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Let's set the stage for understanding the depraved state of health care in the United States. And make no mistake, the health care situation in America has gone from catastrophic to depraved.

Add Canadians to the list of foreigners who are healthier than Americans.

Every newspaper and news organization in the world should be carrying a story on this new study from Harvard Medical School. But will they?

Americans are 42 percent more likely than Canadians to have diabetes, 32 percent more likely to have high blood pressure, and 12 percent more likely to have arthritis, Harvard Medical School researchers found.

The study comes less than a month after other researchers reported that middle-aged, white Americans are much sicker than their counterparts in England.

''We're really falling behind other nations,'' said Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, a co-author of the Harvard study, which was based on a telephone survey of U.S. and Canadian adults.

Now let's take a look at what's happening in the United States.

Today we'll shine a light on Bill Frist the Republican majority leader-heart surgeon and inside-trader of millions of dollars shares of HCA stock the family-run hospital business.

2008 Republican presidential candidate!?

Let's take a look at patient care and nurse staffing levels at a Frist Family HCA hospital.

Here's what the Los Angeles Times reported a couple of weeks ago.

About 20 nurses and other workers held a large banner protesting staffing levels alongside West Hills Hospital officials posing for a photograph, said John Kosinski, a political organizer for the Service Employees International Union, who said he was pushed by a guard.

You can read all about "patient safety" on the HCA Web site, I perused it a bit, didn't see anything about adequate nurse staffing.  

Our Commitment to Safety

Your safety is our priority. Our goal is to make you feel safe and secure while you are in our hospitals. Every member of our staff is dedicated to:
1. Providing you with a safe, healthy and secure environment
2. Performing their jobs carefully and competently
3. Using safe and effective practices and technologies
4. Responding to your wants and needs in a timely manner
5. Ensuring timely communications between caregivers and patients by answering questions about your treatment and your health, providing you with specific information about your care and explaining changes about your treatment

Nurses?  Anything about nurses? Nah. They cost $$$$.

Who owns/runs West Hills Hospital?  HCA, the nation's largest hospital chain.  Who owns/runs, profits from HCA?  The Frist Family.

The health care workers fought on.

In an ill-concealed effort at silencing the nurses, HCA got a gag order to prohibit them from speaking out at the annual HCA shareholder meeting in Nashville.

At a press conference today,
healthcare workers spoke out about the impact of understaffing on patient
care at several California hospitals owned by HCA. The healthcare workers
were originally scheduled to speak in front of yesterday's annual HCA
shareholder meeting at their corporate headquarters in Nashville,
Tennessee. The night before, however, HCA sought and won a gag order
preventing California nurses and other healthcare workers from speaking
outside of California. The gag order was the latest in a string of efforts
by HCA to prevent healthcare workers from speaking publicly about their
demands to be given a voice in safe staffing and patient care issues.

What's HCA and the Frist Family hiding? Does this scare you?

"HCA tries to shut us up when we talk about the dangerous situations on
the hospital floor. This month, they have demonstrated that they will do
anything to stop this information from getting out," said Russel Main, a
Respiratory Therapist at Riverside Medial Center. "I work with people who
are having difficulty breathing. I can't help them because we are so short
staffed, so I have to choose which patient is getting the least amount of
air. I have to tell patients who can't breathe that I will get to them as
soon as I can. This is information that the public needs to know."

And this.

Studies that analyze the quality of hospital care have reported poor
patient outcomes for certain procedures at California hospitals owned by
HCA and low levels of patient satisfaction. Healthcare workers these poor
patient outcomes to low staffing levels set by corporate policy, not local
healthcare providers.

This is what HCA doesn't want you, me, its shareholders, the media to know about. This is why HCA got its whistle-blowing nurses gagged.

HCA-owned California hospitals have faced federal government
investigations and Department of Health Services citations for short
staffing. In 2003, federal inspectors faulted the HCA-owned Riverside
Community Hospital in Riverside, California for running unlicensed medical
units, using potentially un-sterilized surgical equipment, and failing to
monitor an organ-transplant program with high rates of patient
complications. HCA-owned Regional Medical Center in San Jose is one of only
21 California hospitals found in violation of the nurse to patient ratio
law by the California Department of Health Services (DHS).
    In their statement to HCA shareholders, SEIU healthcare workers wrote:
"We can tell you anecdotally how these short staffing policies impact our
patients and may cost lives. We have also brought with us, and have already
presented to the media, a compilation of data and indicators showing poor
patient medical outcomes and dissatisfaction throughout the California HCA
facilities. The data show unacceptable rates of complications and death for
a number of procedures.

But last week, one of our favorites, The Washington Post did a puff piece on Dr. Frist.

The houses were dark on Bill Frist's street. A morning bird chirped; the others were waiting for dawn. But Frist was awake, and his bedroom light was on. "I'm going to take a shower," the Senate majority leader said brightly. Ten minutes later, the blow dryer roared.

In the kitchen, Frist's wife, Karyn, was brewing coffee and remembering their life before politics. For 20 years, Frist had worked as a heart transplant surgeon. He had stitched hearts into more than 150 lives.

One Saturday night, Karyn recalled, "we were supposed to go to a movie. He walked out in his scrubs." Instead of taking Karyn to the theater, Frist brought her to the operating room. "To see the human body alive -- without a heart in it."

As Karyn spoke, Frist came down the stairs. "This is really who you are," she said, looking up at him. She first met Frist in the emergency room, where he treated her for a sprained wrist. "I fell in love with him in his scrub suit, with blood splattered on his clogs. I see him doing that, almost more than as a politician."

I'll spare you any more of this Washington Post garbage.

Originally posted to nyceve on Wed May 31, 2006 at 04:44 AM PDT.

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