Although it will soon become legal for the average Joe to stroll around Ohio with a concealed gun, hospitals in the Buckeye State are seeking an exception to prohibit the packing of heat on their turf. If they are successful, however, theirs will be lonely outposts in a gun-toting nation.
Thirty-seven states have passed "right to carry" laws, according to the National Rifle Association. Meanwhile, only four states-Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska and Wisconsin-currently prohibit the carrying of concealed weapons, says Justin Marks, a research analyst with the National Conference of State Legislatures. Just three of the states that allow concealed weapons-Michigan, North Carolina and Oregon-have expressly exempted acute-care hospitals.
"The right to carry is a proven crime deterrent and will benefit all law-abiding Ohioans," says Chris Cox, NRA's chief lobbyist, in a statement on the NRA Web site.
Under the Ohio law, bars, day-care centers and public buildings may also seek exemptions from the law and prohibit guns on their premises.
The state of Washington prohibits guns in mental health centers and psychiatric hospitals and some states have prohibitions against the carrying of guns in public buildings, which would include public hospitals (See related story, Oct. 6, 2003, p. 14).
Mary Yost, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Hospital Association, said while right-to-carry laws have spread quickly across the country, hospital associations have been preoccupied with other legislative and reimbursement issues.
"This is still pretty fresh," she says, noting that she has heard from some members about how to legally post notices to prohibit concealed weapons on hospital grounds. "One high-profile incident, a family member walking into an ER waiting room, acting irrationally and shooting would get everyone's attention," she says.
Citing a shooting incident at a District of Columbia hospital several years ago, American Hospital Association spokesman Richard Wade says, "It doesn't matter what the law is, there are places in our society where the right to carry guns makes no sense at all."
Pencil it in
The healthcare calendar is chock full of observances from American Red Cross Month to YMCA Healthy Kids Day. Now you can add America's medical groups to this ever-growing list of custom-made celebrations.
A largely inconspicuous but nonetheless essential element of the nation's complex healthcare delivery system, medical group practices-they now represent about 67% of all doctors-will celebrate National Medical Group Practice Week this week.
It's the brainchild of the Medical Group Management Association. Why the public relations blitz after nearly eight decades of blissful anonymity? Well, most people don't know or understand the role of medical group practices, says William Jessee, president and CEO of the Englewood, Colo.-based MGMA.
"Mostly, it's just trying to get people in their communities to be more aware of group practices and what they do," Jessee says. "We're hoping this will change that."
A downsizing challenge
Stepping on a scale isn't something most people want to do in front of large crowds.
But earlier this month, about 152,000 people lined up and weighed in as part of the Discovery Health Channel's National Body Challenge, which is a campaign to promote healthier living in an effort to fight against the nation's ever-worsening obesity crisis. Those who enrolled had the opportunity to seek advice from dietitians and physical trainers.
The participants were instructed to fill out an online form, which enabled them to set up a detailed eating schedule. Also, they were given a three-month membership to Bally Total Fitness.
The weigh-ins took place at Bally centers and Discovery Health Channel stores across the country. Showing up at one of the sites was HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, who has been on a physical fitness kick during his time in office.
The participants will tip the scale once again on April 3 to see if they shed any pounds. Also in April, the Discovery Health Channel will air a six-part reality series detailing the plight of six contestants from six cites-Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Seattle and Washington-who took the challenge.
SimMan to the rescue
For a faster, cheaper and better path to more effective caregiver training, hospitals might need only to turn to SimMan.
At 5 feet 5 inches tall, 75 pounds and a price less than $30,000, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center's patient simulator, SimMan, is more manageable than the 6-foot-tall, $200,000 fake patient Outliers profiled last year for use in preparing healthcare workers (April 14, 2003, p. 36).
"(Caregivers) can learn on something they can't harm before working on patients," says Linda Burnes Bolton, vice president and chief nursing officer at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles. And use of the SimMan shortens the training process, so staff members can jump into the caregiving process sooner, she says.
"It responds just like a real human being, but it's safer," Bolton says. The mannequin's responses can give immediate feedback to nurses about what they're doing to the patient, she says. If the wrong treatment is provided, the mannequin will respond with a heart rate drop or blood pressure change. It can even stop breathing, depending on the programmed scenario.
That's one drawback, Bolton says. "You have to tell it what to do," she says. "It's not an android."