Construction under way at NorthCare St. Francis

Filed under: Health Care |

Construction has begun at NorthCare at St. Francis, an 85,250-square-foot medical building that will be linked to St. Francis Medical Center via a sky-bridge. Both buildings are scheduled to open in fall 2008.
Located on the corner of Powers Boulevard and Woodmen Road, NorthCare at St. Francis will be the only private medical building in southern Colorado with direct access to a medical center or hospital.
NorthCare at St. Francis, a physician-owned practice headed by Dr. Kevin Weary, will include an OB/GYN surgery center, laboratory services, a women’s health care practice and a national pharmacy.

U.S. news recognizes Penrose-St. Francis

Penrose-St. Francis Health Services was named one of “America’s Best Hospitals” in a report published by U.S. News and World Report.
A Centura Health hospital, Penrose was one of 173 hospitals — of 5,462 that were evaluated — to receive the award. It is the second consecutive year the hospital has been recognized by the magazine.
The rankings cover 16 specialties, from cancer and heart disease to respiratory disorders. Hospitals were ranked by specialty and not by specific procedures, according to the report, because the goal was to identify facilities that excel at treating a variety of demanding illnesses.
Penrose was specifically praised for its treatment of respiratory and digestive disorders. For the complete list of recipients, visit www.health.usnews.com/besthospitals.

AMA renews call for fiscal neutrality in Medicare

The American Medical Association has renewed its call for fiscal neutrality between Medicare Advantage and traditional Medicare, citing the gross inequity in payments between the two programs.
“Right now the government is paying health insurance plans that administer Medicare Advantage, on average, 12 percent more per person than it spends on patients enrolled in traditional Medicare,” said AMA board member Cecil Wilson. “With Medicare payments to doctors who care for seniors slated for a 10 percent cut next year, Congress must put the money used to subsidize the insurance industry to better use.”
AMA physicians want Congress to eliminate the Medicare Advantage subsidy. The group says that private Medicare plans should compete with the regular Medicare program on a fiscally neutral basis.
“While groups that truly represent physicians fight to preserve all seniors’ access to health care by stopping Medicare physician payment cuts, the insurance industry and its partners are solely focused on preserving their $65 billion government subsidy,” Wilson said.
A report by the California Association of Physician Groups, which represents some medical groups practicing in the managed care model, says that Medicare Advantage provides incentives to California physician groups to provide proactive care, and gives an example of greater outreach for flu and pneumonia vaccinations.
By that logic, California with its 35 percent of patients enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans should have above average vaccination rates. However, the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show that adults 65 and older in California receive flu shots in line with the national average.
For the pneumonia vaccination, the number is below the national average. In Maine — which has only 2 percent of Medicare patients enrolled in Medicare Advantage — the percentage of seniors who received flu and pneumonia vaccinations is higher than in California.
“Eight in 10 of America’s seniors are enrolled in the traditional Medicare program,” Wilson said. “Congress needs to do what’s right for seniors by stopping harsh Medicare cuts to physicians that will make it very hard for physicians to care for new Medicare patients. The most viable way to do that is to level the playing field by eliminating the Medicare Advantage overpayment.”

New AIDS treatment

An investigational drug used in combination with a second agent has proven to be effective in fighting drug-resistant HIV, according to an article in Lancet.
The clinical trial, which involved 18 nations and more than 30 centers in the United States, was the first to offer patients infected with resistant HIV the potential of receiving two investigational drugs to fight the disease. The drugs are TMC125 (etravirine) and TMC114 (darunavir, also known as Prezista). Both are made by Tibotec (a Johnson & Johnson company), the sponsor of the trial.
The data will be presented later this month during the International AIDS Society conference in Sydney, Australia.
“This study is one of the most significant worldwide HIV/AIDS clinical trials in recent years,” said Dr. William J. Towner of Kaiser Permanente Southern California, a co-author of the Lancet article. “It showed that when the two drugs are used in combination, there is a good chance HIV can be very effectively controlled in patients who have advanced, multi-drug resistant HIV.”
The Lancet study found that at the 24th week, patients who received TMC125 in combination with TMC114 achieved better virological suppression than those who received only TMC114.
“Treating a resistant virus with two active agents has been a mantra in HIV care for quite some time,” Towner said. “Adding only one active agent to a patient experiencing drug failure usually results in the rapid, predictable development of resistance to that agent.”
Amy Gillentine covers health care for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.