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POLITICO New York Health Care, presented by PhRMA: Nurses in contract talks, Going after the distributors

Dear readers: POLITICO New York Pro subscribers receive this email at 5:30 a.m. each weekday. If you'd like to receive it at that time, along with a customized real-time news feed of New York health care policy news throughout the day, please contact us at and we'll set you up for trial access.

written by Dan Goldberg

UPSTATE NURSES LOOKING FOR STAFFING HELP — POLITICO New York’s Josefa Velasquez: About 220 registered nurses at Sisters of Charity Hospital, St. Joseph Campus, in Cheektowaga have been working without a contract since the end of August as their union continues negotiations with Catholic Health System. “A lot of the main issues that are still out there that we can’t seem to agree on are staffing, [and the] recruitment and retention of nurses,” said Cori Gambini, a registered nurse and president of Communication Workers of America Local 1168, the union representing nurses at St. Joseph Campus and three other Buffalo-area hospitals run by Catholic Health System. Within the next year, Local 1168's contracts with nurses Mount St. Mary's Hospital in Lewiston, Kenmore Mercy Hospital in Buffalo and Mercy Hospital of Buffalo are due to expire. Talks are underway at Mount St. Mary's and have just begun at Kenmore. Giambini said that as the health care industry moves toward reducing hospitalizations and readmissions, more staffing will allow nurses to spend more time with patients, resulting in better overall quality of care.

GOING AFTER THE DISTRIBUTORS — Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is suing two businesses for the alleged distribution of synthetic marijuana and other “designer drugs.”

Schneiderman’s office on Monday filed lawsuits against Erie County-based Surrealistic Sensations and Rockland County-based Liquid Shop for allegedly selling hallucinogenic and psychotropic drugs. The investigation into the two businesses found that the some products had “practically no label information” and lacked a thorough ingredients list, as required by state law. [PRO]

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WHY MONTEFIORE — Montefiore Health System announced it will become a passive parent at St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital, which has campuses in Cornwall and Newburgh, furthering its push north into the Hudson Valley. The deal, announced on the heels of a similar arrangement with St. Joseph's in Yonkers, provides a clue into Montefiore’s strategy as the system tries to bring its value based approach and infrastructure to a wider audience. “What we're trying to do is build covered lives, and our aim is one million of those,” said Steve Safyer, president and CEO of Montefiore. [PRO]

NOW WE KNOW — Rudeness in the hospital is bad for patient care, according to a study in Pediatrics. It accounts for a significant drop in hospital staff's diagnostic and professional performance. "This is important because rudeness is rampant in many medical contexts,” Professor Bamberger, lead author, said in a press release accompanying the article.

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** A message from PhRMA: In 2013 alone, the biopharmaceutical industry invested more than $553 million dollars in clinical trials in New York. Learn more about the economic impact of clinical trials in our communities at **

COURT DECLINES TO HEAR VACCINATION CASE — The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday it will not take up the case of Nicole Phillips, the Catholic woman who sued New York City and New York State, claiming the requirement that children be vaccinated before they are allowed to attend public school violated her religious freedom. That means the opinion of the federal appeals court, which found the law constitutional, stands. In January, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit threw out Phillips' challenge, ruling the state had a reasonable interest in protecting children, which outweighed the interests of religious objectors.

NAME CHANGE — Weill Cornell Medical College is changing its name to Weill Cornell Medicine, a rebranding that reflects the institution's growing ambition and desire to be seen as more than just a college. During the past decade, Weill Cornell has been expanding its physician practices, adding more than 40 medical practices in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. This expansion has led to 1.6 million patient visits, a growth of more than 40 percent increase in the past five years, according to Weill Cornell Medicine. At the same time, Weill Cornell also wants to highlight its research center. The system spent $650 million on the Belfer Research building, which opened in January, 2014, with millions more invested to attract and retain scientists to work in their labs. This has led to a 20 percent growth in sponsored research, according to Weill Cornell Medicine.

DE BLASIO AND MCCRAY OPEN JUSTICE CENTER — Mayor Bill de Blasio and other city officials broke ground Monday on Staten Island's first family justice center, a facility providing legal counsel and resources to the victims of domestic violence. The ground-breaking fulfills de Blasio's promise to create at least one family justice center in each of the city’s five boroughs. First lady Chirlane McCray said that last year the Police Department filed more than 282,000 domestic violence incident reports, a rate of roughly 800 per day. [PRO]

HAITIAN ROOTS — The Syracuse Post-Standard profiles Dr. Danielle Laraque-Arena, Upstate Medical University's incoming president, who said the bitter poverty of Haiti and her family's political exile shaped her career.

OPINION — Ken Raske, president and CEO of the Greater New York Hospital Association, argues that U.S. hospitals require more funding for Ebola preparedness, even as the virus has faded from the headlines. “In December, thanks largely to the leadership of Senator Chuck Schumer, Congress appropriated $576 million to HHS' Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) for Ebola response and preparedness activities. It was a promising development. But of that total, New York's Ebola treatment centers (excluding Bellevue) are slated to receive only $100,000 a year per center, an amount totally inadequate to maintain their ongoing readiness. Equally troubling, ASPR has yet to allocate $340 million of that $576 million. Meanwhile, the Ebola spending shortfall for New York's Ebola centers to date is at least $36 million, and as much as $2 million annually for the ongoing readiness of some downstate centers.”

