CT Health Central

Connecticut's source for independent health news

Hospital strike hits New London

December 2nd, 2013
Photo from WTNH.com

Photo from WTNH.com

Talks set to resume tomorrow

New London Day: The state’s first major hospital strike in 27 years continued today as nearly 800 Lawrence + Memorial Hospital workers remained locked out in a contract dispute. The hospital  has hired 150 to 250 replacement workers and most units are still functioning, a spokesman said.

Experts see clues in Lanza’s writings

Hartford Courant: The Newtown shooter’s childhood writings suggest an obsession with guns and violence and should have triggered interventions, according to some mental health experts. But it’s not clear that a gore-filled fantasy authored by Adam Lanza at age 10 was ever turned in to a teacher.

Yale plans regional healthcare push

Hartford Business Journal: A top executive at Yale New Haven Health System says the network is eying expansion across the state and region as its care model evolves.  The system this summer announced a deal to buy Manchester Memorial and Rockville General hospitals, but says it will need to expand further to deliver service based on accountable care principles.

Feds eye post-hospital costs

Kaiser Health News: In an effort to cut Medicare costs, HHS officials are scrutinizing spending on nursing homes, home health and other post-acute care services. Connecticut is among the top tier of states in spending on post-acute care, with 22 percent of Medicare dollars going to nursing homes, long-term care and inpatient rehabilitation facilities. See a state-by-state breakdown here.

Report describes killer’s isolated life

November 25th, 2013

Lanza described as mentally ill, without emotions

The State Police report on the Newtown shooting released today on the State’s Attorney website describes shooter Adam Lanza as mentally ill with a history of being bullied — and living as an adult in almost complete isolation.

Some sections on Lanza’s life:

“The shooter disliked birthdays, Christmas and holidays. He would not allow his mother to put up a Christmas tree. The mother explained it by saying that shooter had no emotions or feelings.”

“A person who knew the shooter in 2011 and 2012 said the shooter described his relationship with his mother as strained because the shooter said her behavior was not rational.”

“The shooter was particular about the food that he ate and its arrangement on a plate in relation to other foods on the plate. Certain types of dishware could not be used for particular foods.”

“[Mother Nancy Lanza] was concerned about him and said that he
hadn’t gone anywhere in three months and would only communicate with her by e-mail, though they were living in the same house.”

Asperger’s diagnosis in 2005

In a section on the shooter’s mental health issues, authorities found that Lanza had been diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder in 2005. His 7th grade teacher also noted that Lanza’s writings were far more violent than usual for his age.

Mental health excerpts:
“[Lanza] was described as presenting with significant social impairments and extreme anxiety. It was also noted that he lacked empathy and had very rigid thought processes… In the school setting, the shooter had extreme anxiety and discomfort with changes, noise, and physical contact with others.”

“In seventh grade, a teacher described the shooter as intelligent but not normal, with anti-social issues. He was quiet, barely spoke and did not want to participate in anything. His writing assignments obsessed about battles, destruction and war, far more than others his age. The level of violence in the writing was disturbing.”

No signs of threat seen before attack

The report stated that none of the mental health or other experts who saw Lanza in the years prior to the attack saw signs that he would go on a shooting rampage.

“It is important to note that it is unknown, what contribution, if any, the shooter’s mental health issues made to his attack on [Sandy Hook Elementary]. Those mental health professionals who saw him did not see anything that would have predicted his future behavior.”

Finally, a few Newtown answers

November 25th, 2013

CTHealthCentral Sandy HookSummary due this afternoon

Hartford Courant:

Check the State’s Attorney website at 3 p.m. today for the long-awaited summary of the State Police report on the Newtown school shooting. The full report may not be released until early next year.

Gym for diabetics debuts

New Haven Register: A New Haven man has opened a first-of-its-kind gym designed to help diabetics optimize their exercise routines to fight the chronic illness. Founder Charlie O’Connell plans to help diabetes patients change their fitness routines and schedules to keep blood-glucose levels low.

Insurer’s doctor cuts found legal

Hartford Business Journal: UnitedHealthcare followed the rules in its decision to drop physician networks in the state including Yale Medical Group, regulators have found. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services probed the actions but found no violations of federal standards, according to the State Attorney General.

Mass schools report 4,400 head injuries

Boston Globe: In just the last school year, Massachusetts high school students suffered 4,400 concussions and other head injuries playing football and other sports, according to new data. Large schools with competitive sports teams tallied the highest numbers of head injuries; more comprehensive reporting has been required in recent years.

New meningitis case at Princeton

Reuters: An eighth student at Princeton has been diagnosed with meningitis even as the school gears up to offer students a vaccine still pending approval in the U.S. School officials plan a vaccination campaign for serogroup B meningitis early next month using Bexsero, a European drug allowed by the FDA under an emergency appeal.

