Entries in Hospitals (32)


Hospitals Profit from Surgical Complications

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Hospitals may make more money when a surgical procedure leads to complications, according to a new study.

The research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, determined that hospitals experience significantly higher profit margins when complications follow surgery.

According to the study, hospitals see a 330-percent increase in profit margin when privately insured patients experience complications. Comparatively, Medicare patients who experience problems after surgery offer hospitals a 190-percent larger profit margin.

The study concluded that lower rates of surgical complications would actually cost hospitals financially.

The study analyzed hospital records from over 30,000 surgical patients from a non-profit hospital system in the southern United States in 2010. Researchers focused on 10 severe and preventable complications to determine how much the hospitals profited from each patient.

According to the study, $400 billion is spent in surgical procedures each year. Nearly 2,000 cases with at least one complication were discovered in the study.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Hospitals Flooded with Flu Patients, Turn Others Away

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- U.S. emergency rooms have been overwhelmed with flu patients, turning away some of them and others with non-life-threatening conditions for lack of space.

Forty-one states are battling widespread influenza outbreaks, including Illinois, where six people -- all older than 50 -- have died, according to the state's Department of Public Health.

At least 18 children in the country have died during this flu season, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The proportion of people seeing their doctor for flu-like symptoms jumped to 5.6 percent from 2.8 percent in the past month, according to the CDC.

Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago reported a 20 percent increase in flu patients every day.  Northwestern Memorial was one of eight hospitals on bypass Monday and Tuesday, meaning it asked ambulances to take patients elsewhere if they could do so safely.

Most of the hospitals have resumed normal operations, but could return to the bypass status if the influx of patients becomes too great.

"Northwestern Memorial Hospital is an extraordinarily busy hospital, and oftentimes during our busier months, in the summer, we will sometimes have to go on bypass," Northwestern Memorial's Dr. David Zich said.  "We don't like it, the community doesn't like it, but sometimes it is necessary."

A tent outside Lehigh Valley Hospital in Salisbury Township, Pa., was set up to tend to the overflowing number of flu cases.

A hospital in Ohio is requiring patients with the flu to wear masks to protect those who are not infected.

State health officials in Indiana have reported seven deaths.  Five of the deaths occurred in people older than 65 and two younger than 18.  The state will release another report later on Wednesday.

Doctors are especially concerned about the elderly and children, where the flu can be deadly.

"Our office in the last two weeks has exploded with children," Dr. Gayle Smith, a pediatrician in Richmond, Va., said

It is the earliest flu season in a decade and, ABC News Chief Medical Editor Dr. Besser says, it's not too late to protect yourself from the outbreak.

"You have to think about an anti-viral, especially if you're elderly, a young child, a pregnant woman," Besser said.  "They're the people that are going to die from this.  Tens of thousands of people die in a bad flu season.  We're not taking it serious enough."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


NC Hospitals Warn Employees to Get a Flu Shot or Get Fired

Jeffrey Hamilton/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- With officials at the Centers for Disease Control saying it’s gearing up to be a bad flu season, several North Carolina hospitals are taking no chances and requiring that all employees either get a flu shot or be fired.

This past summer, officials at First Health Moore Regional Hospital adopted a policy that requires all staff who routinely work in patient care areas to be vaccinated annually for influenza.

Officials at the care facilities say the forward-thinking policy was put in place because the common flu may have not-so-common effects on people facing more serious illnesses and whose immune systems are not strong enough to combat the virus.

First Health is just one of several North Carolina medical facilities taking the aggressive preventative approach.

“It’s definitely a national trend,” says Dr. B. Anthony Lindsey, chief medical officer for University of North Carolina Hospitals, where the policy is also in its pilot year.  “Influenza is an extremely contagious disease.  For some of our patients, it could have very serious consequences — including death.”

Most hospitals already require tuberculosis tests and hepatitis shots, but while the flu may be more common than those illnesses, its impact could be just as serious.

