If Tommy Thompson's day job as HHS secretary doesn't work out, he might be able to fall back on a career in comedy.
Addressing some 2,200 hospital executives at last week's American Hospital Association annual membership meeting, Thompson tried out some new material in his humorous retelling of the countrified governor who's come to the big city to fix out-of-touch federal programs.
Complaining about HCFA's image problem, for example, Thompson suggested an acronym change to make the agency a little more lovable because "it's hard to like a HCFA.
"What about the Medicare and Medicaid Agency-MAMA?" he quipped.
Describing how hard it was to persuade HHS to grant exemptions to the Wisconsin Medicaid and welfare programs when he was governor, he said, "I thought (HCFA) was some robot programmed to say, `No! More information (needed from the state).' "
Endnote: Last week, Thompson temporarily moved his entire staff to HCFA's main offices in Baltimore to run the agency for a week; he hoped to glean an inside perspective on how HCFA operates. But in keeping with the habit of past HCFA chiefs, his first order of business as "acting administrator" was to return to Washington to give a speech. He kicked off the Monday morning federal policy symposium of the AHA's meeting.
Dalton keeps his seat. James Dalton, an American Hospital Association board member and former head of Quorum Health Group, Brentwood, Tenn., was a man without a hospital company during the AHA's annual meeting last week in Washington.
That's because on April 27, the day before the meeting began, Triad Hospitals, Dallas, completed its $2.4 billion acquisition of Quorum.
Although Dalton, 58, isn't running a hospital company anymore, he'll keep his seat on the AHA board. His term expires in 2003.
To be a board member, a person has to be affiliated with an AHA member organization. Triad is an AHA member, and Dalton now holds a seat on Triad's board.
Big shoes to fill. The Service Employees International Union Nurse Alliance is calling on nurses across the country to package up their old shoes and send a pungent message to Congress-namely, that there aren't enough nurses.
On Wednesday, the union, which represents more than 110,000 nurses, will line the U.S. Capitol steps with hundreds of nursing shoes, shoes that need to be filled if patients are to get the care they need. The country is projected to have 400,000 fewer nurses than it needs by 2020, according to a study released by the SEIU last week. The union says the number of hospital employees on staff for each patient discharge, adjusted to reflect the rise in severity of illness, dropped by more than 13% from 1990 to 1999.
The SEIU's rally in Washington is part of National Nurses Week, which runs from May 6-12.
Targeting domestic violence. Recognizing the importance of treating the problem rather than just the symptoms, 177-bed Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., is developing a model curriculum to train its emergency-room personnel how to carefully and compassionately screen mothers for signs of domestic violence. Though the hospital's doctors, nurses and support staff routinely monitor their young patients for evidence of abuse, head ER physicians at Children's Mercy say more attention needs to be paid to mothers who may be victims of abuse.
Abused moms who don't exhibit some of the more obvious symptoms such as bruises, which might be noticed when they bring their child to the ER for treatment, are especially hard to detect. "It's becoming a more common question we're asking when children (are treated) for abuse because we know those two can go hand in hand," says Jennifer Stallbaumer-Rouyer, project coordinator for the innovative initiative "Intimate Partner Violence Education and Protocol: A Model for the Child-Centered Visit."
HHS will fund the project, providing resources and safety for women with a $575,000 grant over three years. Children's Mercy already has been working with the Rose Brooks Center, a shelter for battered women in Kansas City. The first two years of the project will be spent researching how to ask moms sensitive questions, and developing and implementing a training curriculum.
"There's no established protocol on this and there's been no training on it," Stallbaumer-Rouyer says. Physicians, nurses and ER support staff will begin participating in focus groups this month to strategize and share their experiences with handling past cases. A cross section of 60 women who've brought a child to the ER sometime during that child's life also will meet in focus groups broken down by ethnicity.
"We want to know how they feel about it and how they think it should be done so that we can pursue this in the most sensitive and appropriate way," Stallbaumer-Rouyer says. After the conclusion of the program's third year, Children's Mercy hopes to replicate its lifesaving learning and screening models at other children's hospital ERs across the nation.