Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Quilt

Members of the Community family express their thanks this year for many things. At the top of the list are their families, their friends, their jobs, and their faith. There is much to be grateful for at Thanksgiving time, and the 2009 Thanksgiving Quilt is being displayed throughout the hospital. Click on the following images to enlarge them. Happy thanksgiving, everyone.

My thanks. . .

Two years ago, Community introduced the Thanksgiving Quilt, after I borrowed the idea from my friend Peter McGinn, who was then President and CEO at United Health System (UHS) in Binghamton, NY.

Here is my submission to this year's Quilt:
My thanks to Peter McGinn, who taught us lessons in life and lessons in death with dignity -- and for the gift of "the Thanksgiving Quilt."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Of smoke and fire

This week we began enforcing a new county law that bans smoking within 100 feet of hospitals. I recall when hospitals used to allow smoking within their walls, decades ago.

It was a different time. Smoking was common in hospitals among patients, among hospital staff, and even among doctors. You could see doctors puffing on cigarettes as they made notes in patient charts.

Hospitals (and society in general) treated social smoking almost as if it were a civil right. A doctor's order was needed to keep a patient from smoking.

I smoked. I sat at my hospital desk and puffed away, oblivious to the smoke in the work environment. I remember bumming a cigarette from my boss.

At hospital board meetings each place setting had its own ash tray. Those meetings were filled with cigarettes glowing and pipes flaring.

When the first patients' rights regulation came from Albany, it included the right to a smoke-free room. Imagine that.

When Community General restricted smoking in its cafeteria to a designated area, it was a major upheaval. It was common to hear grousing about smoker discrimination.

Community General was the first Syracuse hospital to ban smoking among patients, and I recall the event that prompted it: a patient set fire to herself.

It was about 6:00 a.m. one morning. A confused patient decided she wanted to smoke. She had no matches because the nurses had taken them in compliance with the doctor's no-smoking order. The patient removed the cannula from her nose and placed it on a blanket, creating an oxygen-rich pocket.

The patient borrowed a cigarette lighter from her roommate, and when she used the lighter, her bed clothes burst into flame. The patient screamed. The nurses responded promptly. They sounded the alarm, and they rescued the patient, using blankets to smother flames that shot from the bed and scorched the wall, all the way to the ceiling.

Hospital engineers in the fire brigade arrived quickly, making sure the fire was out and evacuating smoke from the room and hallway. The fire department complimented our nurses and engineers on their work that day. Their prompt and correct actions saved the patient and prevented harm to others.

That single episode clarified what was at stake --the increased risk of fire that smoking posed for patients and for all of us in hospital buildings.

Since then, of course, there has been broad recognition of the dangers of smoking. More than fire, those risks include ambient smoke.

Thanks to the new county law, smoking has now been pushed farther from hospital walkways and entrances. There are, however, still far too many smokers, including health care workers, and the evidence of that is just 100 feet down the sidewalk.

- - -

I used some of the information above in a somewhat different form in a letter to employees on October 4, 2003.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Enforcing the County law against smoking

Yesterday - "The Great American Smokeout" - was the first day Community General and other Syracuse hospitals began enforcing Onondaga County's new law that bans smoking within 100 feet of a hospital.

At Community the smoking ban extends across the 42-acre campus. Visitors are permitted to smoke only in a single designated area, located 100 feet from the Diagnostic Center building.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The editorial on hospital affiliation

Said The Post-Standard last week:

. . .[T]here is renewed talk of affiliation between Crouse and Community General, and such talk deserves to be encouraged. . . .

The two hospitals should be able to find ways to benefit from closer association, both in containing their costs and fulfilling their missions.

Here's the link to the newspaper's editorial.

Register online for "Wine & Wildlife"

There still time to sign up for the "Wine and Wildlife" party this Friday at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo at Burnet Park.

You can register online for this fund raiser by the Auxiliary to Community General Hospital. Tickets are $35 apiece in advance ($40 at the door).

Center for Orthopedics nears completion

There's been great progress on Community's Center for Orthopedics, now under construction as 36 private rooms on the hospital's sixth floor.

Sheet rock has been installed, room finishes are in progress, tile is on bathroom walls, and flooring and millwork is about to stat.

The design is by King & King Architects and the construction manager is Heuber Breuer Cosntruction.

With the work more than 60% complete, we are looking for patient occupancy as early as February 1.

HealthGrades rates Community the number one hospital for orthopedic surgery in New York State.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

H1N1 and health worker vaccinations

I am pleased to say that 90% of the employees at Community General Hospital have been vaccinated against the seasonal flu. That's a high proportion, and it should help protect our patients.

Vaccinations against the H1N1 (swine) flu started several weeks after the seasonal flu vaccine arrived, and to date about 50% of Community's employees have received the H1N1 vaccine. The Infection Control and Employee Health Departments are following-up with employees, and we are hoping for a higher vaccination rate.

When the New York State Department Health mandated flu vaccine for heath care workers, there was a fair amount of controversy, resulting in a lawsuit and a temporary injunction. With H1N1 vaccine in short supply, the state has since rescinded its mandate but promised to introduce permanent regulations to require vaccinations for health care workers in the future.

Given the state controversy and the mass media stories about the vaccine safety, some people may have second thoughts about the H1N1 vaccine.

Yesterday the Washington Post reported that 98,000 people have been hospitalized so far with H1N1 flu, with more than one-third of them under age 17. Of the 3,900 deaths from the H1N1 flu, fully 75% have been in adults between the ages of 18 and 64. This is different from the experience of seasonal influenza, in which 90% of the deaths typically occur in those 65 years of age and older.

There are risks to every medical procedure, of course, but the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration report the H1N1 vaccine to be safe, and these agencies say the benefits of the H1N1 vaccine “will far outweigh the risks.” For a review of vaccine side effects, as well of the risks of the H1N1 flu itself, go to the CDC’s “General Questions and Answers on 2009 H1N1 Influenza Vaccine Safety.”

I urge everyone who is able to be vaccinated against the H1N1 virus.