DON’T DO THAT — Tanya Lemon, the Syracuse nurse who slept on the job in a DeWitt group home, leading to the death last year of a disabled resident, has turned in her license, according to the Syracuse Post-Standard. “A state investigation found the male patient under Lemon's care did not receive enough oxygen for eight hours. She admitted in court to routinely sleeping at work, endangering the welfare of the man who died and five other residents.”

MR. G GOES TO THE DENTIST — WPIX’s Mr. G. profiled Project Renewal’s dental clinic, the nation's only shelter-based dental clinic. It is located inside the Fort Washington men's shelter. Last year, it served nearly 2,500 patients.

PHARMA REPORT: Pharmalot’sEd Silverman reports that Bristol Myers-Squibb has agreed to pay nearly $14.2 million to resolve charges that it violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. “In doing so, the company becomes the latest drug maker to get punished for paying bribes in order to boost sales in a foreign country. In this instance, Bristol-Myers was charged with paying health care providers at state-run hospitals in China between 2009 and 2014 in hopes of increasing prescriptions of various medicines, according to an order filed in federal court by the US Securities and Exchange Commission.”


-BROWN SIGNS AID IN DYING BILL — California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Monday allowing physicians to prescribe lethal doses of medication to terminally ill patients who want to end their lives. California becomes the fifth state to allow for physician assisted suicide, behind Oregon, Washington, Montana and Vermont. In New York, the state Legislature is considering several proposals, but passage is unlikely because of opposition from the Republican-controlled State Senate. “In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death,” said Brown, a former Jesuit seminary student. “I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn’t deny that right to others."

-MODEL FOR HIV/AIDS — The New York Times profiles San Francisco’s response to AIDS, lauding the city for the progress it has made. “Last year, San Francisco had only 302 new H.I.V. diagnoses, the lowest recorded number. In 1992, at the epidemic’s peak, there were 2,332.

In 1992, the city had 1,641 deaths from AIDS. Last year, just 177 San Franciscans with H.I.V. died, and most of them actually succumbed to heart disease, cancer or other old-age ills, said Dr. Susan Buchbinder, the head of H.I.V. prevention research for the city health department.”

-FUTURE OF TELEMEDICINE — Kaiser Health News looks at Telemedicine, which is growing despite uncertain financial prospects. “Many insurance companies have been slow to pay for telemedicine. … Medicare only pays for telemedicine in rural or medically underserved areas and only when video conferencing is used. … But Dr. Ashish Jha of Harvard University said insurers have good reason to be skeptical. ‘If telemedicine really saved money, payers would be falling over themselves paying for this stuff, right? Because it would actually benefit their bottom line,’ he says. He says telemedicine does seem to provide good access to high quality medical care, but even though it could save money theoretically, that’s not what’s happening. ‘What tends to happen is that it tends to be an addition,’ he explained. ‘You do the telemedicine, it leads to more tests. It leads to more follow-up visits. And over time, when you look at the data, it turns out that telemedicine overall is not necessarily a big cost saver.’”

-TEST PREP — The New York Times writes about companies that help New York City restaurants prepare for health inspection exams.

-AND THE WINNERS ARE The New York Times reports: “Three scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering “therapies that have revolutionized the treatment of some of the most devastating parasitic diseases,” the Nobel committee announced on Monday. William C. Campbell and Satoshi Omura won for developing a new drug, Avermectin. A derivative of that drug, Ivermectin, has nearly eradicated river blindness and radically reduced the incidence of filariasis, which causes the disfiguring swelling of the lymph system in the legs and lower body known as elephantiasis. They shared the $900,000 award with Youyou Tu, who discovered Artemisinin, a drug that has significantly reduced death rates from malaria.

TODAY'S TIP — Comes from Dr. Kaixuan Liu, founder and president of Atlantic Spine Center. “Some call raking leaves fall’s most taxing task. It requires a variety of different movements, such as twisting, bending, lifting and reaching, which use several key muscle groups in the back, shoulders and wrists. With careful thought and measured movement, you can prevent injuries that might last longer than an afternoon raking the yard.”


-DO BULLYING LAWS WORK? Researchers from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, writing in JAMA Pediatrics, examined anti-bullying policies in 25 states and found three components to a successful anti-bullying state law. They are a description of where schools can intervene to address bullying — for example, on school grounds only or beyond; a clear definition of bullying; and a requirement that schools have a local policy or a timeline when a policy must be in place. “While policies alone cannot completely eradicate bullying, these data suggest that legislation represents an important part of a comprehensive strategy to prevent bullying,” said Dr. Mark Hatzenbuehler,associate professor of sociomedical sciences at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, who led the study with Dr. Marizen Ramirez, associate professor in the Department of Occupational and Environmental Health in the University of Iowa’s College of Public Health and colleagues at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. High school students in states with at least one of the three components were 24 percent less likely to report acts of bullying and 20 percent less likely to be cyberbullied compared to students in states without legislation.

-HEART NOT BROKEN — The New York Times reports on a study that found an inexpensive heart scan showed half of those who were statin candidates had no signs of plaque in their heart and very little chance of having a heart attack in the next decade. “Advocates for the scan say it should be used to “de-risk” people. It can let those who do not want to take statins know whether their chance of a heart attack is actually extremely low.”

** A message from PhRMA: Every day in New York, countless people fight life-threatening diseases. Their bravery inspires countless researchers and scientists across the country in their quest to develop medicines that help patients live longer, healthier lives. Here in New York, the biopharmaceutical industry has invested more than $553 million during the 2,476 clinical trials that took place in 2013 alone. Each step brings us closer to a cure. To learn more, please visit **

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