Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Other Shoe Drops

An article in the Times Union yesterday reported that Columbia Memorial Hospital has asked the NYS Health Department to approve a plan to make Albany Medical Center its parent: "Hudson hospital wants to join Albany Med." In July 2014, when CMH announced its intention to "begin an affiliation" with Albany Med, the Register-Star reported: "The move is not an acquisition or merger. Each health-care provider will maintain their own identity, board of trustees, supporting foundations, management and staff as well as individual policies."


  1. 1.

    Last year's news announced greater cooperation between the two hospitals, which basically came down to more efficient document sharing.

    In the past, getting things like medical histories from one hospital to the other was very cumbersome. But the computer systems within Albany Med are barely integrated between departments and wings, so it was a real laugh to see that announcement heralding a great new age of cooperation between the two hospitals.

    At Albany Med (unlike St. Peter's), patients are always amazed when they're asked the same questions over and over again, as if their answers are being logged for the first time. But when patients pay closer attention, they discover that even their medications don't match between computer systems. (I've got that documented.)

    But if confused medications seem more ominous than confused medical histories (in truth, they are both ominous), these problems are nothing compared to Albany Med's deplorable house-keeping policies. Confusing a patient's prescriptions may end in the loss of an organ; bad hospital hygiene will kill you.

    One Hematologist, who was not technically employed by Albany Med, failed to understand my wife's chart and history. By prescribing a dangerous drug which other physicians at Albany Med later agreed was the wrong thing to do (also on the record), my wife's chances of survival were greatly diminished.

    My attorney who's based in Albany deemed the incident a clear case of medical malpractice, but because the oversight didn't have mortal consequences, it was not worth the up-front cost to bring an expensive suit that could last years and yield little satisfaction.

  2. 2. On the other hand, consider Albany Med housekeeping staff. Most of these workers are in the US with green cards, and speak English only poorly. That's all well and good, except that they seem to pursue their duties with no visible oversight. Just try finding someone to complain to and you'll understand.

    One day, while an oncologist and 10 interns were visiting the room (actually correcting something that was wrong in Albany Med's medical records), I watched as a housekeeper/janitor entered the room wearing the same vinyl gloves she'd worn in at least one previous room. She touched every doorknob, emptied the bedpan, cleaned the toilet (hands actually IN the toilet), and only then cleaned the sink. Without ever changing her gloves, she next touched the bathroom doorknob (again), and before exiting the room straightened things on my wife's tray table including bottled drinks and food containers. I made my way to the hall in time to see her entering the next room wearing the same gloves. This was in a chemotherapy ward, where patients were stripped of all their immunities.

    Clostridium will kill you. Believe me, I know.

    When Albany Med patients with C. difficile are left on gurney's in the hallways of the cancer ward, they get a caution sign attached to them. The other patients who are encouraged to exercise by walking the same halls must notice the sign and avoid that patient.

    Back in that patient's room, housekeeping will be conducting its typical, cursory cleaning, using a tuberculocidal and bactericidal bleaching agent on easiest-to-reach surfaces.

    One challenge to the worker is waiting a whole minute to allow the Clostridium-killing agent to have full-immersion contact with a surface. But working free of oversight, who'd expect any worker making those kinds of wages to wait that long? They're focused on their next cigarette break.

    To complicate things, note how the disinfectant is dispensed. If you think that Albany Med has gallons of the stuff lying around, then you'd be dead wrong (perhaps literally). These non-English-speaking Housekeeping staff who want their cigarettes must disinfect entire rooms in Albany Med's ancient cancer ward by tearing open 3"x 3" packets of Alcavis Bleach Wipe towelettes and using them as hand-held wipes. (If you've seen the small buckets of dispensable towelettes that hospitals use, those are CaviWipes which don't kill Clostridium.)

    I cannot overemphasize, the situation at Albany Med is appalling and it will kill you. It also saves the hospital money.

    I really do feel for Columbia-Memorial's financial strain, but solving its financial problems by joining with Albany Med's version of cost-cutting will result in a life-threatening degradation of services.

    In recent years, Columbia Memorial reportedly has made progress in reversing hospital infection rates, but if our hospital follows Albany Med's business plan, then sure as rain Hudson's mortality rate will start to climb again.

  3. Will CMH be keeping its racist policy?

  4. Will CMH finally make a deal with that parking garage for their employees benefit - and the surrounding community?