Claire Marie Panke, 40, did not have to search far to find a subject that inextricably melds her two careers in nursing and documentary film.
She went to where she has worked since 1989--the neonatal intensive-care unit at 580-bed Saint Vincents Hospital and Medical Center in New York.
But just days before her film "A Chance to Grow" premiered on the Discovery Channel earlier this month, the film took on a tragic poignancy of its own. Four nurses who were mainstays of the neonatal unit at Saint Vincents were killed when their car inexplicably tumbled off a parking garage roof in Virginia Beach, Va. The four, who were on vacation together at the time, had worked at Saint Vincents for a combined 158 years.
The loss emotionally gutted the 24-bed neonatal intensive-care unit.
"This was going to be their shining moment," Panke says.
Eight years in the making, the documentary follows the fragile lives of three families and their newborns struggling for survival in Saint Vincents' neonatal intensive-care unit.
"It's hard to promote a film when this was supposed to be such a happy and proud moment for them and the (neonatal intensive-care unit)," Panke says. "But here's something that immortalizes their work, and once we get over the sting, maybe it's exactly the thing to let people know that that was their lives' work."
The film, which is listed under the TV title "A Baby's Battle for Life," will be rebroadcast on the Discovery Channel on Dec. 2.
No news is good news. With the dizzying pace of healthcare change these days, it's pretty rare to find healthcare systems actually issuing press releases announcing that there is no news. But on Oct. 11, Frankfort, Ill.-based Provena Health faxed out a release claiming exactly that--"No Provena Health Hospitals Are For Sale!"
This summer seven-hospital Provena announced a joint operating agreement merging its 254-bed Provena Saint Therese Medical Center with 116-bed Victory Memorial Hospital, both in Waukegan, Ill. The new organization is called Vista Health.
"We've had several inquiries recently from members of the media and regulatory agencies questioning if our hospitals have been sold or are in the process of being sold," the release explains. "The simple answer to both questions is, `No.' "
Is Provena protesting too much?
"This is a pre-emptive strike," Provena spokesman Clinton Giese says. "We didn't want our employees to get concerned over these rumors."
Drugs for sale. Don't expect presidential candidates Al Gore or George W. Bush to embrace this prescription drug plan. According to the U.S. attorney in Houston, local pharmacist William Carrillo allegedly developed a new business strategy to fight the high cost of prescription drugs--by fleecing the government.
Earlier this month, U.S. Attorney Mervyn Mosbacker announced a three-count indictment against Carrillo, charging him with conspiring to defraud the U.S. government, defrauding the government and selling stolen U.S. property.
Three pharmacy employees of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston were also indicted with Carrillo on charges of fraud, theft of government property and conspiracy to steal government property. The government charged that from 1995 to 2000 Beverly Scott, Doretha Chambers and Maggie Powell stole an estimated $1.3 million in drugs from the veterans' hospital and sold them to Carrillo, who owns the aptly named Economical Pharmacy in Houston. Carrillo then allegedly resold the drugs to his customers.
All four face 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines. If Carrillo is convicted, at least one thing will remain the same--he'll get his prescription drugs at a bargain.
Water baby. An Iowa boy was recently born underwater. No, this is not a splashy supermarket tabloid story--it's actually true.
Iowa Methodist Medical Center, Des Moines, is among the first hospitals to offer an underwater birthing technique.
On Oct. 9, Jacki Stevens, 35, squatted in a temporary pool in her room at the 489-bed facility. With warm water lapping around her, she pushed one last time, and Caleb slid into his father's hands in the pool.
"It just looked like a more natural way to give birth--more comfortable," Jacki Stevens says.
Certified nurse-midwife Dana Ericson paid about $1,000 for the special pool, which is 28 inches deep and 5 feet in diameter. She hopes other couples will choose water births.
"The mother feels a different level of support," Ericson says. "She feels buoyant." Infants born in water also benefit. "They're just calmer babies."
Bedside manner. Healthcare is a profession in which effective communication often takes a back seat to emptying waiting rooms and completing paperwork. That's why patients might be reassured to learn that there are still some doctors out there willing to sit down and talk.
Bennett Leventhal, M.D., director of psychiatry at the University of Chicago, has earned the Outstanding Physician Communicator Award from West Haven, Conn.-based Bayer Institute for Health Care Communication for using his communication skills to improve patient care.
Leventhal, who cares for children with psychiatric disabilities, says, "It is especially important to be concise and clear but also to show empathy and to establish a trust partnership with families."
"His questions were gentle, and his theories were presented in our layman's vocabulary so we could understand them," says Theresa Kachur, whose autistic daughter Leventhal treated. "Dr. Leventhal made us feel welcome to open up to him."