“Hospitals require personnel to get tested for tuberculosis so that they don’t spread that disease. The flu shot requirement is no different,” says ABC News’ chief health and medical editor, Dr. Richard Besser.

Cone Health Systems, a conglomerate of five North Carolina hospitals, was one of the first hospital groups to put the policy in place three years ago during the H1N1, or “bird flu,” outbreak.  Since that time, two people who work closely with patients have been fired for not taking the vaccine — showing hospitals are not taking chances on patients’ health.

“Our values at this hospital is that we care for our patients, we care for others and we care for our community,” says Dr. Mary Jo Cagle, the executive vice president and chief quality officer for Cone Health.  “It’s not unusual in many venues — in schools, and in many jobs — to have to require vaccinations. ”

There are exceptions, ranging from health to religious reasons, that hospitals take into account.  Employees who fall under those categories are not considered non-compliant.

The policies at these medical facilities come just as the Centers for Disease Control warns of a bad flu season.  CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden said Monday that instances of the flu had arrived a full month earlier than normal.

“It looks like it’s shaping up to be a bad flu season,” Frieden said.

Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas have reported enough seasonal flu cases to officially mark the beginning of the flu season.

“We’re seeing the beginning of the uptick start at least a month before we’d generally see it,” Frieden said, explaining that flu rates typically start to rise in early January.

Only 37 percent of Americans eligible for the flu vaccine actually get vaccinated for the virus.

“This is a part of our hospital’s and other hospitals’ nationwide attempt to provide the safest possible care of the patients for whom we’re responsible,” Frieden said. “This is just another part of that effort.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Superstorm Sandy Tests Hospital Preparedness

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- When superstorm Sandy slammed into New York and New Jersey, it tested the emergency preparedness of hospitals housing some of the region's most vulnerable residents.

Despite all the hospitals' preparations, the storm's high winds and flooding forced a handful of hospitals in New York and New Jersey to evacuate all patients, including those that were in critical condition.

In New York City, NYU Langone Medical Center was forced to evacuate 300 patients after losing power in the historic storm. Among the evacuees were roughly 45 critical care patients and 20 babies, who were carefully carried down dark stairways as the 18-story hospital's elevators stood still.

A long line of ambulances lit up the dark streets surrounding the midtown Manhattan medical center, which spans four blocks along the East River, waiting to transport patients to other facilities amid gusts of wind that topped 70 miles per hour.

News of the "total evacuation" came roughly 12 hours after hospital officials said Monday morning that their emergency preparedness plan had been activated and that there were "no plans to evacuate" at the time.

But Sandy spawned record-breaking tides around lower Manhattan when it made landfall as a post-tropical storm just south of Atlantic City. The flooding prompted power outages from East 39th Street to the lower tip of Manhattan.

NYU Langone Medical Center is located at East 33rd Street on 1st Avenue. The 50-year-old building sits at sea level atop an extended bulkhead in Kip's Bay.

The hospital had at least two backup generators: one in the basement and one on the roof, according to a spokeswoman. But basement flooding caused one generator to fail, and cut off the fuel supply to the other.

"We've had significant challenges at many of our hospitals and health care facilities," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a press conference, adding that the city health department is sending people to hospitals and chronic care facilities in the worst flood zones.

Bellevue Hospital also lost power Monday night after its back-up electricity generators failed, but Bellevue was able to get its power back up and running, Bloomberg said.

Bellevue has since completed a "partial evacuation," according to city health department spokeswoman Jean Weinberg.

Coney Island Hospital was also evacuated Tuesday, adding to the list of hospitals already emptied of patients ahead of the storm.

Not far away from New York City, Hackensack University Medical Center started receiving patients from Palisades Medical Center, whose back-up generator also failed, at 6 a.m. Although the Palisades generator was restored, conditions were too unstable to restore uninterrupted power, hospital spokeswoman Nancy Radner said. The National Guard was on hand to help transport patients.

"They were struck a bad blow, and they really needed help," said Dr. Joseph Feldman, chairman of emergency services at Hackensack University Medical Center. "So today we've taken about 23 patients already, and I see another caravan of patients are arriving in our ambulance bay."