Whooping cough cluster in East Lyme

November 20th, 2013

CTHC pertussisPertussis cases reported at schools

New London Day: Three high school students and an elementary school student in East Lyme have been diagnosed with pertussis, despite a decline this year in cases of the potentially deadly disease statewide. A weaker vaccine is being blamed for a nationwide resurgence; 156 cases were reported in Connecticut in 2012 compared to 39 so far this year.

CT may pass on zombie plans

CT Mirror: Insurance plans that don’t pass muster under Obamacare likely won’t be revived in Connecticut, state officials say. Of 27,000 plans up for cancellation in the state next year, only around 9,000 are eligible for new life under a policy change announced by President Obama last week. In addition, a 2011 state law mandates that plans sold in Connecticut must comply with the Affordable Care Act; the new fixes don’t change that.

Urgent care chain eyes expansion

Hartford Business Journal: Brookfield-based Urgent Care of Connecticut has teamed with Pulse Equity Partners and PineBridge Structured Capital to plan regional expansion of its clinic chain. The company currently operates 7 clinics statewide.

Insurer’s cuts target Yale docs

Wall Street Journal (pay wall): Yale Medical Group is among the 10 Medicare Advantage physician networks nationwide that have been cut by UnitedHealth, the program’s largest insurer. The Connecticut State Medical Society has filed suit against UnitedHealth in U.S. District Court, claiming that the insurer’s actions are breach of contract. Yale Medical Group’s 1,200 physicians charge higher rates due to a virtual monopoly in the New Haven area.

Clues seen to sudden cardiac death

Reuters: A majority of men who experience sudden heart attacks show clear signs in the weeks and hours before, including chest pain, shortness of breath and dizziness, new research has shown. More than 80 percent of symptoms happened between one month and one hour before the event; 360,000 heart attacks occur outside of hospitals each year in the U.S. and only 9.5 percent of those patients survive.


Medical pot expo slated for New Haven

November 18th, 2013

CTHealthCentral.com medical potA promoter hopes to draw patients and medical marijuana entrepreneurs from across the state to a first-of-its-kind event planned for New Haven next month.

The 2013 Connecticut Cannabis Exposition is scheduled for Dec. 13-15 at 1175 State Street, the former Robby Len swimsuit factory bordering the Fair Haven neighborhood.  [Note: The editor of this site rents a space in the building.]

Expo organizer Douglas Breakstone, a Waterbury-based lawyer, hopes several thousand people attend the event, centered on medical marijuana-themed vendors and educational sessions for patients and medical professionals. Some of the 38 vendors signed on so far include hydroponic growing suppliers and New Haven’s own Rubber Match head shop.

Much of the promotion for the expo is happening online and in networks of medical pot providers and patients, Breakstone said.

“We’re reaching out to patients – that’s the reason this whole thing came into being,” Breakstone said. He added that he has testified in Hartford on the need for both doctors and patients to be informed of the uses and claimed benefits of medical marijuana.

“I decided to take it on myself to provide education for those groups of people,” Breakstone said.

Breakstone had planned the event for Hartford, but rescheduled for New Haven due to cost concerns. He also explored holding the event in hotels and conference centers, but “I got a lot of pushback ; they didn’t want to deal with the topic.”

As of Friday, the state had received 42 license applications from prospective growers or sellers of medical pot, under new legislation allowing use of the herb for a limited number of conditions. As of mid-October, more than 1,100 patients had registered for access to the drug, according to CT Mirror.

Newtown parents take action

November 18th, 2013

CTHealthCentral.com candlesSandy Hook campaign to focus on mental health

Newtown Bee: Parents can use all the help they can get to raise mentally healthy, nonviolent kids, and Sandy Hook Promise wants to help. The organization, formed by parents of children killed in the Newtown school shooting, announced last week it would launch a campaign to supply parents nationwide with mental health and gun safety programs.

With the one-year anniversary of the massacre less than a month away, the Hartford Courant reports that the State Police has compiled a 40-page summary on the Sandy Hook investigation that was shown to parents last week. The long-delayed report includes material from the FBI, ATF, the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Marshal’s Service.

Hartford HealthCare cuts jobs

Hartford Business Journal: A total of 179 jobs at Hartford Healthcare are being cut as the five-hospital system adjust to lower revenues and losses in funding. Most of the lost jobs are middle and senior management positions and will be cut by the end of the month through a combination of layoffs, attrition and reassignments.

Unapproved drug OKed for college outbreak

Reuters: A bacterial meningitis outbreak that has sickened 7 students at Princeton University has prompted the FDA to allow use of a vaccine yet to be approved in the U.S. School officials now have access to Bexsero, a new vaccine made in Europe that protects against serogroup B meningitis.

