Congress has yet to pass legislation giving hospitals money for bioterrorism preparedness. But not everyone has given up on the nation's first line of defense. Two not-for-profit foundations have announced in recent weeks that they will help hospitals face potential bioterror threats.
The Palm Healthcare Foundation, West Palm Beach, Fla., is donating $250,000 to Florida hospitals to train employees in bioterrorism response and buy portable decontamination units and haz-mat suits for hospital emergency-room workers.
And the Joseph H. Kanter Foundation in Washington is providing an unspecified sum of money to support a partnership between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Washington-based eHealth Initiative, a coalition of more than 60 healthcare organizations.
Through that partnership, the CDC and the EHI are working with major healthcare technology vendors-including McKesson Corp. and Siemens Health Services-to help hospitals collect and analyze information that will enable them to quickly and effectively respond to bioterror threats.
Kanter, the sole backer of his healthcare-oriented foundation, says private-public partnerships are an innovative and important way to get things done in healthcare. "Government agencies can't move fast and need a businessman to tell them how to get more for their money and how to move faster," he says.
In Cipro don't trust. Have federal officials done a good job of addressing the public health threat from anthrax and the public's anxiety over potential new terrorist attacks in the wake of Sept. 11? No and no, say the experts at one Beltway think tank.
In indiscriminately touting the value of Cipro to treat people who thought they might have been exposed to anthrax spores, the federal government unintentionally may have accelerated the breeding of antibiotic-resistant diseases, say officials at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, Arlington, Va., which has studied bioterrorism issues.
That's particularly true since many people were told to take Cipro-a powerful, last-resort antibiotic that kills a wide variety of organisms-only for a few days while awaiting the results of their nasal swabs, and many others who were prescribed a full course of Cipro gave up before completing the treatment.
"The legacy effect is that we may have a whole series of antibiotic-resistant organisms," says Stephen Prior, research director for the institute's national security health policy center.
And as for alerts by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and homeland security czar Tom Ridge on unspecified terrorist threats, institute officials say those only added to anxiety-related mental disorders in the wake of Sept. 11. "Not having a trusted health spokesman in this time of danger is leading to a major mental health situation," says Bertram Brown, M.D., an institute board member.
LAMBS chopped. When Outliers last checked, the Lay Administrators Mutual Benefit Society, a tongue-in-cheek fraternal organization for hospital executives, had twice voted not to admit women to the organization. On both occasions a younger crowd known as rams supported a proposal to invite women to join while most retiree members, known as geldings, voted to maintain the status quo. The baas (that's nays to the rest of us) prevailed in both votes, leaving a number of LAMBS stewed enough to resign.
That led to an announcement by LAMBS officials of the group's demise: "It has become clear to us that most of the active working members (as opposed to the gelded variety) simply do not wish to have to withstand the scrutiny and have to explain their membership in an organization which restricts membership on the basis of gender." It's all so saaaaaad.
Fallen angel. And now we come to a lovely holiday tale, courtesy of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Bay Pines, Fla.
The brouhaha involved a tiny cherub placed atop the hospital's annual holiday tree in the lobby. After the tree went up Dec. 3, three black workers complained anonymously that the angel had white features and thus did not reflect the diversity of the hospital community.
After the angel was taken down, dozens of hospital workers complained to local media and even a congressman about the removal of the figure. Hospital Director Thomas Weaver promised to replace the angel with a more diverse-looking angel.
That didn't satisfy employees of various ethnic backgrounds, who said they wanted the first angel back. So Yancy Dorn, president of a union representing the majority of the 2,100 hospital employees, got involved. He says he was unhappy with Weaver's decision not to notify the union before removing the original cherub. "If you can't identify yourself with a complaint, then you don't have a complaint," Dorn says.
The white angel now rests atop the holiday tree.
"It's regrettable that so much time and effort had to be wasted on this, but the federal government is politically correct to the point where sometimes you forget what you're supposed to do," says hospital spokesman Laurence Christman.