Patients arrived with nurses from Palisades and packets of information about their medication and other health needs, he said.

"We have more than enough information to work with," Feldman said.

Hackensack is expecting 10 patients on a ventilator or in critical condition, Radner said.

"To transport even one patient in critical condition, who may be on a ventilator with multiple IV drips running on electric pumps, is a major endeavor often requiring three or more medical professionals," said Dr. Jennifer Ashton, Senior Medical Contributor to ABC News.

Although the patients have been successfully relocated, the NYU Langone website, email and phone lines remain down Tuesday.

"It surprises me that NYU could be knocked out by water in the basement," said ABC News chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser. "You expect that, with a flood, water will go to the basement, so you can't put all your backup power there."

All accredited U.S. hospitals are required to have backup generators in the event of a power failure, according to Ron Dziedzicki chief support service officer for UH Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio.

"We have 17 generators and four fuel tanks…The maximum amount of time we've run on generators is 72 hours without a refuel," said Dziedzicki, describing how the generators are raised to prevent flooding from nearby Lake Erie and dispersed across the 35-acre campus.

As Sandy moved inland, Dziedzicki braced for possible power outages. But he said he's prepared, thanks to monthly maintenance checks.

"You never know when weather's going to come," he said, describing the regular drill of switching over to backup power for an hour and keeping diesel fuel tanks topped up. If an outage were to outlast the stored fuel, UH Case Medical Center has a "memorandum of understanding" with a fuel supplier.

But even if the backup generators are working properly, the switch over can cause a 10-second lapse in power to lifesaving equipment like ventilators and bypass machines, according to Dziedzicki. At UH Case Medical Center, they have it down to five seconds, he added.

It's unclear whether NYU had additional generators and fuel storage tanks that were unable to meet the hospital's energy needs, which vary with the number of patients and the type of care they need. The hospital discharged roughly 600 patients Friday to "reduce [the] patient load," according to a spokeswoman. But Monday night's emergency evacuation has raised questions about the hospital's emergency planning.

"You never want to be in a situation like NYU faced last night where you have to evacuate during a storm," Besser said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Hospitals Offer First Class Deliveries to Those Who Can Afford It

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- There's special delivery and then there's extra-special delivery.  When pop star Beyonce gave birth to her daughter Blue Ivy at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City earlier this year, news sources reported that she commandeered a $1,700 a night maternity suite complete with catered meals, a flat-screen TV and round-the-clock nursing care.

Offering luxury maternity rooms to women who can reach deeper into their pockets than the insurance co-pay demands seems to be a trend at large city hospitals.

At Mount Sinai Medical Center, also in New York, private maternity rooms run an extra $500-$850 per night depending on the size of the room and the view from the window.  Pampered new moms can order in-room gourmet meals, pedicures and luxury spa services.

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles offers deluxe rooms for $2,673 a night that come with a personal care aide to attend to the needs of mom and baby.

Many of these rooms do their very best to impersonate a five-star hotel room.  The bathrooms in Mt. Sinai private rooms are described on their website as "spa-inspired" with "decidedly female private baths," featuring Italian glass tile, elegant sconces, and decorative mirrors.

New moms can even rent "Beyonce rooms" if they give birth outside of celebrity-magnet cities like New York and L.A.  Medical City Hospital in Dallas, for example, offers private rooms with a foldout guest bed and large screen TV for $250 a night over and above insurance coverage.

It's not as if giving birth isn't expensive enough already: The average hospital birth now costs around $10,000, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  For more complicated deliveries involving cesarean sections, the price tag can climb to over $20,000.  For some women, part of these costs will be covered by insurance.  But any added cost for special services and extra amenities are not.

Wealthier mothers are snapping up private maternity rooms as fast as they're being offered.  Often there are waiting lists.  But there is some grumbling that these posh postpartum services come at the expense of other newborns.

