Taking a cue from the storied "war room" of President Clinton's perennial campaign, a coalition of public health advocates was operating an anti-tobacco version of this strategy on Capitol Hill last week.
A Holiday Inn conference room was the site of a 50-person rapid-response apparatus as the group, Effective National Action to Control Tobacco, fought to include such provisions as a $1.50-per-pack tax on cigarettes in the Senate's version of tobacco-control legislation.
It was the scene of telephone calls, letter drafting and, of course, lots of photocopies as ENACT, which includes the American Medical Association and other physician groups, tried to advance its positions.
If coalition members sensed support wavering as crucial votes approached, they were just a telephone call away from their individual headquarters, which could target key senators with grass-roots telephone calls.
And lawmakers weren't the only recipients of the tobacco-control spin. One of ENACT's members, the American Cancer Society, began faxing alerts-with the subtle heading of "there they go again"-to news organizations in an effort to counter tobacco lobbyists' arguments.
Dellums' foreign policy. A longtime promoter of human rights in South Africa, former U.S. Rep. Ronald Dellums (D-Calif.), is again turning his focus abroad, but this time as a healthcare executive.
The unabashed liberal from Berkeley, Calif., has become president of the newly formed Healthcare International Management Co. Atlanta-based HIM will market managed-care products to government and private-sector purchasers in emerging markets in Africa, the Caribbean, Central America, China, Mexico and South America.
The company offers products for five types of purchasers, ranging from individuals and small employers to national healthcare plans.
HIM held a reception for Dellums last week in Washington, where his office will be located.
Under fire. Outliers recently took note of the effort by Utah State Hospital in Provo to enforce a campuswide gun ban (May 11, p. 88). Now comes word the gun-fancying state Legislature has forced the mental health facility to stop being so strict.
"I don't think you can do what you have tried to do," state Rep. Marty Stephens told hospital officials at a hearing. Legislators say it might be OK to keep guns out of the hospital buildings, but the hospital can't stop guns from being toted around the periphery of its 325-acre campus.
Acting after the state Republican Convention passed a resolution condemning weapons restrictions at the hospital and the University of Utah campus, a GOP-dominated legislative oversight panel cracked down on efforts to keep guns out of the hands of mentally ill patients.
By definition, state mental hospital patients have been deemed a danger to themselves and others, noted hospital Superintendent Mark Payne. He offered legislators a copy of a hand-scrawled letter from a patient who threatened to hunt Payne down and shoot him in the skull, heart and stomach with a .357 caliber Magnum.
"Having weapons . . . just doesn't mix with our population," Payne said of his institution.
Let's hope not.
Double billing. As more and more hospitals wade into the insurance business, it's harder than ever for administrators to keep their roles straight.
Take the top brass at Alliance Health Network, Erie, Pa., an HMO owned by 10 area hospitals, who until recently had a hard time balancing their often conflicting responsibilities as bill payers and healthcare providers (May 4, p. 3).
"You constantly fight that problem in board meetings," says Frank Gerlach, chairman of the 41,000-enrollee HMO. "Which hat are you wearing today?"
To make sure neither role was overlooked, Alliance distributed a lasting reminder during a management retreat several years ago.
The dramatic memory aid is a red-and-white baseball cap with a difference. The double-billed cap has two job titles, both visible from the front: One reads "managed health care owner" while the other says "health care provider."
"It makes a good point," says Robert Cox, who adjusts his cap regularly as he juggles jobs as executive vice president and treasurer at 477-bed St. Vincent Hospital in Erie and treasurer of the Alliance HMO.
The caps seem to be working. According to Gerlach, Alliance edged into the black during the second half of 1997 after losing money since its founding in 1994 and is on track to earn more than $4 million this year.
Late bloomer. Actor John Mahoney is better known to most people as Martin Crane, the dad on NBC-TV's "Frasier." But few know that for a time in the 1970s he was far away from Hollywood, serving as an editor of the Journal of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals in Chicago.
In an interview in the May issue of Chicago magazine, Mahoney recalled that he wasn't very happy in the $35,000-a-year post, even though he had a big office overlooking Lake Michigan and was making good money for that time. He said he spent most evenings out drinking and smoking cigarettes, returning home to drink some more and go to bed.
It was while he was at the commission in 1977 that he signed up for acting classes at St. Nicholas Theatre in Chicago, co-founded by playwright David Mamet. After landing his first part at age 37, which paid but $75 a week, he walked out "dancing and screaming with joy." And the Joint Commission was but a memory.