Monthly Archives: July 2008

Oil down; Will Wichita prices follow?

For those of you keeping score, the price of a barrel of oil is down $2.55 as of 4:15 p.m. today, a little more than half of yesterday’s nearly $5-a-barrel hike that produced an almost instant 17-cent run-up at the pumps in Wichita.

UPDATE: No downward movement last night in the price of unleaded. And this morning, oil suddenly shot up $4 a barrel. What’s the moral? Time to fill up.

Cue the “price hike had nothing to do with the day’s trading” excuses in 3, 2, 1 …

So, if my math follows, a gallon of unleaded should be trading at around $3.56 tomorrow morning in Wichita, right?

Tune in tomorrow for further details.

Blogging can help set public policy, HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt says

Business Casual is feeling very empowered today.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, who also blogs, said this week that blogging has the power to advance the debate on health care policy by allowing more interaction between members of the public and policymakers, according to the Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report.

He called blogging a “very powerful engine for public policy setting,” he said in Congressional Quarterly.

Leavitt said he writes about a range of topics, from his daily experiences to the decision-making process on various health care policies and issues such as Medicare, SCHIP and import safety, Kaiser reports.

Here is a link to Leavitt’s blog.

McKinsey: Hospitals need to rethink strategies

Corporate Fitness & Wellness Today wonders if “wellness hospitals” are on the horizon.

A McKinsey Quarterly report says U.S. hospitals being “battered by the competition” are trying to be all things to all patients — and that’s no longer a viable strategy.

Key findings:

  • One way hospitals can more effectively compete with smaller, more focused competitors is to organize themselves by service line, focusing on building world-class capabilities in just a few clinical areas.
  • Hospitals that succeed with this strategy can reap tremendous fiscal benefits while enhancing their ability to serve their communities. But as three disguised case studies show, the successful implementation of a service-line strategy is no mean feat.
  • Choosing the right service lines to emphasize requires a superior understanding of a hospital’s economics and competitive environment. Hospitals also need to overhaul the management of both strategic and nonstrategic service lines.

Walgreens’ Take Care Health Clinics ‘on hold’ for Wichita

Walgreens confirmed in June that it planned to open three Take Care Health Clinics — or retail, walk-in health clinics — in three of its Wichita drugstores by the end of July with at least two more to open by the end of the year (officials later increased that to three).

Now it looks like that won’t be happening until at least August. Walgreens spokespeople for the Take Care clinics aren’t saying why. In an e-mail to The Eagle, a Walgreens spokeswoman with a New York public relations/marketing firm said:

“Yes, the clinics are on hold for now. Unfortunately, I don’t have many more details to share at this time, but only can say that I will let you know as soon as we can confirm their operation start date.”

Patients don’t understand doctors’ instructions

It turns out, a whopping 78 percent of patients don’t fully understand the care and discharge instructions they receive in the emergency department — and the vast majority of them are not even aware that they do not understand what doctors have told them, according to a study published this month in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

“The bottom line is that we need better strategies for identifying patients who are having difficulty understanding their care and instructions in the emergency department,” said Kirsten Engel of Northwestern University in Chicago who authored the study. “It is disturbing that so many patients do not understand their post-emergency department care, and that they do not even recognize where the gaps in understanding are. Patients who fail to follow discharge instructions may have a greater likelihood of complications after leaving the emergency department.”

Whose job is it to make sure emergency room patients understand the take-home instructions doctors give them? Should the onus be on the patient or his health care team? Or both?

Losing in Vegas has a bright side

Just read Carrie’s posting about her losing streak. It all has a bright side.  One of the players at the poker table we were at had won big — twice. In the past year,  he’d won $45,000 two times playing Texas Hold ‘em. He was so excited about the money, he had the winning hands tatooed up his right arm. While some tattoo parlor is poorer from Carrie’s losses, Carrie’s arms are still lovely.

Leaving it in Las Vegas

Well, I guess I’ll be keeping my day job.

Just lost all my spending cash and then some in Vegas. Lost the $100 a businessman gave me to bet. Lost my editor’s editor’s money. And lost the $30 bucks Molly McMillin gave me out of pity at the poker table when she was on a winning streak.

But, as the businessman tells me, just look at it as a seed money. I’ve got it planted. Now all I have to do is go back out and get it.

Oil price falls despite Shell attack in Nigeria

Here’s what sounds on the surface like an ominous report on the immediate future of oil prices: an attack on Shell pipelines in Nigeria.

As the article points out, these attacks have been a partial driver for the run-up in oil prices on the commodities markets. So, I cringed a little bit this morning as I took a peek at the latest price.

