Relations between the board and management have been rocky at the public hospital system in Houston, where Harris County (Texas) Hospital District President and CEO John Guest abruptly tendered his resignation April 30, only to withdraw it a few weeks later.
Guest, 54, cited only "philosophical differences" with the board when he submitted his resignation, which was to take effect Aug. 30. He has been working without a contract since January.
Guest has been in the hot seat since his tenure began in March 2000. He came under criminal investigation by the county district attorney's office two years ago for giving free care to illegal indigents, a probe that was aborted. This year, the 774-bed district is battling a projected budget shortfall.
The two sides managed to patch things up, at least partially. After a 95-minute closed-door session May 30, the board announced that Guest had rescinded his resignation.
But in their written statements, the board and management did not exactly gush with mutual praise.
Guest says, "I'm happy with the opportunity to continue my work with the hospital district." He adds, "I feel there is still a lot of work to be done here, and I want to be a part of the hospital district's future growth and improvement." He declined further comment.
Meanwhile, board Chairwoman Mary Spinks says she is "pleased he's staying put. It's certainly better than having to go through a national search for his replacement."
Take the C train
How can you tell when a health system is doing well for itself? When it has its own elevated train.
Three-hospital Clarian Health Partners, Indianapolis, which is building two new hospitals in the region at a cost of $226 million, is debuting the People Mover train linking its two city campuses. Later this month, the $40 million, 1.5 mile-long route will connect Riley Hospital for Children and Indiana University Hospital with Methodist Hospital.
Sam Odle, Clarian's COO, calls the train "the equivalent of a horizontal elevator" that will ease life for patients and workers alike. A physician who works at both hospitals, Russell Meldrum, says the five-minute train ride will save him an hour in daily travel by car.
Brett Walker, Clarian's physician recruiter, says the train also will eliminate hassles and help attract doctors and other workers to the hospitals. "It creates a lot of discussion and it really puts us on the map."
Afloat on the good ship MRI
Open MRI helps patients relax during diagnostic procedures, as they don't have to lie in an enclosed tube, enduring claustrophobia along with the worry that something is wrong with them. A Dallas diagnostic radiology clinic has taken the concept further, giving patients the image of floating at sea.
The company, Preferred Imaging, already had experimented with painting an MRI machine at another clinic to resemble a garden. But the latest motif is more comprehensive, with the entire room, including the MRI machine, ceiling and floor painted in calming hues of blue, green and yellow. Fish, sea turtles and other aquatic images can be seen.
"Every day we see patients frightened from either past experiences or just the unknown, and we are working to put them at ease as they become a part of our new imaging environments and experience a truly open MRI," says James Webb, president of the company that owns the clinics.
Following the paper
A Wisconsin businessman is reaping the benefits of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act privacy regulations. They mean new customers for his mobile shredding company.
"We are starting to see a lot more business coming from the clinics and the hospitals, even the pharmacies," says Bob Korkos, co-owner of Guardian Document Shredding in Mequon, a Milwaukee suburb.
Healthcare workers are very careful about medical records, and his truck has a video screen so a client can watch the shredding-a final check that no private information gets before the wrong eyes, Korkos says.
The new privacy rules took effect April 14 for hospitals, pharmacies, health insurance companies and other healthcare groups. They prohibit disclosure, without patient permission, of information for reasons unrelated to healthcare. The change has led to a new round of paperwork for Wisconsin hospitals and some pharmacy remodeling, as well as a few irate customers and frustrated reporters trying to get information from what used to be routine sources.
Korkos' year-old company brings a shredder on-site to dispose of medical records and paperwork, assuring medical officials that the records are destroyed before the truck leaves, unlike records that are hauled away to a shredder, Korkos says.
"HIPAA has been very good for us," he says.