Proof that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery: Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-Ga.) has decided to follow in the footsteps-or is it the pratfalls?-of House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).
Hastert found himself embarrassed last month by the timing of a fund-raising breakfast sponsored by insurance industry lobbyists the day the House voted on managed-care reforms.
Last week, Norwood, who took on Hastert and the GOP leadership on that same legislation, hosted his own fund-raising event at the same Republican club where Hastert broke bread with the insurance lobbyists.
Not surprisingly, the American Medical Association, which was Norwood's biggest supporter, hosted the event for all 19 Republicans who voted for the bill sponsored by Norwood and Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.).
Norwood told the Washington Post that he wanted to reward Republicans willing to switch sides against the will of their leaders. "It's the only thing I can do, other than throwing a barbecue," he said.
Outliers thinks the barbecue would have been just fine.
Dubious distinction. A St. Louis newspaper columnist has facetiously nominated Mark Weber, chief executive officer of suburban St. John's Mercy Medical Center for the city's annual civic honor, Citizen of the Year.
According to Bill McClellan, columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the award should go to Weber for helping to push nurses at the 584-bed Creve Coeur, Mo., hospital into the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. The nurses have formed the first such bargaining unit in the St. Louis area.
McClellan wrote: "It was a tough election. On one hand, you had the nurses feeling that they were overworked, under-appreciated and that patient care was going to the dogs. On the other hand, a lot of nurses felt uneasy about joining the United Food and Commercial Workers. They didn't want to be snotty about it, but they were professionals."
McClellan gave Weber much of the credit for turning the situation around. "When it comes to employee relations, bosses usually get what they deserve. Labor problems don't develop in a vacuum." After the election, Weber sent the nurses a letter informing them they would not participate in a new enhanced compensation plan, confirming, in McClellan's view, that he's "a jerk."
Weber tells Outliers that Unity Health, of which St. John's Mercy is the flagship, had been working on standardizing its compensation policies for some time.
"Very importantly, during a union campaign, the employer is prevented by law from making changes to working conditions, benefits and wages," he says. "Our hands were tied for some time."
To be consistent, the hospital sent the nurses a copy of the same letter it sent to all employees, even though the nurses will now negotiate their own terms, he says.
Weber said that the night of the union election, which the hospital was surprised to lose, he visited all the nurses stations "to tell them we'd work it out. It was a long way from being vindictive."
Tuned in to values. The new fall TV lineup in waiting rooms at Mercy Medical Center in Canton, Ohio, won't have any of those trashy talk shows. Or local news for that matter.
The hospital's "mission and values committee" decided last month to pull the plug on "offensive material being aired on daytime TV." Starting Oct. 29, the TVs in waiting rooms will have only PBS, PAX, CNN, ESPN, Discovery and Arts & Entertainment channels, says hospital spokesman Andy Gankoski.
The change affects the hospital's main facility and its medical offices in surrounding communities.
"We've received a fairly large number of complaints from patients about being in the waiting room and not being able to get away from this type of material," Gankoski says. "We even had an instance where a mother covered up a girl's eyes."
Too many daytime TV programs, particularly soaps and talk shows, conflict with the hospital's Christian-based beliefs and values, Gankoski says.
The hospital is operated under a partnership between the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine Health System and University Hospitals Health System.
Once a patient is admitted, this concern over values seems to diminish: The TV programming in patients' rooms will not be changed, Gankoski says.
Personalized research. For the second time this year university medical researchers have attracted controversy for abusing drugs bought with federal monies.
Last week former John Jay College professor Ansley Hamid was charged in Manhattan federal court with theft of federal funds in 1996 and 1997. Hamid, who was conducting a federally funded heroin study at the New York college, is accused of personally experimenting with the drug. He also is alleged to have used some of the $2.6 million HHS grant to pay employees to work on manuscripts for books unrelated to the grant, to buy CDs, and to take vacations to Hawaii, Miami and Trinidad. He was charged with theft of federal funds and faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and whichever is greater: fines of $250,000 or twice the gain resulting from the alleged offenses.
In April, University of Minnesota researcher Keith Kajander, an associate professor of oral science in the medical and dental schools there, died from a cocaine overdose while working on a National Institutes of Health study on the use of cocaine in pain research.
Nondescript works. Marriages mean compromise, and so do mergers.
HCR Manor Care, the name adopted by Health Care Retirement Corp. after its merger with Manor Care last year, may not have been an elegant compromise, but it was at least clear. Now, a year after consummating the deal, the board of the Toledo, Ohio-based nursing home chain has decided to muddy the waters by changing the name back to Manor Care but retaining "HCR" as its symbol on the New York Stock Exchange.
Clumsy, but given Manor Care's steady fiscal keel when most national nursing home chains are struggling to stay afloat, who needs elegant?