New statin calculator flawed

New York Times: A heart-disease assessment tool released last week greatly overestimates risks and may prompt at least a million people to take stain drugs that they don’t need, according to some top cardiologists. A past president of the American College of Cardiology has called for use of the tool to be suspended.

Digest: Flu season flurry

September 9th, 2013

CTHealthCentral.com flu shotVaccine pays off for Meriden firm

Hartford Business Journal: Protein Sciences Corp. of Meriden will ship 250,000 doses of its eggless flu vaccine this fall after earning FDA approval in January. The company’s Flublok can be produced more quickly than traditional vaccines and is formulated without a chicken egg or live virus.

Panel to get killer’s records

Newtown Bee: The state Child Fatality Review Panel will get Adam Lanza’s school records after a judge’s ruling forced Newtown school officials to comply. The school system had balked at the request citing privacy concerns.

  • The State Police have yet to release their report on the Dec. 14 school shooting despite continuing to discuss the case at numerous national conferences, the Hartford Courant has reported.

West Nile spreading slowly

Connecticut Post: Two human cases of West Nile Virus have been reported so far this year, one each in Stamford and Stratford. State epidemiologists say this season is less severe than last years, when 21 people were diagnosed with the mosquito-borne illness.

Drug cocktail shows hope for MERS

New York Times (pay wall): Ribavirin and interferon used soon after infection on monkeys helped prevent severe illness from the deadly MERS virus, researchers have reported. Of 108 known human cases of MERS diagnosed since 2012, 50 have been fatal, according to the WHO.

NPs seek greater role under Obamacare

Kaiser Health News: Nurse practitioners are asking for the ability to bill insurers directly for primary care as part of the exchanges opening for enrollment on Oct. 1. About half of NPs currently work in physician practices but many could go into business for themselves as a primary care alternative if insurers if allowed to bill directly.

Digest: Med school debuts

August 14th, 2013

Quinnipiac’s $100 million campus opens Friday

Stamford Advocate: Quinnipiac University’s Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine is slated to open Friday with a class of 60 students aiming to become primary care physicians. The third med school in the state, Quinnipiac got 1,914 applications for its inaugural year and interviewed 416 prospective students.

artificial retinaStart-up bets on artificial retina

Hartford Business Journal: UConn scientists have launched a company to market research on a protein-based artificial retina with the potential to restore sight in those blinded by degenerative diseases. LambdaVision Inc.’s implant is less invasive than current technology and does not require electronic stimulants, company officials say.

Public eager for exchange details

CT News Junkie: The first public “chat” held by the state’s insurance exchange attracted 65 people in Meriden with questions on the details of the new plans. Access Health CT plans similar events in coming weeks in Waterbury, New Britain, Bridgeport and Hartford.

New nurses face tough job market

CT Mirror: Changes in staffing and layoffs have largely eliminated the state’s “nursing shortage” and new graduates are more likely to find jobs in long-term care and home care than in hospitals, industry experts say. The weak economy has also slowed normal attrition.

Vaccinations halt meningitis outbreak

New York Times (paywall): Health officials say that a meningitis outbreak that infected 22 men in New York and killed 7 has subsided after a vaccination campaign in the gay community. At least 16,000 people were vaccinated at clubs and other venues and no new cases have been diagnosed in six months.


Digest: Hospitals hit on readmissions

August 6th, 2013

Medicare shifts penalties in 2nd year

Kaiser Health News: In the second year of a new program, Medicare is penalizing more hospitals for the number of patients readmitted within a month even as many hospitals are seeing their fines reduced. Connecticut largest hospital, Yale-New Haven, will see its readmission penalty reduced by 39 percent as of Oct. 1. Saint Raphael’s, now part of Yale-New Haven, saw its penalty increase by 77 percent, the largest jump in the state.

Public gets a look at exchange rates

CT News Junkie: The four insurers participating in the Connecticut’s insurance exchange will offer monthly plans starting at $215 for individuals, according to new data released by the state Insurance Department. The premiums don’t include government subsidies and may be adjusted for age and geographic location; Aetna’s rates were included even though it has announced it will drop out of the exchange.

Middletown OKs medical pot operation

Hartford Courant: Middletown’s common council has approved a lease option that would allow a medical marijuana grower to build a 15,000-square-foot production and packaging facility in the town. Marijuana entrepreneurs could begin operation in the state by early 2014.

food truck safetyFood truck hygiene questioned

Boston Globe: Nearly 41 percent of Boston’s food trucks have been cited for food safety violations that put their customers at risk of food poisoning, according to city data.  A salmonella outbreak recently sickened at least 27 people who ate from Boston food truck serving food from a restaurant kitchen; the rate of permit suspensions was much higher for the food trucks than for the city’s sit-down restaurants.

