With an estimated 145 Californians expected to be listed on the state's Oct. 7 gubernatorial recall election ballot, it shouldn't be surprising that several are from the healthcare arena.
A doctor, a paramedic, an anti-HMO crusader and a board member of a healthcare district all have thrown themselves into the wild election. (At deadline, the state had not released the final list of certified candidates.)
Sharon Rushford, an independent and owner of Rushford Construction Co. in Santa Clara, Calif., doesn't have any political experience, but she says she has something more relevant for the governor's job-a history of fighting managed care. She's involved with the Kaiser Permanente Reform Committee and the newly formed Managed Care Reform Council, both aimed at reforming the managed-care industry, which they accuse of a wide range of abuses.
Rushford became passionate about healthcare reform many years ago when she says her husband's leg was needlessly amputated by an allegedly incompetent doctor who was sued several times and allowed to continue to practice. The Rushfords lost the arbitration case five years ago, but she continues to fight for her causes.
"When you have medical malpractice caps, no attorney will take your case for a measly percentage of $250,000," Rushford says.
On the other hand, Frank Macaluso Jr., aka Dr. Mac, a radiologist at 425-bed Kaweah Delta Health Care District in Visalia, Calif., is just angry. "The recall thing is ridiculous," he says. "It's an outrageous attempt by wealthy independents to steal the (governor's) seat from a person who was rightfully elected."
Macaluso's credentials for running the state of California include 20 years of experience with various oil and gas companies, which he says will help him fix the state's energy problem, as well as his work as chairman of the radiology department. Macaluso thinks his various board and committee roles give him "more political experience than the President's Council on Physical Fitness," an allusion to rival Arnold Schwarzenegger's sole government experience as a past chairman of the sports council.
Dr. Mac is serious about the race. He's prepared to spend $500,000 and has prepared some radio spots based on the rock song "Another One Bites the Dust" to air beginning this week.
Another reason for due diligence
When Indianapolis officials began negotiating to pay the state $450,000 for the 155-year-old former Central State Hospital, they might have expected to find asbestos, mercury or creepy horror stories from the long-shuttered mental institution.
What was found during a due diligence inspection were bodies of mental patients in unmarked graves. They died there dating back to the hospital's establishment in 1848. Formerly known as the Indiana Hospital for the Insane, Central was Indiana's first state-run mental hospital, housing at its peak more than 1,800 patients. The deinstitutionalization movement in the 1960s and 1970s saw inpatient population decline and the hospital closed in 1994. Its former pathology department, built in 1896, now serves as the Indiana Medical History Museum.
Gordon Hendry, special counsel to Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson, said the cemetery in the northwest portion of the property occupies less than 1% of the 146-acre site, not enough to spook the sale.
Hendry said the mayor appointed a 25-member commission to explore redevelopment options for the large site. The city plans to relocate its mounted police patrol to the grounds and has hired the Ball State University College of Architecture and Planning to perform a survey.
"Old maps and records suggest that patients who died in the mental health facilities were buried in the northwest part of the property. We don't know how many," Hendry says. "The mayor has said if the city finds anything, they would treat those graves with the respect they deserve and follow the laws governing burial places."
The award explosion in the business world continues unabated, and now the once-pedestrian annual report is the subject of heated competition.
The League of American Communications Professionals, a San Diego-based association of public relations specialists, fielded entries from more than 1,000 companies in compiling its top 100 list, and healthcare earned a share of the booty.
The 2002 winners of the "Vision Awards," announced last week, include 814-bed Yale-New Haven (Conn.) Hospital, which placed 15th for an annual report whose cover featured a simple, stark design-a big white "H," the international symbol for hospitals, on a blue background.
"Simple, clear and powerful," Katie Krauss, the hospital's assistant director of communications, described the tome. "It speaks directly to patients and consumers."
More than 1,000 companies vied for a spot on the list, which featured only a handful of healthcare-related organizations. Yale-New Haven, which earned the top platinum award in the healthcare category, was joined by group purchaser Neoforma, San Jose, Calif. (No. 36); insurer WellPoint Health Networks, Thousand Oaks, Calif. (72); and Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville (91). Others on the list: the U.S. State Department, Halliburton, General Electric Co. and Dell. The top spot went to Henkel, the German consumer products company.
"Lots of heavy hitters," says William Gombeski, Yale-New Haven's marketing and communications director. The hospital's annual report was titled, Finding the Right Hospital, which might otherwise be interpreted as a handy guide to finding your way to ... well, Yale-New Haven. That theme-the emphasis on providing information to the public-was developed by Gombeski, who described the document as the "most consumer-oriented annual report I've ever seen in my career."
News of the "Vision Awards" comes in the wake of another big honor for Yale-New Haven, which proudly announces on its Web site that it's ranked among the nation's best hospitals by U.S. News & World Report in 12 specialties.