teamsters "have engaged in extensive offensive conduct."
St. Joseph nurses filed charges with the federal National Labor Relations Board and even went so far as to bring in area police to investigate whether two hospital employees posed as television reporters to spy on a pro-union press conference. According to Teamster spokesman Patrick Lacefield, the two hospital employees gave false names, took note of who was supporting the union, then fled the area by hiding on the floor of a speeding getaway car. Lacefield says hospital workers should be free to join a union "without any kind of pressure or intimidation or threats or surveillance."
The hospital says the union is "making a mountain out of a molehill."
Ex-Scrushy-ating process. When we last left Birmingham, Ala., orthopedic surgeon Larry Lemak, he was organizing investors so he could buy the Minnesota Vikings football team and move it to his hometown.
Turns out Lemak joined the bidding group of Vikings president and MedPartners board member Roger Headrick, a cadre that also includes HealthSouth CEO and MedPartners caretaker Richard Scrushy, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Headrick and Scrushy were part of the MedPartners board committee in charge of finding someone to replace departed president and CEO Larry House. (They picked former Magellan Health Services CEO Mac Crawford.) Busy as they were with MedPartners' problems, Headrick's group had launched a full-frontal assault against the king of the giant-sized military caper, Tom Clancy, who bought the Vikings in early February for $200 million. Headrick claimed that as president of the Vikings, he had the right to match the deal. NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue denied Headrick's request, so Lemak and Scrushy are without a team.
Tagliabue might have saved them a lot of trouble. After all, wasn't jumping in and overpaying for high-profile professionals what got MedPartners into trouble in the first place?
James Cagney would have hated it. London-based Lifesign is introducing to the United States a credit card-like device that can be placed on a patient's chest to measure and display vital signs, which can then be transmitted via satellite to a far-away physician carrying a combination phone/paging device.
The product, shown at the 1998 Healthcare Information Management Systems Society conference in Orlando, Fla., allows the physician to call back with instructions for stabilizing a patient until medical help can arrive. Lifesign's Ronnie Royston says among the first customers for Lifesign's product was Britain's prison system, which wants to use it to prevent inmates from escaping by faking illness.
Royston says that -- according to figures from Britain's FBI, the Home Office -- more than 80% of all prison illnesses requiring a hospital trip are faked, and 62% of prisoner escapes occur on the way to or from the hospital.
The sequel: Will factors pi. In a HIMSS session on hooking up a hospital's patient-record system, Paula Parker, Hewlett-Packard account executive, used a pop-culture reference in a slide titled "Good Will Hunting": "It's a movie about a mathematical superstar who is proficient at solving complex algorithms."
No wonder it was the feel-good hit of the year.
Set phasers on fun! Playing to stereotypes about techies, the HIMSS opening reception welcomed attendees with actors dressed up like Star Trek characters and banquet centerpieces shaped like the fuel cells used on the Starship Enterprise.
Sicker and quicker. Physicians often have a ready excuse when medical directors or health plans confront them with data indicating that they fall outside the norm of accepted treatment guidelines. Their answer: My patients are sicker. At a session of the National IPA Coalition's spring meeting in Hilton Head, S.C., Dexanne B. Clohan, M.D., medical director of Meridian Health Care Management, asked medical directors for useful responses to balky docs. A voice from the audience piped up: "They weren't when you got them!"