Beth Israel MRSA crisis
The discovery of 19 infants and 18 mothers with Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections at Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center led to a flurry of news and inspections this week. The hospital is now bracing for a hospital-wide Center for Medicare Services inspection triggered by the case.
First, a disclosure: I had a baby there 11 years ago.
Note the comment from an anxious parent-to-be on the BIDMC CEO Paul Levy’s blog.
From the The Boston Globe:
“During a surprise visit last month, state investigators witnessed a worker in the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center nursery sloppily cleaning a board that had been used during a minor surgery, contaminating a nearby counter. They also discovered during the inspection that nurses treating the tiniest of babies had received no special training in how to transfuse blood into their delicate veins.
“And they watched as a doctor used medical instruments to examine the eyes and ears of one infant – and, then, a half-hour later, used the same ones on a second baby without disinfecting them.
“These and other safety lapses, made public yesterday, turned up during an investigation prompted by a cluster of hard-to-treat bacterial infections among mothers and their new borns who had been at the Harvard-affiliated hospital since late last year.”
Here’s the memo Levy sent to staff:
“We take the report on our lapses and the expected CMS visit very seriously. When we make this report available to all, you may find reading the report makes you uncomfortable. It is difficult for a group of expert and dedicated staff like our colleagues in Obstetrics and Newborn services to go through this process. … Yet the truth is any one of us at any time could be subjected to the same scrutiny and observation and we each need to ask ourselves how we would fare in this situation.”
The Boston University biolab was delayed again Wednesday when National Institutes of Health staff said they may need more than a year to finish a court-ordered safety study.
In the meantime, the Level-4 lab building – designed to handle the deadliest viruses and bacteria – is finished. Stephen Smith, who has been following this story, reports in the Globe:
“For now, the $192 million building sits complete, but vacant on Albany Street. The centerpiece of the project – which was originally expected to begin welcoming scientists in late 2007 or early 2008 – is a Biosafety Level-4 lab designed to let researchers hunt for vaccines and drugs targeted at the highly lethal germs that cause diseases such as Ebola, Marburg, and plague.
“Residents sued in state and federal courts, arguing that a densely populated neighborhood is no place for a lab that specializes in deadly viruses and bacteria. While allowing construction on the project to continue – and, eventually, be completed – judges ordered further safety reviews, declaring earlier analyses inadequate.”
New grants, economic development and corporate welfare
Up to 20 fledgling companies will get some good news at end of the month, when the Mass. Life Sciences Center (PDF) announces the recipients of its first round of “accelerator” loans.
Center president Susan Windham-Bannister also told the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce Tuesday that the agency will soon inform at least 100 college students that they have paid, state-sponsored summer internships at life science companies. In some cases, the state will match a company’s stipend; in others, the state will pay the full stipend. So far, about 50 companies are looking at 350 applicants, she said.
It’s all being done in the name of economic development – the MLSC’s top priority at the moment, Windham-Bannister said. The quasi-public agency runs the state’s 10-year, $1 billion program.
The innovator loans will help start-ups get through “the valley of death,” she said, referring to the period in product development when entrepreneurs and inventors struggle to find funding. Because of the credit crisis, “that valley has stretched to a plain and it is very, very broad,” she said, noting that the center’s loans are designed to “de-risk” early stage companies.
Of the 88 applicants to the accelerator program, almost half are working on devices, with the other half promoting drugs or industry-related technology.
Tax incentives for manufacturers are also a part of the MLSC strategy, Windham-Bannister said. But those tax advantages are being targeted by union electricians angry about not being hired to work on MLSC-funded projects. Their “Stop Biotech Looting” campaign includes billboards, pickets, flyers and a website. All list a litany of complaints against biotech companies, including two recently aided by MLSC – Genzyme and Shire. The campaign – a project of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 103 – casts the companies as “biotech fat cats” collecting “corporate welfare” and points out years of pharma misdeeds, including high prices, unsafe products and tax evasion.
Windhan-Bannister – who mentioned new construction jobs several times in the speech – responded to a question about the campaign by saying she thinks the message is “off point.”
That same day, Gov. Deval Patrick addressed the issue a bit differently, the Boston Business Journal reported:
“Deval Patrick surprised both his aides and Massachusetts Biotechnology Council staff Tuesday when he strode in to the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council’s annual meeting to give his keynote address flanked by a dozen union brass who have had nothing but vitriol for the industry in recent months. …
“‘One in five unemployed people in this state work in construction. These people do not feel they’ve been given a fair shake by this industry, and that has to change … I could not tell you who to hire for which jobs at which building projects, but I would ask you, as your friend, your partner and your governor, to give them a fair shake.'”
Check out the Boston Herald‘s take.
Cambridge single-payer advocates rip the Mass. insurance plan
David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolandler, Cambridge doctors and single-payer activists, write in The Nation about why they think the Mass. plan is a bad model for reform – it didn’t get rid of the costly middleman paperwork:
“High costs and skimpy coverage are in the reform’s DNA; private insurers drafted its blueprint, cementing their dominant role. As a result, the plan forfeited the savings on bureaucracy that a single-payer plan could realize – an estimated $7.8 billion annually in Massachusetts alone. … Indeed, Massachusetts’s reform has actually increased bureaucratic costs; the new insurance exchange (similar to that touted by President Obama and Senate Finance Committee chair Max Baucus) has added 4 percent to insurers’ already high overhead.”
More on hospital quality
The Leap Frog group, a coalition of industry reps, government agencies and researchers, released the results of a survey this week on both hospital safety and efficiency (PDF).
Bottom line: There’s a long way to go:
“‘As the Obama administration and Congress consider health care reform options, it is clear we have a long way to go to achieve hospital quality and cost-effectiveness worthy of the nation’s $2.3 trillion annual investment,’ said Leapfrog CEO Leah Binder. ‘According to our data, a majority of hospitals have significant safety and efficiency deficits.’
“Among surveyed hospitals, efficiency standards – defined as highest quality and lowest resource use – are met by only 24% of hospitals for heart bypass surgery, 21% for heart angioplasty, 14% for heart attack care, and 14% for pneumonia care.”
Check out how your local hospital fared.
There’s more by Tinker Ready over at Boston Health News.