Dangers could lurk in that burger,
Here at Outliers, our summer reading includes cooking magazines, popular fiction, the occasional biography and epidemiological reports. And it was with a stab of concern that we read in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report of the 50-year-old man who was hospitalized after a backyard barbeque.
He was discharged after a laparotomy to remove the foreign object seen by CT to be protruding from his small intestine. The object “appeared to be a wire bristle from a grill-cleaning brush,” according to the weekly report.
Wire bristles were removed from five more patients at the same hospital system during the next 15 months. Three were extracted after becoming stuck in the neck. Doctors performed emergency surgery on two patients. All ate from a grill. The cases were preceded by six others treated at the same health system in 2009 and 2010 who swallowed wire brush bristles.
Grillers, beware of the wayward bristle. “Before cooking, persons should examine the grill surface carefully for the presence of bristles that might have dislodged from the grill brush and could embed in cooked food. Alternative residential grill-cleaning methods or products might be considered,” according to the report.
So be bristle-aware, people! Outliers doesn’t want your barbecue to put anyone in the hospital.
The case of the missing heart
Imagine getting your deceased spouse’s body back from the hospital, only to discover his heart missing.
And imagine getting conclusive proof, eight years after his burial, that the confiscated organ was, in fact, sitting in a tub in a morgue locker at a different hospital after you had won a $2 million fraud verdict against the hospital where he died.
It’s no Edgar Allen Poe story. A July 12 article by investigative news not-for-profit ProPublica reported that Linda Carswell recently got direct evidence that St. Joseph Medical Center in Houston still has her husband’s heart in storage, years after his autopsy. The hospital will not return the heart, according to the report. Carswell won a verdict against the hospital where Jerry Carswell died, Christus St. Catherine Hospital in Katy, Texas, after alleging fraud based on mishandling of the autopsy. Carswell lost on a second accusation of negligence. The hospital is appealing the case, but Texas this year passed a new informed-consent law for autopsies called the Jerry Carswell Memorial Act after Linda Carswell lobbied strongly for it, ProPublica wrote.
Meanwhile, a different hospital still has the heart. A lawyer for St. Joseph Medical Center, whose pathologist conducted the autopsy on Jerry Carswell, told the news outlet that while hospital officials understand they could be sued to turn over the organ, they still felt obligated to honor a judge’s order during Carswell’s negligence case to preserve evidence.
Senator questions HRSA’s tropical trips
Who would have guessed that health policy geeks could be angling for fun in the sun?
That was the conclusion of one prominent congressional critic of wasteful government spending when he reviewed a recent Government Accountability Office report on the Health Resources and Services Administration. The nonpartisan congressional investigator found HRSA did not consistently follow HHS regulations in its oversight of Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act grantees. Specifically, the agency did not show it used a “risk-based strategy” for deciding which of its grantees would receive so-called site visits.
That may be pretty dry policy material to most people, but Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) smelled a tropical rat.
Coburn delved into GAO’s findings that 44% of grantees did not receive a HRSA site visit from 2008 through 2011 while others received multiple visits. The common thread? Coburn concluded that a few tropical locations with little grant funding were much more likely to get a HRSA visit than less exotic locations that received significant funding. For instance, no agency official visited grantees in nearby Maryland, which received $40 million in Ryan White funds, while the Virgin Islands received six official visits in the same timeframe to monitor only $1 million in grants funding. Puerto Rico received a more substantial $31 million but also 12 HRSA visits.
HRSA insists the trips weren’t junkets. “They were working site visits to grantees in need of help,” a HRSA spokesman says. “The grantees in both Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands both had a long history of sustained fiscal and clinical challenges that were life-threatening to patients and had the potential to increase incidence of HIV in those jurisdictions.”
Coburn’s advice: “HRSA should be setting travel priorities based on what’s best for patients, not any other factors.”
Who knows what dangers lurk in that burger? Beware the bristle!
Coburn is questioning HRSA’s Caribbean trips.