Posts Tagged ‘DHEC’

Money to be made

December 9, 2009

You would do well not to have heart surgery – either for a Congenital Heart Defect or an acquired Heart Problem – in Central South Carolina.

Before you understand why, I need to explain the basic geography: In Columbia, South Carolina are several hospitals, but there are two of interest: One of them is Providence, which bills itself as the state’s heart hospital. Most of the procedures they do are for acquired heart problems – catherizations, bypass, stent placement… that’s their specialty. (I’ve been a patient there, They are very good at what they do, but when you are talking about Congenital Heart Defects, not so much.) There is another hospital nearby, Palmetto Health, that also performs heart surgery. Like “the state’s heart hospital”, they also do mainly procedures that you associate with acquired heart problems.

Think about that: two heart surgery hospitals in a city with less than 200,000 population. Wow. If you ask them, they need all these heart surgery options because the hospitals are centrally located and serve most of South Carolina, which has a population of about 3 million people. (Most CHD surgery is done at the Medical University of South Carolina, located 200 miles away in Charleston.)

Now look across the county line, at Lexington Medical Center. Lexington Medical wants to start performing heart surgery. They want it bad – so bad, that two years ago they went to South Carolina’s state health organization (the Department of Health and Environmental Control, known by their acronym, DHEC) and requested permission to start a heart surgery unit.

DHEC (pronounced “Dee-Heck”) said no. There’s plenty of heart surgery options available across the county line in Columbia, and they aren’t really far away. We don’t really need a third heart surgery center that close to the other two.

Now what could prompt Lexington Medical to want to start a surgical unit? Greed. Heart Surgery can be a cash cow for a hospital. There’s money in them there Ventricles, and gosh darn it, we should claim our fair share!

So after DHEC turned them down, Lexington Medical limped off to nurse its wounds, but was soon back with another plan. If they could convince DHEC to reduce the minimum number of heart operations needed to qualify as a surgical center, they could get their Heart Surgery unit!

Are they out of their freaking minds?

If you want to become proficient at something, you do it… and keep doing it until you get good at it. This is especially true with heart surgery: patients fare better under the care of more experienced surgeons and hospitals. But Lexington Medical wanted to lower the number of procedures required. Thankfully, DHEC shot this idea down, too.

But once again, Lexington Medical is back – this time, they have convinced Providence to shut down one of their heart surgery units while Lexington Medical opens the Open Heart Surgery unit so have wanted so badly. In return, Lexington Medical will pay Providence fifteen million dollars.

Are they out of their freaking minds?

The answer seems to be yes – not just at Lexington Medical, but also over at Providence, too. And at DHEC for agreeing to this crazy scheme. A surgical unit (of any specialty) can not be purchased at Hospitals R Us – they have to be assembled, person by person, one team member at a time, until you have an experienced unit that works well together. That could take ten to fifteen years.

Obviously, money is a big factor in any medical program. But Lexington Medical Center has pursued their new open heart surgery center not to serve the community, but in pursuit of the almighty dollar.

But wait, there’s MORE!

October 1, 2009

Call today, and you’ll receive…. your flu shot!

I  thought I would pass what I learned today along to you: I called the local office of my state health department (the Department of Health and Environmental Control, spelled DHEC and pronounced “dee-heck”) and asked about the status of the H1N1 vaccine. I was told that the FluMist would be available next week, (they thought) and the injections two weeks after that.

Good, I said; I am in one of the priority groups but my doctor says that I should only get it as an injection.

If that is so you should call this number, the operator told me. That’s our district office. Tell them that you are in a priority group and make an appointment to get the shot. You can tell them that you want to get the shot here rather than travel all the way to the district, too.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is going to allocate shots to the individual states based on population. This is not rationing, but rather an attempt to equalize distribution – a way to make sure that there aren’t 45,000 extra doses available on the West Coast but you can’t find one the vaccine in Florida. And if a state knows that there is a pressing need locally, they can ask CDC to increase their allotment.

So if you know you need to have the H1N1 vaccine, call your state health department. Let them know that you want the shot, and try to set up a time and place to get it… you can always change the details later. But doing so will help make sure that the vaccine is available.

Aww, man!

April 27, 2009

We’ve got company:  A Private High School here in South Carolina has some students who have been to Mexico and now have Flu like symptoms.

Normally, South Carolinians are friendly people. We’re glad to see you, we treat visitors like family, and you’re more than welcome to sit on the front porch and visit for a while.  But in the case of Swine Flu, I think I speak for all Palmetto State residents when I say “Get out and do not come back!”

You Gotta be Kidding Me!

August 16, 2008

Oh, my….!

Excuse me for a moment. Right now steam is literally coming out of my ears and I’m not typing this post as much as I am pounding the keyboard.

IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP: If you or your child needs advanced Cardiac Care – if you need advance medical care of any type – do not, repeat NOT seek it in South Carolina.

For years now these guys have looked across the river at two other hospitals and their Cardiac Care units with lust in their eyes. They want a Cardiac Care unit of their very own. The trouble is, you can’t just build a medical unit in the great state of South Carolina. You have to have approval from the Department of Health and Environmental Control (who use the acronym DHEC, which is pronounced “Dee-Heck”) and so far, DHEC has said there is no need for another Cardiac Care Unit. There are two good units across the river, they say, and there is no need for another one. We don’t need three facilities so close together, all we’ll have is duplication of care, and the quality of all three units will decline.

So the hospital tried a different tactic: Get an amendment to the State Health Plan (an overview of the state’s medical needs, drawn up by the South Carolina Hospital Association and approved by DHEC) that actually lowers the minimum number of heart surgeries a unit must do to maintain DHEC approval.

Amazing Fact #1: The amendment lost by a vote of 7 to 6.

Amazing Fact #2: Because the state’s “sunshine law” wasn’t complied with, this issue is going to be voted on again!

Common sense will tell you that the only way a good medical team comes together is through experience. This list by U.S. News and World Report lists the top heart hospitals in the nation, and here is the best Pediatric hospital for heart problems. These hospitals got to be so good by experience; and they got that experience through repetition. Not by trying to get by on the least effort possible.

The move to lower the minimum number of procedures doesn’t show a willingness to provide top notch heart care… it tells me that they are more interested in dipping into the deep pockets of the insurance companies. And no, I am not so blind as to believe that everyone involved in Cardiology has pure motives; there is plenty of money to be made. But you can at least act like you have the health of the community as your best interest.