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Nuclear Waste In Texas Lights Up The Lone Prairie

8:54 am in Uncategorized by Ruth Calvo

Glowing in the dark

(Picture courtesy of Curtis Gregory Perry (coincidentally) at flickr.com.)

Today, another nuclear waste facility, in France, is adding to the reminders that there are hazards beyond what we can see in dealing with nuclear energy.   Telling us again that Texas should not be a nuclear waste repository are a growing number of accidents.

Japan saw meltdown of stored waste during its earthquake/tsunami earlier this year.   That should have brought it home to anyone with an ounce of judgment that the last thing you want happening in our world is nuclear storage handled by political party players with no background safety record.

Fukushima did involve three reactors and seven spent fuel pools, containing thousands of highly radioactive rods. Hydrogen explosions rocked the plant in the first week after an earthquake and tsunami crippled the reactors.

In Texas, though, pay to play has brought about just the hazard that is beyond regulatory control.   A big donor to the Goodhaired Governor’s political slush fund has bought himself a permit to dump nuclear waste in the state.  This dump could become one of the largest known, and will accept wastes from other states in addition to those within. Read the rest of this entry →

Memo: Medical Safety Isn’t Hard

7:15 am in Uncategorized by Ruth Calvo

As I discovered from the responses to my post on tort reform yesterday, there is something of a sacrosanct atmosphere connected with medicine.  Of course, having had really good doctors for the most part, I am generally respectful of the practitioners of medicine, too.

One good friend who also was a good doctor reminded us that calling doctors’ profession a “practice” had a lot of meaning.   Each person, and each medical episode, is unique.   In order to treat it, that particular doctor  realized, usually a certain amount of uncertainty was involved.  He also noted that if he found himself looking at something as just another episode of uninteresting routine, he should not continue practicing medicine.

One  leading medical research projects involved imposing a check list before medical procedures could be performed.   Dr. Pronovost of Johns Hopkins, who performed the research, encountered indignation and irascibility, but his findings show the acute need for such a step.

Peter Pronovost, a Johns Hopkins anesthesiologist who has convinced some of the country’s most prestigious hospitals to fight infections with a simple five-point checklist.His message: If health care workers took five steps as easy as washing their hands and wearing sterile gloves and gowns, they could virtually eliminate one of the most lethal  infections among their sickest patients.

(snip)

When a medical team introduces a checklist into its routine, he says, a nurse can remind a surgeon that he or she hasn’t done the requisite hand-washing—something that many nurses wouldn’t dare to do in a traditional hospital setting.

“In 1990, people wouldn’t have been talking about checklists at all.  This whole approach to patient-centeredness and consumerism in medicine—those are all relatively new concepts,” said cardiac surgeon Dr. William Berry, a Harvard researcher who is working on the Safe Surgery Saves Lives Initiative with the World Health Organization.

Measures that work would appear to be exactly what would best serve the public.  It’s the shame of the present dominant, right wing, element in our government that it does not try to do its job of protecting the public.  Their method of reducing public safety by preventing suits against doctors looks increasingly like the sham it is

Check lists are not hard work, they are a basic safety measure.   When their pride is getting in the way of treating patients, our medical personnel are incompetent.

Tort reform looks increasingly like the last refuge of scoundrels.

Tort Reform Means You Pay For Others’ Errors

4:00 am in Government, Health care, State Government by Ruth Calvo

Tort reform sign at a Tea Party rally against health care reform. (photo: Pittsford Patriot via Flickr)

One of the favorite choices of the wingnuts for actual legislation has always been ‘tort reform’.  It was their hue and cry to get out of making health care productive for most citizens, even though it is not an area subject to federal legislation.

In Texas where there has been extensive tort reform, conditions have been created that are ideal for incompetence and outright fraud. One area that has seen a true disaster is in emergency room care. Under conditions that may include extreme stress, mistakes can occur but the patient maimed for life cannot count on any compensation for those mistakes.

