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This Week’s Hospital Hero: Danny Harris


Danny Harris
St. Luke’s Health System, Sioux City

If heroes are those with incredible heart, soul and vigor, no one is more of a Hospital Hero than Danny Harris.  As an Environmental Services employee in the St. Luke’s surgical area, Danny demonstrates all of the values St. Luke’s upholds and promotes.  If someone asks Danny about his role at St. Luke’s, he is likely to say he “runs surgery.”  And in fact, there’s some truth to that.

His tireless efforts to ensure patients and staff have access to a safe, clean environment are nothing short of remarkable, as Danny has long been known to get on his hands and knees and use a small brush to clean out the cracks and crevices in the hospital’s surgical suites.  On a nightly basis, Danny takes pride in waxing the surgical unit’s floors, changing cubicle curtains and cleaning the area from ceiling to floor, all by himself.  His work philosophy says it all: Danny ensures he does his job the right way, the first time around, every time.

Even more inspiring is that fact that since Danny began his career at St. Luke’s 38 years ago, he has never missed a day of work. Only a true hero can say they’ve worked more than 13,800 consecutive days.

In the brief, free moments Danny has, he enjoys painting by numbers, creating amazing works of art that have put many smiles on the faces of hospital visitors and staff who have had the opportunity to view his artwork.

“Danny’s work speaks volumes about our values of integrity, compassion, accountability, respect and excellence, helping St. Luke’s achieve our mission to improve the health of Siouxland,” says Peter Thoreen, President and CEO of St. Luke’s Health System.  “I do not believe you will find someone with more heart than Danny. We are very fortunate individuals like him have chosen to dedicate themselves to health care.”

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Featuring hospital and health care headlines from the media and Web from November 21-November 25.

Iowa Headlines

Iowa health official: Future of long-term care facilities cloudy
MASON CITY — State budget cuts could result in the closing of a significant number of long-term care facilities, a state health care official said Monday.  “We’re probably facing the most difficult time we’ve had in the last 30 to 40 years and it’s not just because of what’s going on at the state level, but also what’s going on at the national level,” said Steve Ackerson, executive director of the Iowa Health Care Association (IHCA) and the Iowa Center for Assisted Living. (November 23, Mason City Globe Gazette)

U.S. Headlines

Poll: Americans conflicted over health overhaul
Most Americans don’t expect a health care overhaul to affect their lives directly, but those who worry about the fallout outnumber those expecting to come out ahead, a poll out Tuesday has found.  The survey by the nonpartisan Robert Wood Johnson Foundation finds that Americans are tuning in to the debate in Washington, with 60 percent saying they’re following it very closely or fairly closely. (November 22, Associated Press)

In Cancer Testing, Less Is Now Better
Worries that widespread screening for breast and cervical cancers can yield limited benefit and lead to unnecessary harm prompted decisions this week by two medical organizations to recommend less preventive testing. (November 21, Wall Street Journal)

How to Find Mental Health Care When Money Is Tight
Imagine this situation. You fall into a deep malaise. Friends say you need help, but you don’t have insurance (or the insurance you do have has very limited mental health benefits), and you worry that extra bills will only add to your malaise. So you do nothing. (November 20, New York Times)

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This Week’s Hospital Hero: Laura Gray

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Laura Gray
Registered Nurse
Keokuk Area Hospital

Joyce Aldridge (left) and Laura Gray

As a veteran registered nurse, Laura Gray is known not only for her technical competence, but for her leadership and professionalism as well. Her nursing career has been distinguished and admirable, but perhaps a recent event captured the scope and meaning of what it means to be a hero better than anything else.

It was a typical winter evening in Iowa, with sleet and blowing snow.  For veteran nurse Joyce Aldridge, it was a good night to just stay in. While tending to household chores, she experienced some pressure in her chest that just wouldn’t go away.  Joyce decided to call her husband, Darrell, who was miles away.  Darrell suggested Joyce call her long-time friend, Laura Gray. 

Joyce and Laura had worked together as nurses at Keokuk Area Hospital (KAH) for 20 years.  Knowing that Laura keeps busy at home with her family, Joyce didn’t want to bother her.  Darrell heard the concern in Joyce’s voice and took it upon himself to make the call to Laura.  Immediately, Laura understood the severity of the situation and with her husband James, they arrived at Joyce’s house and witnessed the intense pain her friend was in; Laura insisted they go to the emergency room as fast as road conditions would allow. 

Arriving at KAH, Joyce was able to walk into the trauma room, but within minutes was in a full code situation.  While the physicians and emergency room staff were responding to this crisis, it was Laura who insisted on doing CPR and carrying out her promise to Joyce that she would not leave her. 

Today, Joyce is doing great and is back to work.  She credits many individuals for her happy ending, but had it not been for the persistence and life-saving work of her friend, Laura, she knows things might have turned out quite differently.

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Source: New York Times

After months of negotiation and weeks of contentious behind-the-scenes bargaining in Washington D.C. the Senate voted 60-39 to move its health care reform bill forward this weekend.

The bill needed 60 affirmative votes to move forward and all Democrats voted “yes” and all Republicans voted “no.”  The Senate expects to begin full debate on the bill after the Thanksgiving recess.

In the end the three Democrats (Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE), Blanche Lincoln (D-AK) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA)) and one Independent (Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT)) who were on the fence cast their votes to support moving the bill forward for debate, however, immediately following her yes vote, Sen. Lincoln made it clear that her support now does not mean she’ll vote to actually pass the bill in the coming weeks, leaving the bill’s fate uncertain.