Anorexic girls show autism traits

Reuters: Compared to typical girls, those with anorexia have an above-average number of autistic traits and may be overlooked for autism screening and treatment, new research has found. Anorexic girls may benefit from help with social skills, communication and adapting to change, the study’s authors suggested.

Digest: Grotty greens

August 1st, 2013

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-image-fresh-mix-salad-image23862041Salad mix blamed for stomach parasite

Reuters: An outbreak of cyclosporiasis that has caused illness in Connecticut has been linked directly to prepackaged salad mix by Midwestern health officials. The single-celled parasite has been diagnosed in patients in 16 states in recent weeks; symptoms include watery diarrhea, vomiting and body aches.

  • Update: Critics slam lack of disclosure on outbreak
    Washington Post: Food safety advocates are questioning the response of state health officials, who so far have yet to announce the brand of bagged salad linked to the cyclosporiasis outbreak in 16 states, including Connecticut.

Health exchange boss sets low bar

Hartford Courant: Only 3 percent of those applying for the state’s new public health insurance exchange are expected to navigate the process without help from staff, according to Access Health CT CEO Kevin Counihan. The system’s kinks are expected to be worked out by the time coverage kicks in on Jan. 1; 100,000 to 130,000 people are expected to enroll in the first year.

‘Food czar’ mulled for New Haven

New Haven Register: A new director of “food systems” is needed to address issues like food access and composting in New Haven, the city’s mayoral candidates agreed at a Wednesday forum. Front-runner Toni Harp also proposed turning abandoned city properties into urban farms.

State providers reap millions for IT upgrades

Hartford Business Journal: Hospitals and doctors in Connecticut have earned $161 million in federal incentives since 2011 for converting to electronic medical records, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services data shows. Providers say the incentives don’t cover costs of the new systems and conversions have caused financial strain.

Global NGO opens local free clinic

Stamford Advocate: A nonprofit global health and disaster-relief organization has opened a free clinic in Stamford to serve low income and uninsured Fairfield residents. Stamford-based AmeriCares also runs clinics in Bridgeport, Norwalk and Danbury.

Digest: Profitable prescription

July 26th, 2013

Drug firm’s sales boom

Hartford Business Journal: Cheshire-based Alexion Pharmaceuticals saw its profits soar 264 percent in the second quarter on sales of its anemia drug Soliris. The firm is slated to be the anchor of New Haven’s Downtown Crossing development but has been the subject of recent buyout rumors.

cyclosporiasis bugStomach bug linked to produce

Reuters: A total of 285 people in 11 states – including Connecticut – have been diagnosed in recent weeks with cyclosporiasis, an illness usually caused by parasites in fresh produce. Symptoms include diarrhea, cramps, nausea and fatigue and can persist for a month or longer if not treated; the outbreak’s source has not been identified.

Potent drugs blamed for overdose surge

Boston Globe (pay wall):  Five have died in Boston and 14 in Rhode Island after overdosing on batches of powerful street drugs. Health officials think a drug called “fire” in Boston could be unadulterated heroin; the Rhode Island deaths have been blamed on injected acetyl fentanyl.

Reform seen as boon to alternative medicine

Kaiser Health News: Chiropractors and other alternative practitioners may benefit from a clause in the Affordable Care Act that prevents insurers paying less to any health provider with a state license. The reform bill may clash with recent state measures that have required patients to pay out of pocket for alternative treatments.

Digest: ‘Facility fee’ sticker shock

July 24th, 2013

Facility fee medical billsHospital charges pad medical bills

CT Mirror: As more physician practices are bought out by hospitals, patients are getting socked with “facility fees” that can add thousands to medical bills. Hospitals are allowed under current rules to add charges because they own the equipment doctors use in their practices.

Wellness efforts primed to expand

Hartford Business Journal: New rules that kick in on Jan. 1 allow employers to boost rewards to workers for meeting health goals, and Connecticut companies are gearing up. Health reform allows companies to offer discounts of up to 30 percent for employees who meet health standards and up to 50 percent for reducing tobacco use.

Toxic chemical found in warehouse

WTNH: Tests at a Rocky Hill warehouse found the cancer-causing chemical hexavalent chromium, but tenants were not informed and now suffer health problems, according to a WTNH report. The state Department of Energy & Environmental Protection was working with Pratt & Whitney to clean up the site but remediation was limited to areas of potential environmental concern.

Accountable care grows under reform plan

Reuters: Coordinated health coverage at a discount is the promise of “Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs),” hospitals and practices that are paid to keep people healthy. Experts estimated that the number of ACOs nationwide have grown to 449 compared to about 10 in 2010.

CT Health Central

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