Monthly Archives: August 2008

Despite grim outlook, nonprofit hospitals did OK last year, Moody’s says

Despite projections for a weak 2007, Moody’s Investors Service conceded that nonprofit hospitals were fairly stable last year, despite the subprime mortgage-fueled financial markets meltdown, ongoing problems in the U.S. economy and continuous pressure on margins, Fierce HealthFinace reports.

But gone are the ubiquitous 5 percent to 6 percent margins. As Via Christi Health System can attest, just staying near the 2 percent mark is a coup these days.

A litmus test for the anti-tax crowd

Jeffrey Fluhr passed the first impressions test with flying colors Thursday morning at an introductory press conference at the WaterWalk. He’s smart, vibrant, articulate and has a game plan to pull downtown redevelopment together.

The Wichita Downtown Development Corporation’s new chief spoke with a near missionary zeal about listening to the community and crafting a downtown redevelopment strategic plan that every resident can own.

Including, he said, the city’s growing anti-tax crowd, opposers of everything from the downtown arena to the public-private partnership funding a lot of downtown’s growth. That group, he said, might have ideas to help further the city’s growth plans.

It will be interesting to see if Fluhr can invigorate a dialogue with the anti-taxers – or if he gets swept away in the “no way, no how, no taxes downtown” flood that seems to be developing.

Private patient rooms: patients want them, hospitals should provide them

Wesley Medical Center just went mostly private. Via Christi Regional Medical Center is adding more private rooms when feasible (that’s the plan so far with its planned west side hospital). Galichia Heart Hospital is doing it. And now a paper in the Aug. 27 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association is arguing that all hospitals should move toward single, private patient rooms.

Besides the obvious patient satisfaction component, supporters say private patient rooms reduce infections, enhance the privacy of patient information, and promote better sleep and healing.

Say the JAMA authors:

Most modern hospitals have public value statements regarding safety, dignity, privacy, and patient-centered care. A tangible way to show commitment to these values would be to give patients their bed with their own bathroom in a single-patient room.

Yes, it’s more expensive for hospitals, at least at first (One North American analysis found that the cost of a new ward with exclusive single-patient rooms was $182 to $400 per patient, whereas a ward with exclusive double rooms cost $122 to $550 per patient, according to JAMA), but do you think it’s worth it?

Are patients willing to pay the difference in exchange for the value? By the same token, is it cost-effective for mega community hospitals such as Via Christi to convert to all private rooms (something it cannot feasibly do) when it is essentially the safety net hospital that sees a good chunk of this region’s uninsured patients?

How employees can tell if you’re faking it

Most companies tell their employees some version of “Our employees are our most important asset.” And most employees believe that’s pure bull.

Here’s an interesting piece that provides some basics clues that a company puts its money where its mouth is when it comes to employees, mostly by empowering HR.

Oh my …

Sometimes reporters look at other reporters’ mistakes and say, “There but for the grace of God go I.” Other times, we just say, “Thank God that wasn’t me.” This is one of those mistakes.

When the editor is wrong

Sorry, Dan*, I have to respectfully disagree on the seats at the Sprint Center.

Like just about every other arena and public seating built these days, I found the seating to be ridiculously close and uncomfortable. When I first took my nosebleed seats at the Springsteen show, I panicked that there was so little legroom. I feared my legs would cramp and I’d have to watch the rest of the show standing in the back. There was so little room, we all had to stand every time someone wanted out (and, unfortunately, that was a lot).

Then I snuck down near the stage and somehow scored some awesome open seats, and there seemed to be more legroom. Could just be that we wound up standing half the time due to the excitement of being so close.

I just don’t get why facilities don’t spend a little extra (what’s a few hundred thousand dollars more in a multimillion-dollar project?) to give people comfort. It makes for a much more pleasant show. And, really, over a 20-year lifespan of a venue, give or take, what’s the difference?

* Disclaimer: Dan and I didn’t go to the concert together. However, we did enjoy a nightcap afterwards.

Arena dreams

I got a glimpse Sunday of what I hope is in Wichita’s future.

