HHS was rated at the bottom of the class for how it reports its performance. The organization ranked 22 out of 23 reporting federal agencies on the quality of its fiscal 2000 annual performance report in a score card released last week by George Mason University's Mercatus Center.
Agencies are required to produce annual reports and post them on their Web sites. Beginning next year the reports will be used by Congress to make budgeting decisions. The Mercatus Center, based in Arlington, Va., graded agencies' reports on a scale of 4 to 20 in each of three categories: transparency (how easy is it to read?), public benefit (are the goals and outcomes clear?) and leadership (is there a plan for improving?). The highest possible score is 60.
HHS received an eight for public benefits, a seven for transparency and a six for leadership, combining for a total of 21 points. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, with a total of 18, was the only agency with a lower score.
HHS was held out as a "bad influence" example in several sections of the Mercatus Center's report. Specifically, the report said, "Although HHS enunciates very good results-based goals, its report demonstrates no causal link between HHS activities and results." Also, it said, "The reader has no idea whether HHS was successful or not in any area, since only `selected performance stories' are told."
Interestingly, another federal agency with responsibility for healthcare services, the Department of Veterans Affairs, ranked No. 1 on this year's score card. The VA received a total of 49 points.
A bygone era. Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation's first hospital, celebrated its 250th birthday on May 11 in Philadelphia. The anniversary weekend kicked off that evening with a garden party for about 450 VIPs, followed by a public celebration the next day with health screenings, rare archive displays and local celebrities.
Founded in 1751 by Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Bond, M.D., the 414-bed hospital was home to the father of American psychiatry, Benjamin Rush, M.D. Its first resident was Jacob Ehrnzeller, who was indentured to the hospital for five years and three months at the age of 16 and forbidden during that time to "fornicate, play at cards, buy or sell goods, or run away." Among other things, the hospital also lays claim to having the first medical library and surgical amphitheater. The father of American surgery, Philip Syng Physick, M.D., originated the stomach pump at the hospital in 1812.
Here are other memories of a bygone era in acute care, courtesy of the hospital:
* Patients admitted to the hospital had to be sponsored by two tax-paying citizens to ensure "burial or travel deposits to indemnify the hospital, either from the expense of burial in case they die, or to defray the expense of carrying them back to their place of abode."
* Until anesthesia was developed in the 1840s, surgeons got patients "blind drunk, gave them opium or administered a sharp tap on the head with a mallet enough to render the patient unconscious and hopefully not dead."
* A patient menu in 1760 offered a pint of sweetened Indian meal gruel for breakfast, a half-pound of beef and a half-pound of potatoes or parsnips for lunch, and a pint of beer for supper.
* Stephen Girard, a banker and philanthropist, committed his wife, Mary, to the hospital in 1790 and paid to keep her there, even after she was well enough to be released.
The stench of war. Debate over nursing home issues in Florida is nothing new. But the donnybrook over a bill to cap damage awards in some resident-liability lawsuits and boost staffing takes the cake.
No wait. Make that the cow pie.
State Rep. Nancy Argenziano, a Republican who fought for even more staffing increases in the bill, didn't take it too kindly when Jodi Chase, a business lobbyist who opposed Argenziano's efforts, watched part of the floor debate on a TV in the legislator's office, according to the Tampa Tribune.
The next day, Argenziano sent a 25-pound, gift-wrapped box of cow manure to Chase, who lobbies for Associated Industries of Florida. The note attached to the box said: "I believe you deposited this in your uninvited visit to my office."
Chase, whose over-the-top lobbying earned her the nickname "Chase in your face," reportedly teared up over the incident and later told reporters, "I was appalled."
Argenziano refused to apologize. She voted against the bill, but it cleared the state House and Senate. Gov. Jeb Bush signed the measure last week.