Kathleen Flynn, vice president of the New York Professional Nurses Union, which represents nurses employed at Lenox Hill, said that luxury suites were having a negative impact on the quality of care elsewhere on the hospital's maternity ward.

"The hospital wants to make money and we have no problem with that.  But we do have a problem when they pull staff off the regular ward to staff the executive suites," she said.

A group of anonymous Lenox Hill nurses recently told the New York Daily News that while affluent women and their bundles of joy enjoy nearly one-to-one attention, sometimes as many as 18 newborns in the regular maternity ward are monitored by a single nurse.  By contract, nurses are supposed to take care of no more than eight babies at once.

Flynn said the fancier rooms are only staffed when a patient purchases a luxury package.  Whenever that happens -- about 80 percent of the time according to the hospital -- she said a nurse must be taken off shift from the main maternity ward.  That's when nursing shortages arise.

Barbara Osborne, a media relations manager for Lenox Hill denies the allegations.

"At no point has our maternity unit been understaffed, as was reported," she said.  "As a matter of fact, in the last two years, we've hired about 240 new nurses, representing about 20 percent of the nursing staff.  We are dedicated to providing a single standard of high-quality medical care to all of our patients, regardless of accommodations."

But Flynn said the issue is so well known that some moms of means are passing up the chance for a pampered birthing experience for fear of being viewed as elitist.

"They don't want to be seen as taking away care from the other families," she noted.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


NYC Hospitals’ Baby Formula Plan Rankles Mommy Bloggers

Image Source/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Breastfeeding experts are applauding New York City’s “Latch On NYC” initiative, which aims to encourage breastfeeding and curb baby formula use in hospitals, but some mommy bloggers are not happy, and they are taking their grievances online.

One of these bloggers is Katherine Stone, a 42-year-old mother who lives in Atlanta. In her Babble blog post on Monday -- titled “Back Off of the Mamas, Mayor Bloomberg!” -- she criticizes the additional monitoring of formula use in hospitals.

“It’s a thin line,” she said. “I think it’s a little bit scary because it begins to infer that it’s a bad, bad thing to feed your child formula.”

Meredith Carroll is a 39-year-old mother and Babble blogger who lives in Aspen, Colo., and she, too, takes issue with the impending New York City policy.

“This isn’t morphine,” Carroll said. “I’m not a drug addict that needs to be kept away from a drug. I just want to feed my baby.”

Both bloggers said they realized that the initiative would not affect them directly, as they do not live in New York. But the plan will see 27 of New York City’s hospitals implementing its policies on Labor Day, which include keeping formula in locked storage rooms and monitoring its use.

The initiative will also discontinue the practice of hospitals distributing free infant formula at the time of discharge, prohibit the display of formula promotional materials in hospitals, and encourage greater enforcement of existing regulations prohibiting the use of formula for breastfeeding infants unless medically indicated.

It is not the first time the availability of baby formula in hospitals has been put under the spotlight. An August 2011 report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lambasted hospitals for not adhering to steps designed to encourage breastfeeding in hospitals spelled out by the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative.

The initiative, sponsored by UNICEF and the World Health Organization, suggests that hospitals “[h]ave a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff” and “[g]ive no pacifiers of artificial nipples to breastfeeding infants.”

At the time of its report, the CDC noted that only four percent of hospitals had adopted at least nine out of 10 of the steps included in the initiative, and that nine percent of hospitals had adopted two or fewer of the steps.

Breastfeeding experts said that in light of this dismal situation, the New York City plan is sorely needed -- and they say such policies will not restrict mothers’ choices in feeding their infants.

“Locking the formula up and paying for it does NOT mean it won’t be available for mothers who choose to exclusively formula feed or for mothers who want to supplement or for medically necessary formula supplementation,” wrote Dr. Lori Feldman-Winter, a pediatrician at Children’s Regional Hospital at Cooper in Camden, N.J. “It simply helps keep track of usage and cuts down on indiscriminate use.”

Feldman-Winter, who is a published researcher on the topic of infant formula use in hospitals, said closer monitoring of formula has been demonstrated to make a difference.