Since the new law went into effect, doctors’ malpractice insurance rates have fallen by nearly 30 percent statewide, according to the Texas Department of Insurance. And 82 Texas counties have seen a net gain in emergency physicians, including 26 counties that previously had none, says Jon Opelt, executive director of the pro-tort-reform Texas Alliance for Patient Access. “It has really enhanced the number of high-demand specialists — neurosurgeons, obstetricians, anesthesiologists — in parts of Texas where there weren’t any,” says Rocky Wilcox, general counsel for the Texas Medical Association.

But medical malpractice attorneys say these developments have come at the expense of Texas patients. Texans expect to receive extraordinary care in an emergency room, the attorneys say. Instead, state courts have ruled that a “lower standard of care” is acceptable for doctors practicing in ERs. They argue the “willful and wanton” rule means emergency room care in Texas is some of the most dangerous in the country, because no one can be held accountable for botched diagnoses or flat-out wrong care.

I happen to live in a small town not too far from Dallas for doctors and others to commute reasonably. Partly for that reason, our hospital is known to be something of a reservoir of physicians that didn’t make it in the big city. Of course, there are exceptions, but generally we know that this hospital ER is really a very last resort. In case of severe injuries, it is generally requested that the patient be transported to a better, that is, uh, better equipped medical facility.

If you are not able to work and pay your bills, face it, knowing you will get no compensation for being rendered disabled is the worst of all possible worlds. Its name is tort reform. Being the ultimate resort of doctors most worried about malpractice claims isn’t the state you want to be in, either.

There are other areas in which tort reform is a full employment plan for the worst practitioners. When I drive through rush hour traffic, I don’t usually think about it to avoid panic. If I am hit by another driver, even under egregious circumstances, damages are not really dependable for the victim. Let’s see, in a state that has provided refuge for medically incompetent doctors, what do you think are the qualifications for truck drivers and delivery personnel. Not a good prospect when you hit the road, is it?  I’d stay out of any construction sites, too, since just taking away barriers to your dangerous zones isn’t going to make the city worry. They’ve got tort reform. Yeehaw.

We’re not all of us ‘slip and fall’ artists, the perpetual  and/or professional victims of injury by encounter with hazards that happen to be insured by a business entity. We all know about fraud by that means, but in the tort reform state an innocent fall on or off of a hazardous structure may cost you your total means of support. If you slip on my front stairs, my insurance company has its own lawyers all set to protect their coffers, not you. Good luck in ER, too. Tort reform is hazardous to your health in many, many ways.

Of course, under present legal constructions, if you are injured by some particularly crazy behavior on the part of another “party”, to collect damages you have to prove “intent”. That other “party” may have driven out in front of you and stopped suddenly, but can you show that the “party” intended to wrack up his own car to collect on the insurance?

The most dangerous elements love tort reform. When the wingnuts insist on its being a great way to save your money, steer clear. They are hazardous to your health and your retirement planning.

Animal Companions Need Your Awareness

7:00 am in Uncategorized by Ruth Calvo

Recently an uptick in deaths of companion animals has begun to alarm veterinarians, and a study of the information completed and publishes yesterday shows that products used to kill pests are killing the pets as well. As I recall from reading Silent Spring when my children were infants, the products we created and used in our homes are deadly to other life forms than the pests we intend them for.

Many of us have long been aware that poisons in the environment were hazards. Those of us who keep cats, dogs and other creatures around will need to be careful with the ways we treat them. Unsurprisingly, the EPA announcement naturally lays the blame on owners and increased use of pesticides by the careless owners.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be making sweeping changes in the labeling and approval of existing and new spot-on flea control products to stave off possible adverse reactions for dogs and cats.

In a press briefing at 2 p.m. this afternoon, EPA’s Steve Owens, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances, announced that new labeling requirements, public education and increased monitoring for adverse events will become part of standard regulatory enforcement efforts in an attempt to fight off increasing rates of adverse events.

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