Imagine my surprise at 9:11 a.m. when I saw oil is down $1.06 according to Kansas.com’s ticker. An hour later, oil was down $3.11.

Now, I’m sure all of you remember the raft of lectures that have been delivered by government energy officials and oil company executives: It’s supply and demand, stupid, along with all the uncertainty surrounding the oil distribution system.

Uh-huh.

Sure, there’s plenty of time today for speculators – the real driver behind the run-up – to ratchet today’s trading into the stratosphere.

But the early morning today brings yet another blow to the credibility of the alibis that flowed like crude as per-barrel prices doubled over the last year.

Mayans: ‘No good deed goes unpunished’

Former Wichita Mayor Carlos Mayans disputes accounts from developers, real estate analysts and government officials who say he led a move to cut WaterWalk funding in 2003, leading to Bass Pro Shop’s refusal five years ago to locate in downtown Wichita. Below are excerpts of his e-mailed comments reprinted verbatim:

In 2002 BC (Before Carlos), the issue of the WaterWalk and Bass Pro Shop came to the City Council led by former Mayor Knight and that Council could not muster the five votes needed to approve the WaterWalk project. The developers had been courting the BP officials for their commitment to them. BP did not want to come to Wichita until the developers had an agreement with the City of Wichita, but the Council voted NO several times to no avail. Former Council members Gale, Lambkee, and Martz would always vote against the project. Knight, Brewer and Pisciotte would vote yes. It was an impasse and the project funding was never approved under their term. What this means is that if there was no WW project approved BP would not come to town.

In 2003 BC there was another vote on the project and it failed once again. A new Mayor and two new City Council members were elected on April 1, 2003. Many thought that the new Mayor and Council would continue to disapprove of the project, but we all kept an open mind until we knew more about the WW project. I met with BP officials and developers about three months after the election and BP officials told us that they were disappointed with the lack of support from the previous Council and they indicated that they were running out of time and may build somewhere else. I indicated to them that many people in the community opposed the project and that the new council was still looking at the project and keeping an open mind. Over the next few months I visited with the Council members and the developers trying to forged an amended WW agreement that could muster the five votes necessary. Remember, if the project was not first approve! d nothing else could happen. Finally, in December of 2003, I had an amended WW agreement that cut spending by 10% or $3 million dollars. The types of cuts and where they were made on the project were decided by the developers not the Council. In December, I led the effort, with my vote, in support and approval of the WW project 5-2. Brewer, Fearey, Gray, Schlapp and I voted on the affirmative, Lambkee and Martz voted no. By then BP, was already negotiating in Oklahoma and no longer interested in Wichita.”

More city manager search fun

I was mildly amused by a fact in the latest story in the ongoing city manager search saga. In fact, it was the last line in the story.

Slavin was selected from 14 people or companies that submitted proposals for a national search. Council members Jeff Longwell, Feary and Schlapp interviewed three of them before picking Slavin.

So let me get this straight: The city interviews three consultants to find someone to replace the only guy it interviewed for the manager’s job the first time around. You know, the guy who then backed out of the job at the last minute.

Like I said, amusing.

Bass Pro: Doomed in Wichita?

Quietly, Wichita’s chances of landing a Bass Pro Shops store took another hit this week.

Longtime Wichita Realtor Jack Hunt, an avid fisherman who died Tuesday, was attempting to land the outdoors retailer in the weeks and months before his death, according to numerous reports this week. One source characterized the talks as “serious.”

The proposed location was some lakefront property Hunt owns just south of I-235, the site of a mobile home park destroyed by a tornado years ago.

But with Hunt gone and the fate of his real estate company up in the air, it’s unclear where those talks are headed. Bass Pro spokesman Brent Lawrence said the company doesn’t discuss new store deals until they are finalized.

Former Mayor Carlos Mayans reportedly led a city council drive five years ago to slash WaterWalk funding that drove Bass Pro from town. And now, the legendary outdoorsman after Bass Pro has died.

Perhaps Wichita and Bass Pro just weren’t meant to be.

Small businesses say they are doing well

Despite a prevailing view among small business that the economy is poor, a majority of professionals say their business is going well, according to a survey by Opinion Research Corp.

The survey found that 65 percent of small-business professionals rated their own business conditions as “good,” compared with 32 percent who rated them “poor.” But only 27 percent of small-business professionals rated the economy “good,” while 71 percent said the current economic conditions were “poor.” Half of respondents said they expect the economy to be good a year from now, BtoB reports.