Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Foundation gala raised $310,000

There were more than 600 guests at last week's "Jeans and Jewels" Gala at the Hotel Syracuse -- all in support of the Community General Foundation.

The Gala raised more than $310,000 for Community General Hospital, making it the most successful such event in the Foundation’s history. That amount includes the generous $50,000 gift from the Auxiliary to Community General Hospital.

That's Auxiliary President Dottie DeSimone dancing with husband Jeffrey DeSimone, MD, a general and bariatric surgeon.

My special thanks to the 2009 Gala Committee and its co-chairs Jim Barger, Key Bank senior vice president (at left, in photo), and Mark Re, vice president and general manager of Gallinger RealtyUSA (at right). Through their committee's hard work, more than 60 companies, event patrons and donors helped the Foundation achieve its record-setting results.

Leadership sponsors for the 2009 Gala included the Community General Hospital Medical Staff; the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local #43; the Laboratory Alliance of Central New York; the Pepsi Bottling Group; Bond, Schoeneck & King, PLLC; and the Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.

Honored at the Gala were the FamilyCare Medical Group, PC; Burns Bros.; along with three former hospital board members: William Burrows, Donald Dew, and John Morrissey, Jr.

It was a great evening as guests, who combined evening attire with blue jeans, enjoyed Pascale’s Catering and three choices of bands: Prime Time, the DeSantis Band and Andrea Miceli Trio.

As one party-goer commented, "This event makes a prestigious affair feel like a fun of a night with friends."

Saturday, October 24, 2009

New TV spot today

INFOMERCIAL Community General Hospital "Health Grades Awards" from Solon Quinn on Vimeo.

Here's the new television spot about Community General Hospital's HealthGrades awards. It premiers today during the Syracuse -Akron football game at 3:30 p.m.

Full disclosure: The spot is by 7053 Productions, the production company owned by Solon L. Quinn, my son.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Top honors in orthopedics, maternity & prostate surgery

For 2009/2010, HealthGrades has awarded Community General its Orthopedic Surgery Excellence Award, one of just two hospitals in New York State so designated.

HealthGrades gives its five-star honors to Community's total hip and total knee joint replacement surgery, to the back & neck surgery (for spinal fusion and for surgeries without fusion), and to our repair of hip fractures. Community has received the highest honors in orthopedics for five consecutive years – recognizing the excellence of our growing orthopedic service. A new Center for Orthopedics will open on Community's sixth floor early next year.

Community also gets HealthGrades' top honors in Maternity Care, one of 21 New York hospitals to receive its Maternity Service Excellence designation.

With the busiest robot-assisted surgery in Syracuse, Community is also the only Syracuse hospital five-star rated in prostate surgery.

My thanks and congratulations for these honors goes to Community's physicians and nurses, and to the supporting staff. Working together they have helped achieve (and increase the number of) high marks we receive.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Considering the changes ahead

Over the summer, Community General Hospital began working with FTI Consultants, a national firm, to assist with strategic planning to help us prepare for changes associated with health care reform. We have recently provided the results of FTI’s research to our Board of Directors and to the Medical Executive Committee. Our planning activity will continue this fall.

Among the options presented by our consultant is the development of a collaboration with another hospital, and Crouse Hospital has been identified as our leading potential partner.

Independent of our planning process, Crouse Hospital has worked with its own strategic planning consultant (a national firm called Sg2), and its planning has identified Community General as a potential partner. Consistent with these results, I have held preliminary discussions with Dr. Paul Kronenberg, President & CEO of Crouse Hospital, regarding the potential community benefits of working together.

The fact that Community and Crouse are talking again may seem surprising, given our past, unsuccessful relationship in the Health Alliance of CNY (1999-2002). However, the health care world is different today with new regulatory and financial pressures on hospitals and doctors, and there are important reasons for looking at ways we might work together, as well as important lessons to be learned from our past experience.

The progress each hospital has made since 2002 is noteworthy. For example, HealthGrades has awarded Community its five-star service designation for several years, while Crouse was named “Business of the Year” by the Greater Syracuse Chamber of Commerce and has been the recipient of a “Human Resources Excellence – Employer of Choice Award” from the Central New York Chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management. In addition, both Community and Crouse were named “Top 100” most improved hospitals by Thomson Reuters.

To date, our discussions have been exploratory, and both hospitals will continue with normal business operations. As discussions progress, recommendations will be developed for the Board of Directors, and we will involve physician and clinical leaders.

Community General's physicians, employees, and volunteers are dedicated to advance health care in Central New York that is high quality, safe, compassionate, and cost effective. That has not, and will not, change.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The limited vaccine supply

The photo is from the flu vaccine clinics at Community General Hospital.

To date, some 85% of Community’s employees have been vaccinated against seasonal flu. That’s a significant number, but we have not yet reached 100%, as required by the New York State Commissioner of Health.

Yesterday a State Supreme Court judge issued a temporary restraining order that bars the State Commissioner from mandating flu shots for hospital personnel. Stay tuned.

