BNB8: Must Read Stories

Privacy laws in the U.S. need to be updated, especially after Google struck a deal with a major hospital chain, medical ethics expert Arthur Kaplan said Wednesday.

“Now we’ve got electronic medical records, huge volumes of data, and this is like asking a navigation system from a World War I airplane to navigate us up to the space shuttle,” Kaplan, a professor at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine, told “The News With Shepard Smith.” “We’ve got to update our privacy protection and our informed consent requirements.”

On Wednesday, Google’s cloud unit and hospital chain HCA Healthcare announced a deal that — according to The Wall Street Journal — gives Google access to patient records.

.... Kaplan told host Shepard Smith that he was concerned that a company like Google, which does a lot of commercial advertising, could correlate the information coming out of the healthcare system and potentially sell it.

Critics, including local officials, say the understaffing is a result of HCA’s deliberate cost-cutting, which has contributed to record profits for the Nashville-based hospital chain despite the pandemic. Others say doctors and nurses are quitting Mission because of what they say is HCA’s profit-motivated management style.

... complaints of declining patient care and safety began soon after HCA took over. Fifteen months ago, in February 2020, Asheville mayor Esther Manheimer and Buncombe County Commission chairman Brownie Newman, along with four other North Carolina elected officials, signed an open letter to the independent monitor overseeing HCA’s compliance with terms of the sale, stating “We are writing with deep concern regarding the state of Mission Hospital Systems since the purchase by Hospital Corporation of America last year.”

“Concerns have been pouring in from distressed patients, practitioners and HCA employees,” the statement said. “With HCA heavily focused on the bottom line, there have been numerous, aggressive staff cuts over the past year, putting patient safety at risk. Certified nurse assistants and unit secretaries have been cut dramatically or eliminated, putting new pressure on nurses. Patient to nursing staff ratios have also increased and some departments have seen an exodus of nurses, further stressing the remaining nurses.”

Contacted last week by Asheville Watchdog, Manheimer said, “I continue to have concerns regarding the level of care provided by HCA.”

  • The Transylvania Times: AG Stein Wants to Hear HCA Feedback
  • In a letter to Major Jimmy Harris, [North Carolina Attorney General] Stein addressed concerns Harris and the Brevard City Council raised in a letter city leaders sent to Stein’s office in March about Transylvania Regional Hospital and Mission-owned facilities in the county following an exodus of at least 14 of the hospital system’s physicians and health care professionals. The N.C. Attorney General’s office oversaw the sale of Mission Health to HCA Healthcare in 2019 as it was a for-profit company purchasing the former nonprofit health care system.

    “I remain committed to ensuring that HCA Healthcare complies with the agreement I negotiated during the Mission/HCA transaction. This agreement includes obligations to provide services,” Stein said in the letter. “If HCA is repeatedly not making physicians available to provide those services, it is not meeting the commitments under the agreement.

    “Further, as I mentioned in my previous letter, whenever we receive complaints about the substandard quality of care, we not only review those in connection with HCA’s duty to provide services, but we also share those complaints with our colleagues at the Department of Health and Human Services.”

    After receiving the letter, Councilwoman Maureen Copelof said she was contacted by Assistant Attorney General Logan Walters and further discussed her concerns over HCA’s new ownership.

    Copelof said the main concerns she brought up with Walters were the loss of physicians at Transylvania Regional Hospital and how rural health care is changing.

    Previously, Copelof has said that one of the main difficulties in trying to assess the situation at TRH is that the hospital is not transparent with specific metrics or numbers related to staffing or number of services provided pre- and post-acquisition.

    … HCA’s Hazen, meanwhile, saw a massive pay bump tied to the value of his supplemental executive retirement plan benefits. Changes in his pension value and non-qualified deferred compensation earnings landed at about $12.3 million for 2020, up from $9.6 last year.

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