While employees of healthcare companies and trade groups had to pay dearly for access to delegates at the Republican National Convention last week, some Tenet Healthcare Corp. employees were welcomed without having to open their wallets.
That's because Tenet provided on-site medical care to the 2,066 delegates, 2,066 alternates, 15,000 journalists and a host of others at Philadelphia's First Union Center, where the GOP formally nominated Texas Gov. George W. Bush as the party's presidential candidate.
Tenet owns seven Philadelphia-area facilities formerly owned by the Allegheny Health, Education and Research Foundation, including Hahnemann University Hospital.
Unlike other events at the First Union Center, such as NBA games, the GOP convention required some specialized medical personnel and preparation, according to Richard Hamilton, Tenet's medical commander for the event and emergency medicine residency director at the Medical College of Pennsylvania.
For one, the GOP convention featured five medical professionals on the convention floor. They were present primarily because of the threat of terrorist acts.
"There's a lot of medical expertise on the floor, hopefully never doing anything," Hamilton says.
Up to 45 emergency medical personnel were at the convention. Despite the expertise, the first day of conventioneering found the medical staff treating routine conditions: blisters, cuts, heat exhaustion and the results of collisions between pedestrians and on-site golf carts.
The medical personnel represented the "vast majority" of a $250,000 cash and in-kind donation that Tenet made to the Philadelphia host committee (not the Republican National Committee), says Harry Anderson, Tenet's senior director of corporate communications. And Democrats need not fret: Tenet will make a similar contribution to their national convention host committee in Los Angeles later this month.
Also from the convention. The rest of the healthcare community, meanwhile, dove headfirst into the proper convention spirit by hosting or attending many festive soirees.
The Federation of American Hospitals, the American Association of Health Plans and medical specialty groups co-sponsored a party hosted by Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Education and Workforce subcommittee, with authority over employer-provided health plans.
The American Hospital Association sponsored one hole at a golf tournament hosted by House Majority Whip Thomas DeLay (R-Texas).
Premier co-hosted a dinner for GOP healthcare staff, including Amy Jensen from the office of House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), Dean Clancy from the office of House Majority Leader Richard Armey (R-Texas) and Sally Canfield from Bush's campaign.
The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, however, was the media's favorite: The Blues and BellSouth smartly lobbied the thousands of reporters, editors and broadcast crew members by hosting a media lounge outside the First Union Center. The press feasted on piles of fried chicken and pretzels and drank gallons of soft drinks and beer--all gratis, of course.
You gotta love conventions.
Sad commentary. Two rival Springfield, Ill., hospitals are halting the popular custom of publishing birth notices in local newspapers because of the increased risk of baby abductions.
St. John's Hospital, 579 beds, and 431-bed Memorial Medical Center stopped releasing babies' birth information on Aug. 1. The hospitals each deliver about 2,000 babies a year, with 75% of parents consenting to a birth notice, St. John's spokeswoman Aggie Hayner says.
Though neither hospital has experienced a baby abduction, the two don't want to assist potential kidnappers by providing information. At a May presentation to staff from both hospitals, the Center for Missing and Exploited Children recommended discontinuing birth notices, Hayner says. Also in May the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations' newsletter recommended halting the custom as well.
On May 1 a baby was abducted from 541-bed Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Ill. The baby, found dead the next day, was the second infant kidnapped from a hospital this year; no kidnappings were reported in 1999.
Richard Wade, senior vice president for communications at the American Hospital Association, says he's heard of other hospitals halting notices.
"But I'm not aware of any abductions relating to baby notices in the papers," Wade says. Abduction is a remote possibility, Hayner says. "It's a sad statement about the way the world is today that we have to take these precautions."
Wisconsin snafu. You'd think a hospital that's losing money would at the very least try to collect the money it's owed.
But not Northwest General Hospital in Milwaukee.
Several months ago, workers at the financially troubled 98-bed hospital were moving the finance department to another office when they discovered $6 million in unmailed bills stuffed into boxes.
Here's the kicker: The bills still haven't been mailed out.
This at a hospital that can't even pay its own bills: Northwest General has $2 million in unpaid bills and no available credit. It must pay food vendors, drug companies and trash removal companies in cash.
The hospital's board chairman, Tom Treis, says the situation resulted from "incompetence. (Previous management) didn't know what the hell they were doing." Northwest plans to have the bills recoded as soon as possible so it can begin collecting on them, according to Treis.
Now there's an idea.
Quotable. "That is a pie-in-the-sky figure that everyone in this room and elsewhere ought to ignore as much as possible. A lot of people are in for some very rude surprises if they count on that to pay for any changes to our healthcare system."--Victor Fuchs, president of the American Economic Association and professor emeritus at Stanford University, at last month's Dorsey Hughes Symposium in Beaver Creek, Colo. Fuchs was commenting on estimates of a $2.2 trillion federal budget surplus.