“We have shown that once the formula is kept in a locked cabinet and used only when medically necessary, then the usage is cut in half, resulting in more infants exclusively breastfeeding, an outcome good for the infant, family and our society as a whole,” she said.

Dr. Miriam Labbock, director of the Center for Infant & Young Child Feeding & Care, also agrees with Bloomberg’s move to institute the plan.

“It is amazing to me that so many papers have somehow headlined that this deprives folks in some manner,” said Labbock, who was previously in charge of UNICEF’s efforts to encourage breastfeeding, in an email to ABC News. “All other nutraceuticals and drugs have been controlled under lock and key in all hospitals for ages -- formula had been the only unfortunate exception.”

The point on which everyone seems to agree is that breastfeeding is the ideal approach. Blogger Stone said most of the discussion she has seen online recognizes the fact regardless of position on Bloomberg’s plan.

“People who can have a reasoned discussion about this really do understand the importance of breastfeeding,” Stone said. “It’s important we promote breastfeeding…I support the idea of promoting breastfeeding and increasing the percentage of women who do it. It is crucial thing.”

And according to the Latch On NYC website, there is no requirement for new mothers to breastfeed while in the hospital. “While breastfeeding is healthier for both mothers and babies, staff must respect a mother’s infant feeding choice,” the website states.

But the site does encourage hospital staff to remind mothers of the health benefits of breastfeeding when they request formula. Among the recommendations offered on the website for hospital staff is advice that they can “[a]ssess if breastfeeding is going well and encourage the mother to keep trying” and “[p]rovide education and support to mothers who are experiencing difficulties.”

Stone said that for women who can’t breastfeed, the policy would represent another hoop through which these new mothers would have to jump -- possibly adding to their guilt at the worst possible time.

“I hear from moms who have all sorts of problems related to breastfeeding, whether it is the inability to produce enough milk, or medical conditions they have, or their baby having problems breastfeeding,” Stone said. “There are a lot of things that lead a mother to not being able to breastfeed."

“Many of them do go through the experience of having people judge them for that. People saying they are selfish, or that they don’t care about the baby.”

Carroll said she knows firsthand the guilt that comes with not being able to breastfeed as a new mother. She writes in her blog that, at the time her older child was a baby, she had tried unsuccessfully to breastfeed her.

“It’s not up to me or Mayor Bloomberg to pass judgment on any mother who makes a choice about how to feed her baby,” Carroll told ABC News. “It’s embarrassing for a new mother to go out of her way to ask for something she may need or may want. Maybe someone who hasn’t been in that situation is not aware.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


How Hospital Noise Harms Patient Health

Pixland/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Noisy hospitals have long been a major complaint among patients. Now, new research purports to show how hospital noise can possibly harm them.

The small study, published Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that as the overall level of noise increased in the hospital, sleep was more likely to be disrupted. When the patients' sleep was disrupted, their heart rates increased.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School studied 12 healthy adult volunteers in a sleep laboratory, using noises pre-recorded in an actual hospital -- medical monitor alarms, telephones, staff conversations, and outside traffic -- for three nights. They analyzed how the noises affected the patients' sleep and heart rate by using brain monitoring equipment and heart rate monitors.

Of the sounds that were used, sounds from medical equipment designed to alert medical staff, such as alarms, were more disruptive than the sounds of the environment or human voices. When the patients' sleep was disturbed, their heart rates increased -- even if they did not wake up.

Dr. Orfeu Buxton and Dr. Jo Solet, two of the study's authors, said they "have heard what the patients have been saying in patient satisfaction reports, which is that there is too much noise in the hospital," and they launched the study in order to better understand the types and volume of sounds that caused the most disruption while understanding how noise affects the patient.

Previous research had already shown that noise disrupts sleep -- and that these disruptions are linked to high blood pressure, higher rates of heart disease, impaired immune function, increased memory problems and depression.

"This is the first study that has actually recorded a hospital environment and systematically quantified the response of the brain and the heart rate to these sounds," Buxton said.