I went to the Springsteen concert in Kansas City. And as excited as I was to see The Boss for the first time, I was almost as excited to step inside the Sprint Center for the first time and to see everything that was around it.

The Sprint Center was pretty incredible. I didn’t really have any complaints, although the seats seemed a little crammed and the sound could have been better. My favorite part of the arena was the QT inside. It was pretty nice to get drinks for a buck when the same size was three times (or more) the price at the concession stand next door.

We also spent considerable time in the Power & Light District before the concert. We walked there from our hotel (about four or five blocks) and had dinner at a neat Irish restaurant. We hit several places in the district, my favorite being Lucky Strike Lanes. I’ve not seen a bowling alley like it before.

I drive by Intrust Bank Arena every day on my way to work. The progress of the building is amazing. I hope the rest of the area will follow.

One-hour wish

I’m a big champion of Wichita, but I do have some complaints. For instance, I’m a Coca-Cola girl living in a Pepsi town. (Pizza Hut’s gone, people, let’s move on!)

My other chief complaint is that there are no one-hour dry cleaners here, at least that I know of. Why is this? Did all the cleaners get together and decide against it? Isn’t it possible if one cleaner does it, that business stands to profit from all the last-minute people of the world like me?

Please, someone consider it. I promise to frequent your store and spread the word, too. Especially if you get a Coke machine in the lobby.

More Kansas bank failures ahead?

It seems that the headlines of bank failures are hitting a little too close to home, what with bank regulators shuttering Topeka-based Columbian Bank and Trust Co. on Friday.

The questions that loom large in my mind are: Will there be more and will any of them happen in Wichita?

Local bankers that I’ve talked to say no.

We’ll see.

I’m still not convinced that all is completely well in Doo-Dah.

But that’s the reporter in me.

Is your hospital ‘culturally competent?’

The national commission that accredits hospitals — and makes hospital managers shake in their shoes every three years when it comes time for re-accreditation and the accompanying hospital inspection surveys — is developing a new set of standards which hospitals must strive to meet.

Armed with a grant from The Commonwealth Fund, the Joint Commission this month began developing “accreditation standards for hospitals that will promote, facilitate and advance the provision of culturally competent patient-centered care.”

The Joint Commission is essentially trying to figure out how hospitals can competently treat patients who have cultural differences that are important to them (Muslim women, for example?), language and literacy issues (Spanish speaking populations, for example?).

The group, which is seeking panel members to help define these standards, has set a target date of 2011 for hospitals to begin complying with the new rules.

I wonder how important this might be in Wichita? Should hospitals take on cultural issues for better patient satisfaction and — as the commission suggests — care? My guess is is the better people communicate with one another, the more successful the outcomes.

Alabama to penalize fat employees

Did you hear Alabama will start charging its obese state employees $25 a month until they take steps to slim down? According to the story:

The State Employees’ Insurance Board this week approved a plan to charge state workers starting in January 2010 if they don’t have free health screenings.

If the screenings turn up serious problems with blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose or obesity, employees will have a year to see a doctor at no cost, enroll in a wellness program, or take steps on their own to improve their health. If they show progress in a follow-up screening, they won’t be charged. But if they don’t, they must pay starting in January 2011.

Here’s the threshold:

The board will apply the obesity charge to anyone with a body mass index of 35 or higher who is not making progress. A person 5 feet 6 inches tall weighing 220 pounds, for example, would have a BMI of 35.5. A BMI of 30 is considered the threshold for obesity.

Employers charging employees who smoke has become somewhat commonplace, but charging workers who are overweight is a fairly unique stance. Think these “incentives” will induce better health? Is it better to reward employees who engage in healthy behaviors or penalize those who don’t?

Christmas in August

I just thought I’d point out we’re still in August. You know, Summer.

This might sound like stating the obvious, but it’s not. If you happened to be passing by Hobby Lobby, you might mistake this month for a very hot December. That’s because there are Christmas trees in the store’s windows. Lots of them.

I get that some businesses have to market Christmas a little earlier than others. And for people doing Christmas craft projects, I’m sure you do need a few months of working ahead. But good grief, do they have to put it in the windows?