Pat Sajak, the host of the popular TV game show "Wheel of Fortune," bought more than a vowel for Anne Arundel Medical Center Foundation when he and his wife, Lesly, donated $1 million for construction of a new breast center.
The Sajaks and their children live in Severna Park, Md., for part of each year. That's not far from 308-bed Anne Arundel Medical Center's Medical Park campus in Annapolis, Md., where the new breast center is being built.
"What struck us all with the Sajaks' gift was the quiet, sincere way they made it," says Lorraine Tafra, M.D., director of the breast center. "They acknowledged that they are not experts on this disease and they want to learn more, but at the same time, they wanted to do something helpful for women and their families in (Anne Arundel County)."
The center, set to open in March 2001, will feature ambulatory services such as diagnostic mammography, office space for physicians, a resource library for patients and a neuroscience center.
Hospital officials say they plan to name the breast center the Sajak Pavilion in honor of its famous benefactors. Is the Vanna White Medical Center far behind?
Small hospital succeeds in big challenge. A bus accident can overwhelm even a big-city hospital's emergency room. But how did 23-bed St. Luke's Tri-State Hospital in Bowman, N.D., handle 51 patients who were hurt when their bus overturned last month?
Hallways were pressed into service as a triage area. Caregivers from the closest neighboring hospital, West River Regional Medical Center in Hettinger, N.D., made the 45-mile trip to help. All the patients were stabilized and either released or sent on to other hospitals.
"It's important for facilities like ours to be maintained to handle a situation like this," hospital Administrator Darrold Bertsch says. "This was really a testimonial for a community coming together. We had people come up to the hospital and just visit with people and talk to them while they were waiting to be treated."
The patients were on the return leg of a trip from their native Calgary, Alberta, to the casinos in Deadwood, S.D. High winds overturned the bus and kept emergency helicopters from airlifting the most critically injured patients to 208-bed Medcenter One in Bismarck, N.D., Bertsch says. A few patients rode in ambulances on the 175-mile trip to Medcenter One, and one patient was flown on a small plane.
Bertsch not only spoke proudly of his staff and their efforts but also of having the chance to bolster the case for small-town hospitals.
"The plight of rural facilities is so tenuous right now, and we have to make sure our rural areas have access to healthcare facilities," Bertsch says. "If these people had to be transported 80 miles to other hospitals, just think of the logistics of taking them another two hours. Some of the outcomes may have been different."
Whistleblowing on the Web. Stephanie Fletcher is a crooked healthcare provider's worst nightmare: a former hospital intensive-care unit nurse and home health administrator who knows how to navigate the healthcare system and has many plaintiff lawyer friends and an army of potential whistleblowers.
Earlier this year Fletcher, who lives in Marina del Rey, Calif., and works as a legal nurse consultant, launched a Web site for whistleblowers. Funded with $25,000 from her $630,000 portion of a $3.4 million settlement from a Hawaiian healthcare system, www.justwhisper.com offers advice, empathy and information, kind of an online support group for people confronted with healthcare fraud.
Fletcher says more than 8,300 surfers have logged onto her site and she has personally exchanged e-mails with 1,500 of them since she began the Web site in February. Fletcher says at least two of those contacts have resulted in whistleblower lawsuits or investigations. She refers potential whistleblowers to Medicare and other government and watchdog sites and federal healthcare laws. "Most don't want to go to a lawyer or file a lawsuit," Fletcher says. "They just want it to stop and they don't know where else to go."
Hospital hacker. Claiming he was on a mission to expose the vulnerabilities of hospital computer systems, a hacker broke into the University of Washington Medical Center's internal network and gained access to private patient records, according to SecurityFocus.com, a San Mateo, Calif.-based Web site that tracks electronic security trends.
At first the hospital said its systems had not been tampered with, only to later acknowledge the problem.
"(Initially) we had no evidence that a hacking incident last summer had actually gained access to confidential patient data," says Tom Martin, director and chief information officer of the 376-bed facility in Seattle.
"Now, we have received the first tangible evidence from news-gathering organizations that someone did, in fact, gain criminal access to a limited number of administrative databases that contain some confidential information on at least 5,000 cardiology and rehabilitation medicine patients treated at our hospital."
The alleged hacker, a 25-year-old Dutch man and computer security consultant who goes by the name "Kane," told SecurityFocus.com that "all the data taken from these computers was taken over the Internet."
The Clinton administration is set to issue regulations designed to protect electronic patient information. But until hospitals have complied with those rules, their networks may be susceptible to mischief, experts say.