A noisy hospital environment that causes disturbed sleep "may lead to increased use of medicines like sedatives that have side effects such as increased falls and increased rates of delirium. This can lead to a longer hospital stay," he said.

The authors also suggest that hospital administrators need to address three key issues to create a restful environment -- the acoustics of the hospital, the routines of hospital staff, and eliminating the noises from medical equipment.

"Eighty percent of alarm monitors in patient rooms and on hospital floors have no clinical relevance," Buxton said.

Some hospitals are already ahead of the noise-canceling curve. Susan Alves-Rankin and Jason Phillips, who works in the department of Patient Services and Service Excellence at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center, say their hospital is one such institution.

"We built a brand new hospital and took many steps to reduce noise," Alves-Rankin said, adding that the changes include noise-reducing flooring from Sweden and a silent nurse calling system to eliminate electronic noises. They are currently piloting a program using special sound masking devices in their noisiest hospital units to decrease noise and increase privacy.

Other efforts to reduce noise range from using sound absorbent materials during the design and construction phase of new hospitals to educating staff about being aware of their noise levels. At the new Shapiro Cardiovascular Center at Brigham Women's Hospital in Boston, special acoustical insulation and ceiling tiles were used during construction.

Several hospitals are using traffic light indicators to make staff more aware of their noise levels. When noise escalates, the traffic light changes from green to yellow; and when noise is too loud, the light turns red. Other hospitals have noise reduction campaigns in place.

"[The campaigns] are not only a satisfier for patients, but our staff is happy about having some more restful periods as well," said Tom Moore of the University of Iowa Hospitals.

Dr. Vineet Arora of the University of Chicago, who studies the sleep quality of patients in the hospital setting, says "we need to generalize the findings [of this study] to real patients in an actual hospital setting" and change the culture of the hospital where "patients are empowered to talk to their doctors about their sleep needs."

The hope is that when patients have a quiet environment where they can sleep and heal, patient outcomes may improve. When the dial on hospital noise is turned down, Solet says, "we can expect decreased lengths of stay and lower rates of re-admission."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


NC Hospitals Cutting Treatment Times to Lengthen Lives

Comstock/Thinkstock(ROXBOROUGH, N.C.) -- When Virginia Gardner felt faint during choir practice, she had no idea she was having a heart attack.

"My chest started feeling tight," said Gardner, 64, a great-grandmother from Roxborough, N.C. "My throat felt dry and I couldn't breathe and I couldn't swallow."

Another choir member called 911. And within 70 minutes, Gardner was having surgery to unblock her artery.

"They didn't stop moving," Gardner said of the paramedics and hospital staff who rushed her straight into surgery. "I'm quite sure it would have been a lot worse if people wouldn't have responded as quickly as they did."

Shaving minutes off heart attack treatment times can save lives, a new study has found. And all it takes is a little coordination.

"Time is muscle, and muscle determines whether you live or die from a heart attack," said Dr. James Jollis, a cardiologist at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., and lead author of the study published in the journal Circulation. "The sooner you are treated, the more chance you have to survive and do better."

But time spent waiting for an ambulance, driving to a hospital and enduring diagnostic tests before surgery can quickly add up. So Jollis and colleagues created a program to get doctors, nurses and paramedics from hospitals across North Carolina to work together to streamline treatment.

"It's similar to what happens for trauma patients," said Jollis, adding that the average ambulance ride is 25 minutes – valuable time during which paramedics can be diagnosing the heart attack and alerting the hospital to the incoming patient. "We have protocols in place to get them in quickly and start treatment immediately."

Across the 119 North Carolina hospitals that participated in the program, the proportion of patients treated within 90 minutes rose from 83 percent to 89 percent. And patients treated within 90 minutes were half as likely to die from a heart attack.

Gardner was one of those patients.

The program is expanding to 20 more regions.

"If we can diagnose and treat patients quickly across the country, thousands of lives could be saved," Jollis said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Should McDonald's Be Sold in Hospitals?

