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POLITICO New York Health Care: Examining North Shore-LIJ-Maimonides; Legionnaires' source identified

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written by Josefa Velasquez

HOW THE DEAL WAS DONE — Nearly two years ago, while discussing how they might partner to save the failing Long Island College Hospital, North Shore-LIJ CEO Michael Dowling turned to Maimonides CEO Pam Brier and said: Forget about LICH, let's talk about us. What would it take, Dowling wanted to know, for Brier to ink a deal with North Shore-LIJ? Brier said she was looking for a partner who could invest significant capital, but she wanted her hospital to retain its independence. At the time, Dowling demurred, saying no one would grant a deal quite like that. On Wednesday, the two CEOs announced a deal, just like that.

Maimonides gets much-needed cash — tens of millions of dollars — for capital and operational investments. That will help it compete with Presbyterian-backed Methodist and Langone-backed Lutheran. North Shore-LIJ gets its first real foothold in Brooklyn, one of the most competitive health care markets in the nation. But it does so without the commitment that a full-scale merger would entail. An affiliation agreement also protects North Shore-LIJ from unknown liabilities related to the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies, a malpractice insurer that covers Maimonides and several other hospitals. POLITICO New York’s Dan Goldberg has more detail, and an explanation of how it came together: [PRO]

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GROUND ZERO FOR LEGIONNAIRES’ — The Opera House Hotel in the Bronx was the source of the Legionnaires’ outbreak that killed 12 people and sickened 120 others, the city’s health department said. In a statement Thursday, the hotel’s management said they were “disappointed” after a state’s laboratory matched the strain of legionella from their cooling towers to the one in patients. "The city department of health and State DOH have kept us fully informed over the last 10 days and we appreciate the professionalism they have demonstrated,” the statement read. It was a departure from earlier this month where representatives at the Opera House complained that the city’s health officials were being withholding.

...Keep this in mind: The hotel management said it regularly cleaned its cooling tower and it was still the source of the Legionnaires’ outbreak. This means the new city law and state regulations would likely not have prevented this outbreak.

NOW WE KNOW — Nearly all contact lense wearers engage in risky behavior that can lead to eye infections, like keeping their lenses in for longer than recommended, wearing them while sleeping or adding new solution to already existing solution, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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OXYCONTIN MAKER SETTLES — OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma must limit its salespeople's volume-based bonuses, as well as strengthen other internal controls and better educate prescribers and patients, under a new settlement with the state amid efforts to curb opioid abuse. The settlement follows an investigation by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office that found Purdue sales representatives — who earn bonuses tied to the volume of OxyContin prescribed — may have failed to flag doctors involved in opioid abuse, though it did not accuse the company of any wrongdoing. Many of those prescribers were later arrested and charged in distribution schemes, and Purdue, while not responsible, could do more to prevent such activity, the attorney general said.

STRIKE — Ellis Medicine in Schenectady is threatening to lock out members of the New York State Nurses Association for five days if the union makes good on its threat to impose a one-day strike, POLITICO New York’s Dan Goldberg reports. The NYSNA has pressed for mandatory staffing ratios, which would require a certain number of nurses be on each floor at all times. The union failed to push a mandatory staffing bill through the state Legislature during the last session, and hospitals have so far resisted this mandate during contract negotiations, which has led to a series of strike threats across New York. Those threats are met by promises of lockouts. The pattern has repeated itself in Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island and now the Capital Region. On each occasion, a settlement has been reached before a strike took place, and while management has promised to hire additional nurses, there have been no concessions on mandatory ratios, which the union has consistently said is its top priority. [PRO]

NAIL SALON VIOLATIONS — Months after Gov. Andrew Cuomo created a task force to crack down on nail salons, investigators for the state have begun making unannounced visits to salons in Astoria, Queens. “This was a sweep. But this was not a guns-blazing drama unfolding blocks from the movie stages in Astoria, Queens. This was a meticulous fact-finding mission that took nearly an hour and left Mr. Tran with a list of things to fix. If he did not get workers’ compensation insurance for his employees, his shop would have to close,” the New York Timesreports. At the Sparking Snail salon, investigators found that only three of seven workers were licensed.

