Last week, nurses sounded the alarm-literally-about the problems of mandatory overtime.
More than 200 Service Employees International Union and AFL-CIO nurses set off alarm clocks in front of the U.S. Capitol in support of the Safe Nursing and Patient Care Act, a broad bill that would limit the use of mandatory overtime for nurses except in the case of an emergency.
"Patients need quality time, not overtime," they chanted as the alarms rang.
Nurses work an average of 338 hours of overtime per year, a factor that discourages people from entering the nursing profession, union officials say. "They're not going to come, or they're not going to stay if conditions don't improve," says Diane Sosne, co-chair of the SEIU National Nurse Alliance.
The legislation would help the staffing shortage, Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), who introduced the House version of the bill, told rally members. "This is a quality-of-care issue; this is not a labor issue," he said.
The bill has been introduced in the Senate by Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and has bipartisan support, the co-sponsors say.
States have shown interest in restrictions on mandatory overtime. Five states-Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington-already have placed restrictions on mandatory nurse overtime, and 18 more are considering similar action, according to the SEIU.
That's reel money
The University of California Los Angeles was singing "Hooray for Hollywood" last week when movie and music mogul David Geffen donated $200 million to the university's medical school.
The gift-the largest single donation ever given to a U.S. medical school-is a huge coup for UCLA, not only because of its size but also because of its scope: Geffen gave the 50-year-old medical school free rein in deciding how to use the money, an uncommon step for a major donor.
"This is very, very unusual," says Gerald Levey, M.D., dean of the UCLA medical school. "Because it is unrestricted, it gives the school the opportunity to use the money to start new programs that the faculty believes are the appropriate programs for the future, and these will change over time."
Geffen, who co-founded the production company Dreamworks SKG with Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg in 1994, will get his name emblazoned on the medical school, which will be called the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
In a written statement, Geffen, 59, said he wanted to continue to support organizations based in his hometown of Los Angeles. The entertainment executive has donated millions of dollars to other healthcare causes, including $2.5 million to AIDS Project Los Angeles, $2.5 million to the Gay Men's Health Crisis in New York, $1.4 million to AIDS Action in Washington, D.C., and $1 million to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.
Geffen, who served on the University of California's board of regents from 1980 to 1987, has given to UCLA before. A $5 million donation resulted in the naming of the university's theater as the Geffen Playhouse.
Geffen's latest donation, however, amounts to more than one-third of the medical school's existing endowment, which stood at $587 million last June, Levey said.
For now, the donation and interest it earns will be used to recruit and retain top physicians and scientists, to support financial aid for medical students and to expand research into such areas as genetics and vaccines, Levey said.
Geffen, whose net worth is estimated at $3.9 billion, began his career at age 20 in the mailroom of the prestigious William Morris Agency in New York. Ironically, he later admitted that he had faked a UCLA degree in theater arts on his resume to land the job.
Worming its way in
The letters to the editor of the American Hospital Association's online newsletter were unanimous: an Internet intruder had attacked.
On May 6 a hacker accessed the AHA News Now e-mail list and sent a message titled "A very powful (sic) tool." Attached to the e-mail disguised as an issue of the newsletter was the "Klez worm," a virus that deletes files from a computer's hard drive and replaces them with corrupt files of the same size. It was mailed to the entire list, some 21,500 people worldwide. AHA News Now Executive Director Craig Webb discovered the problem after receiving thousands of e-mails from subscribers informing him of the infected attachment.
Despite the potential for widespread damage, Webb says he doesn't believe that any recipients' computers were infected, because the Klez worm is easily detected by most antivirus software. "There was a wonderful sense of community," Webb said. "(The responses) had to be at least 9-to-1 positive. There were very few rants."
Webb sent subscribers an "e-pology," warning against opening the infected message and promising improvements in security procedures to prevent a recurrence. The message advised subscribers to be wary of mysterious messages, stating that the newsletter carries an AHA News Now subject line and that the e-mails do not include attachments. He even went so far as to criticize the syntax-challenged hacker's spelling. "Some of our spelling errors over the years have been doozies, but the poor English used in the hacker's message ought to raise suspicions."