The long-awaited verdict on the latest appeal by Novartis was issued April 1 , to the relief of health justice advocates and patients in India and around the world. For seven years now, Novartis has challenged India’s patent laws which apply to Glivec, their brand of the cancer drug imatinib mesylate ( which the company spells as “Gleevec” in North America, to uniformize pronunciation) , an action which portended grave global problems for access to costly drugs in general. India’s high court ruled that the form of Glivec which the company wished to patent was not a new drug which would merit such status. The ruling is important to assure that affordable generic forms of vital medicines can be manufactured, but advocacy efforts will continue to be needed for future drugs. With so much published on the case no need for me to repeat details here , among the excellent sources for those wishing to learn more is Knowledge Ecology International and its IP-Health listserv.
This blog has been on hold for a good while now as a result of life circumstances, despite best intentions. On the day of my last post, my very elderly father took a fall which caused a brain injury from which he ultimately succumbed. Although he had declined considerably in the preceding months, and had recently acknowledged that he might need to make a change in his living arrangements, he continued as his fiercely independent self and fell on his walk to the grocery store. The previous day I had attended the 2012 Northwest Patient Safety Conference , including the excellent workshop Safe Passage: Opportunities to Reduce Harm While Providing Care at the End of Life by Hope Wechkin, MD, Medical Director of Evergreen Hospice and Palliative Care. Although the topic has long been of both personal and professional interest to me, I had no idea then how very valuable her practical advice would be as I dealt with negotiating my dad’s “safe passage.” My only regret about his last weeks is the time that I had to spend dealing with bureaucracies instead of being at his side.
But despite all my background and almost a decade of experience as Dad’s point person & caregiver, I had to be extremely assertive to get him a palliative care referral and then a hospice referral. Never once did the medical staff ever mention these subjects, despite my father’s condition. Once on board, the palliative care team ,and later the hospice nurses, were excellent. It’s a sad commentary indeed on our broken system that these services are not offered routinely.
My plans for the blog this year are to continue to offer news and commentary on topics and issues that may not be getting so much attention in the general media.
Here’s the invitation from event organizers:
Friday, May 18, 2012, 7:00 to 9:30 PM
Friday Night at the Meaningful Movies Is pleased to present:
The film: “THE HEALTHCARE MOVIE” And a Community Discussion with guests:
• AARON KATZ, Principal Lecturer of Health Services and Global Health, UW
• DR. REENA KOSHY, National Physicians Alliance
• DR. SARAH WEINBERG, Physicians for a National Health Program & Healthcare For All – Washington, and
• LAURIE SIMONS AND TERRY STERRENBERG, The Filmmakers
LOCATION: Keystone Congregational Church, 5019 Keystone Place North, Seattle, 98103 (in Wallingford)
Facilitated community discussion follows the film.
For more information: http://www.meaningfulmovies.org
Event is Free and Open To the Public
This documentary provides the real story of how the health care systems in Canada and the United States evolved to be so completely different, when at one point they were essentially the same. Most people under the age of 50, in both countries, are not aware of the intensity of the political struggle that led to the universal medical care system in Canada. Nor are they aware of the public relations campaigns, still active today, that have been prevalent in the United States since the early 1900’s to dissuade the public from supporting national health care.
Produced by Canadian/American couple Laurie Simons and Terry Sterrenberg, THE HEALTHCARE MOVIE reveals the personal and emotional impact on Canadians who now have access to universal health care because of the heroism of people who took a stand nearly 50 years ago. It also reveals the continuing struggle in the United States between the fear of government intervention and the right to quality health care for all people.
Every day people are dying or going bankrupt due to the ills of the United States system. Who are we in the face of this human tragedy? If you agree that people are more important than profits, then you must watch this film.
In these times of intense attention to healthcare from all quarters of the US, a new study by USA Today and Kaiser Health News reporters focused on community clinics. Over the past 2 decades community clinics have developed from origins often as volunteer-run efforts, to become a vital part of what is called the safety-net. Frequently they now are the sole source of care available to over 20 million people, often as the only providers who will accept patients covered by Medicaid, and for the growing ranks of the uninsured. The sorry state of healthcare access would be far worse if it were not for community clinics. These centers will play an important role too in the reforms set to start in 2014. It is expected that many who will become newly insured by Medicaid will be seeking care at community clinics. Long woefully underfunded, clinics will be eligible to receive help from the $10 billion approved by Congress for expanding their service capacity.
The report entitled Community clinics have odds stacked against them looked at almost 1200 community clinics across the country, and ranked them based on the 6 categories of performance quality measures which federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) must report to the federal government. The categories cover care for patients with diabetes and high blood pressure, rates of screening for cervical cancer and childhood immunizations, plus timeliness of prenatal care and rates of low birth-weight babies.
Using 2010 clinic performance data obtained by FOIA request, the reporting team found wide variations in care by center, by region of the country, and between specific centers in the same city. Generally, clinics in the South performed worse that those in New England, the Midwest, and California. Overall, their survey showed community clinics not performing as well as the national averages for the study parameters .
There is more context to understanding the survey results however, that was not part of the report. The National Association of Community Health Centers issued a statement about the report which while recognizing the value of examining clinic performance, expressed concern about the wrong impressions that the media study might give:
The article disregards the better quality care that most health centers achieve when compared to care provided to other low-income patients elsewhere. However, at least the article does reveal what few Americans realize– that every health center reports on the quality of care their patients receive….
…When you compare the federal data that is the focus of the USA Today article with national data from the National Center for Health Statistics, health centers performed better than national averages for entering women into prenatal care during the first trimester, childhood immunization rates, reduced low birth rates and hypertension control…..
NACHC recently published its report Health Wanted – The State of Unmet Need for Primary Health Care in America which takes an in-depth look at the factors behind the consistent and increasing demand for community clinics, the links to social determinants of health and how funding has not kept up to meet population needs. In FY 2011 for example, only 67 out of some 1900 applications for new health center service sites were funded.
Seattle/Local Health Guide extracted localized figures from the report to create a Washington State Comparison Chart. Janna Wilson, Senior External Relations Officer for the Seattle-King County Department of Public Health shared additional concerns with me in a personal communication, about implications and lack of context for specific data used for the local news article:
The data provided for Public Health represents a small subset of the patients we see—our homeless primary care patients. This is because Public Health’s federal health center grant comes under a targeted program called Health Care for the Homeless. Our federal data report, therefore, is specific to our homeless patients per federal reporting requirements. As you know, homeless patients face barriers that often exacerbate medical and behavioral health conditions and complicate treatment plans.
While most community health center grants and programs are for the general low-income population, some — like ours — target special population groups such as homeless people or migrant workers. There is nothing in the USA Today article that provides this important context. That said, quality improvement is a big part of our program for all our patients, whether homeless or housed.
Posted in Advocacy, Assistance, Children's Health, Community clinics, Economics of Health Care, Health Care Reform, Health Disparities, Health Insurance, Healthcare Inequalities, Medicaid | Leave a Comment »