Although we received all the seasonal flu vaccine we ordered, our order was placed long before the Commissioner mandated 100% vaccinations. Because of the mandate, the vaccine use rate is greater than expected, and this has reduced the amount of vaccine we have available for the general community.

Each year Community General provides flu vaccinations for workers at dozens of local companies. Because of the higher vaccine rate this season, we will be far short of the supply needed for these companies.

In addition, other hospitals reportedly do not have enough vaccine even for their own staffs to meet the 100% directive.

Because the supplies of seasonal flu vaccine are limited, we notified the Onondaga County Health Commissioner that, after we comply with our flu plan and the state mandate, we will transfer the limited amount remaining to the County for its redistribution based on priority community needs.

We have also informed area companies about the vaccine supply problem. They are not happy, understandably so. The companies have a heightened awareness of influenza risk this year, and their employees have been counting on Community’s annual flu shots. I am sorry we will not have the vaccine for our company flu clinics, as planned.

With respect to H1N1 (“swine flu”), Community received a supply of the vaccine last week, and vaccinations for medical staff, employees, and volunteers begin October 22.

Flu vaccines for health care workers are a patient safety issue. By protecting ourselves, we confer a measure of protection on the vulnerable patients in our care.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Civil liberties v. mandatory flu shots

"I just don't like to have somebody tell me what to put in my body. . . .My biggest concern is my civil liberties."

That, according to The Post-Standard, is the opinion of a registered nurse who works at another Syracuse hospital. The nurse is referring to a new state policy requiring all hospital staff to have the flu vaccine. [1]

The mandate becomes effective November 30, when flu vaccinations are required for anyone working in a hospital ("paid or unpaid") with direct patient care responsibilities. The mandate also includes hospital personnel “whose activities are such that they pose a risk of transmission of influenza to patients or to those who provide direct care to patients.”

In an open letter to health care workers last month, Dr. Richard Daines, New York's health commissioner, said:
[T]he facts are very clear: the welfare of patients is, without any doubt, best served by the very high rates of staff immunity that can only be achieved with mandatory influenza vaccination – not the 40-50% rates of staff immunization historically achieved with even the most vigorous of voluntary programs.
Dr. Daines is referring to the phenomenon of herd immunity, about which I wrote last year. The "herd effect" is typically achieved at high levels of immunity, say, 80% or more. A source of justifiable pride: last year Community's employees achieved an 85% flu vaccination rate on a voluntary basis, possibly the highest number in the state.

What is the responsibility of a hospital employee to take all reasonable precautions to prevent the spread of infection among patients? Are a citizen's individual rights subordinate to the individual's responsibility, when working in a hospital, to minimize health risks for patients?

In the case of the influenza, Dr. Daines is squarely on the side caregiver responsibility: “We as health care workers need to put patients’ interests ahead of our own preferences,” he said, according to The Post-Standard.

A similar thought was expressed last month by a physician at Community's medical executive committee. Following a brief discussion about the state's vaccination requirement, the doctor observed: “The regulation…represents a game change," he said, "in which there is no right for a caregiver to expose a patient to additional risk.”

Flu shots are not the first such mandate for hospital staffs. New York has long required hospital workers to be immunized against measles and rubella as a condition of employment. The state also requires each of us in a hospital to have an annual tuberculosis test.

I am happy to report that, as of last week, 1,092 of Community's employees, physicians and volunteers have been vaccinated against the seasonal flu. More flu clinics for hospital staff are scheduled, as we willingly comply with the state's patient safety requirement.

My thanks, especially, to hospital volunteers, who are covered by the regulation, as they roll up their sleeves for the good of patients.

- - -

[1] In a letter dated August 26, 2009, the State Department of Health cited an “emergency regulation” of August 13, requiring vaccinations of all hospital personnel. The regulation applies to both seasonal flu and the H1N1 (swine) flu vaccines.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Sign of progress

A sign of progress at Community this week is the construction crane outside the Emergency Department. The crane is working on the Center for Orthopedics, which is under construction on the sixth floor.

The new Center should be ready for its first patients in January 2010.

The project is made possible by a $7.6 million state grant, part of a larger award made for Community General Hospital and Van Duyn Home & Hospital in compliance with the recommendations of the Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century (the Berger Commission).

Huddled masses

When hospitals restricted smoking some years ago, there was an unintended side effect.

Banning smoking on a hospital campus (such as at University Hospital) pushed smokers into huddled masses on public walkways just outside hospital jurisdiction. The result was a cloud of tobacco smoke - and an obstacle course - through which patients and visitors had to travel going to and from a hospital.

Thanks to a new county law, no smoking will be allowed within 100 feet of a hospital or its property. The bill was introduced by County Legislator Tom Buckle, passed by the legislature, and signed into law last week by County Executive Joanie Mahoney. Effective November 1, the law will be enforceable by a $50 fine.

With its large campus footprint, Community General has been able to keep smokers away from its entrances and adjacent walkways for years. The county law will allow the city hospitals to keep their walkways free of smokers, as well.