PHARMA REPORT: POLITICO reports: “Valeant Pharmaceuticals is buying Sprout Pharmaceuticals for $1 billion and plans to take the company’s newly approved drug treating women’s low libido global. … Sprout on Tuesday received FDA approval to market the first U.S. treating low sex drive, but it came with strict mandates from the agency to minimize the drug’s risks.”


-CARTER’S CANCER — Former president Jimmy Carter on Thursday revealed that doctors have found “four spots of melanoma” on his brain and that he will immediately begin radiation treatment. “I was surprisingly at ease, more so than my wife was,” Carter said of his reaction to the diagnosis. “But now, I feel this is in the hands of God, and I’ll be prepared for anything that comes.” POLITICO’s Nick Gass has more:

...Keeping with his calm and airy tone, Carter said he’d like to see the eradication of the Guinea worm disease in Africa. “I’d like for the last guinea worm to die before I do,” he said, smiling.

-ORGANIC FOOD RECALL ON THE RISE — According to Stericycle, a company that collects data on recalls, there has been a spike in the number or recalls for organic food. Roughly 7 percent of all food units recalled so far this year have been organic products, a jump from the 2 percent recall of last year. “What’s striking is that since 2012, all organic recalls have been driven by bacterial contamination, like salmonella, listeria and hepatitis A, rather than a problem with a label,” said Kevin Pollack, the vice president of the company. “This is a fairly serious and really important issue because a lot of consumers just aren’t aware of it.”

-JUST IN TIME FOR SCHOOL — Lice in at least 25 states have shown resistance to common treatment. Researchers presenting their work at the American Chemical Society found that 104 out of 109 lice populations tested had high levels of gene mutations, which have been linked to be resistant to pyrethroids, a family of commonly used insecticides. Population samples from California, Texas, Florida and Maine had the most resistance to pyrethroids. Lice samples from New York, New Jersey, New Mexico and Oregon only had between one and three mutations.

-COCA-COLA’S TRANSPARENCY PUSH — In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Coca-Cola chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent, promised the company will begin disclosing the financial contributions it has made to health groups and researchers after the company came under fire for contributing to a non-profit called the Global Energy Balance Network, a group that claims people worry too much about calories and not enough about exercise. “I am disappointed that some actions we have taken to fund scientific research and health and well-being programs have served only to create more confusion and mistrust. I know our company can do a better job engaging both the public-health and scientific communities — and we will,” Kent wrote.

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TODAY'S TIP — Comes from the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation. You can still get your daily dose of Vitamin D without forgoing sunscreen by consuming food rich in the vitamin like milk, orange juice, fortified cereal and fish.


-BREAST CANCER TREATMENT QUESTIONED — According to a JAMA Oncology report, breast cancer treatment for very early stages of breast cancer — commonly referred to Stage 0 — is not entirely necessary, the New York Times reports. Those patients had close to the same likelihood of dying of breast cancer as women in the general population. “Their conclusions were based on the most extensive collection of data ever analyzed on the condition, known as ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS: 100,000 women followed for 20 years. The findings are likely to fan debate about whether tens of thousands of patients are undergoing unnecessary and sometimes disfiguring treatments for premalignant conditions that are unlikely to develop into life-threatening cancers.”

WORK MAY KILL YOU — Working long hours may increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a study in The Lancet. Employees who worked more than 44 hours per week increased their chances of having a stroke by as much as 33 percent. But don’t fret, researchers say the prospective evidence is “scarce, imprecise, and mostly limited to coronary heart disease.”

PROVIDER-OWNED PLANS ARE STILL COSTLY — Despite the expectation, the cheapest provider-owned health plans were still more expensive on average than the cheapest plans not owned by providers, a HealthPocket study found. The premiums for silver plans in 12 examined counties were 12 percent more expensive, overall, than the cheapest silver plans not owned by the providers.

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