In Iowa, Senator Tom Harkin who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee released a statement lauding the vote saying:

“With tonight’s vote, we have arrived at a pivotal moment, an historic moment, in the decades-long march toward passing comprehensive health reform. Tonight we say the Senate will bring The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to the floor and we will work toward lowering costs, guaranteeing affordable coverage for all Americans and improving the quality of care in America. And we will make history by, at long last, passing comprehensive health reform.”

Senator Grassley, ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee was disappointed by the Senate’s action stating:

“We ought to be doing everything possible right now to create jobs, and taxes should be decreased in a recession, not increased. Instead, Senator Reid’s bill raises taxes, penalties and fees immediately, choking off economic recovery.”

IHA is concerned about the coverage levels as presented in the Senate bill, as the Congressional Budget Office indicated the legislation will only expand health care coverage between 92-94 percent of the population.  The bill contains major cuts to Medicare payments to hospitals that were agreed to by the American Hospital Association in exchange for coverage levels at 97 percent of the population.  IHA will continue to work with Iowa’s Congressional Delegation to find ways to increase coverage levels.

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Featuring hospital and health care headlines from the media and Web from November 14-November 20.

Iowa Headlines

Broadlawns Medical Center

A passion for rural medicine
Even before he began assisting family medicine residency physicians at Broadlawns Medical Center, Dr. Larry Severidt had been working with and hosting medical students in his private practice and at home. He was a rural family physician for 24 years in Manchester and Pella, where his patients at times included five generations of families.  (November 18, Des Moines Register)

Decision on new hospital name tabled
The new hospital facility under construction east of the Hamilton County Courthouse has no name yet, but the Hamilton Hospital board of trustees voted Tuesday night to name the street on which it will be located as Hospital Drive.  (November 18, Webster City Daily Freeman-Journal)

Carver Charitable Trust endows DNA Facility at UI Carver College of Medicine
Leaders of the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust of Muscatine, Iowa, University of Iowa Health Care and the UI Foundation have announced a $2 million gift from the Carver Charitable Trust that will establish an operational endowment for the DNA Facility in the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine.  (November 18, Media Newswire)

New technology helps expand hospital services in county
Clarke County Public Hospital will hold its first telemedicine clinic Nov. 24 when cardiologist Dr. John Pargulski helps the local health care facility embark on a new era. The first telemedicine clinic has been a work in progress at Clarke County Hospital since 2006 and is the result of hundreds of hours of meetings and planning.  (November 18, Osceola Sentinel-Tribune)

Krogmeier targets mental health system change
A tight budget will give the state’s Department of Human Services a unique opportunity to open a conversation with the Iowa Legislature during the 2010 session.  (November 18, Burlington Hawk Eye)

Families look for care, hope
Toni Gonnerman doesn’t know what exactly needs to change to help North Iowa families cope better with mental illness in their children.  “But from my experience what we have isn’t working,” she said, from her Mason City home.  (November 14, Mason City Globe Gazette)

U.S.  Headlines

Medicare paid $47 billion in suspect claims
The government paid more than $47 billion in questionable Medicare claims including medical treatment showing little relation to a patient’s condition, wasting taxpayer dollars at a rate nearly three times the previous year. (November 15, Associated Press)

Why this Wisconsin city is the best place to die
There’s a proposal — it’s in the health bill passed by the House of Representatives — that would pay for the kind of periodic and continued end-of-life discussions with patients that are routine in La Crosse. Gundersen Lutheran is pushing for it.  (November 16, National Public Radio)

Major Minnesota safety net hospital to cut jobs, charity care
Facing a crippling loss of state health care funds, Hennepin County Medical Center plans to stop seeing uninsured, nonemergency patients from other counties, cut 150 to 200 jobs and close two clinics on its downtown campus.  (November 19, Minneapolis Start Tribune)

Medical schools quizzed on ghostwriting
Senator Charles E. Grassley wrote to 10 top medical schools this week to ask what they are doing about professors who put their names on ghostwritten articles in medical journals — and why that practice was any different from plagiarism by students.  (November 18, New York Times)

Germany strains to provide health care for all
Germany’s century-old universal healthcare system is buckling under the weight of a growing deficit that has forced the government to explore an overhaul. Under the German system, everyone is obliged to pay into the system and all who need care can get it. Costs are shared between employers and workers, whose premiums are staggered according to income.  (November 19, Wall Street Journal)

U.S. medical workers balk at mandatory flu vaccines
Even as they are forced to wait like everyone else for swine flu vaccines in short supply, thousands of nurses and other front-line health care workers are fighting mandatory flu immunization policies being put in place by some U.S. hospitals.  (November 14, Reuters)

Florida Senators: Let’s drop out of Medicaid
Top Florida senators said the state should consider dropping out of the federal-state Medicaid program to avoid a planned expansion and create its own health care system for low-income residents.  (November 17, Miami Herald)

Business foes of health care reform ramp up opposition
Business foes of healthcare overhaul legislation are outspending supporters at a rate of 2-to-1 for TV ads as they grow increasingly nervous about a final bill. Led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, opponents of the Democratic health care drive have spent $24 million on TV commercials over the past month to $12 million spent by labor unions and other backers.  (November 17, Associated Press)

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