Tim Boyle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- In the 2004 documentary Supersize Me, filmmaker Morgan Spurlock dined at McDonald's three times daily for 30 days, an experiment that caused an increase in his body mass and cholesterol, mood swings and fat accumulation in his liver -- an outcome that would make most doctors cringe. It may be surprising for some to learn that many hospitals have McDonald's restaurants in their dining areas. Now the consumer advocacy group Corporate Accountability International (CAI) is pushing hospitals to ban the fast food giant.  

The group recently sent a letter requesting the McDonald's ban to nearly two dozen hospitals -- all of which CAI says have McDonald's restaurants -- including the Cleveland Clinic and Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago.  In the letter, CAI told the hospitals they were "fostering a food environment that promotes harm, not health."

"We urge you to end your contract with McDonald's and to take action to remove the McDonald's restaurant from you hospital," the letter stated.

Additionally, the group cited information from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, that "in decades to come, one in three children will develop type 2 diabetes as a result of diets high in McDonald's-style junk food."  

A 2006 study in the journal Pediatrics, also cited in the CAI letter to hospitals, found that allowing McDonald's to operate within hospitals unintentionally raises visitors' perceptions of the "healthfulness" of McDonald's food.

McDonald's, which currently has 27 hospital sites, is not the only fast food chain with hospital locations, Men's Fitness reports. But with McDonald's long-term contracts with some medical centers, it's hard to say if the letter will have any significant effect.  

CAI has said, however, that some hospitals, including Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and Vanderbilt Medical Center have terminated contracts with McDonald's in the last few years.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


A New Kind of ER for the Elderly

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Monitors beeping, loud voices and people scurrying about are just a few things people associate with a busy emergency department.  Many people may consider these factors a nuisance, but for older patients, it can be downright frightening and even affect their health.  A new trend in emergency department design is seeking to optimize the environment in which older patients are treated.

Referred to as "geriatric" or "senior" emergency departments, these facilities have been popping up across the country since the first one opened at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, Md. in 2008.  They are usually small areas, away from the hustle and bustle of the main emergency department.  Private rooms, simple layouts, natural lighting, more volunteers and soothing music are among the many features Holy Cross and other hospitals across the country are adding, all aimed at creating a calm and comforting environment.

Beyond making older patients more comfortable, the focus is really on keeping them safe.  Dr. James Del Vecchio, medical director and pioneer in the creation of Holy Cross Hospital's senior emergency center, thinks their follow-up service is one of the most important safety features of the care provided. 

Social workers are instrumental in this process. They not only set up home nursing services, but they make follow-up calls to every patient within 48 hours of being seen.

"They are checking to make sure the patient was able to get all the prescriptions or doctor appointments that they needed," Del Vecchio said.

Managing medications is another area where these senior facilities hope to intervene.  At the Holy Cross Hospital, any senior who comes in on five or more medications has their prescription list reviewed by a pharmacist before leaving. 

According to Bonnie Mahon, director of senior services, "We've had some real saves from this.  One woman kept falling until our pharmacist realized that the dose of one of her medications might be causing this."

Bed sores, one of the most common complications of hospitalization, are associated with higher costs and longer hospital stays.  Research shows that these wounds can occur in as little as four to six hours, suggesting they may be starting to form while the patient is still in the emergency department.  But the Geriatric ERs are addressing that problem as well.

Instead of the traditional thin layer of foam covered in plastic, thicker mattresses, such as the four-inch Tempur-pedic ones at Holy Cross, are being used in hopes of reducing the occurrence of these wounds.

Del Vecchio also points out that every senior who comes through the door is asked eight to 10 simple questions that help screen for problems that seniors are more prone to, ranging from memory impairment to risk for falls at home.

And to combat falls in the hospital, Holy Cross has modified the flooring and lighting.  Mahon explains that some types of lights can create shiny spots on the floor.  This interferes with depth perception and can lead to falls, especially in the elderly.

These changes in emergency care have been well received by the senior population.  DelVecchio and Mahon say their patient satisfaction scores are over 95 percent positive.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio