- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:


Sept. 3

Courier-Journal, Louisville, Kentucky, on CVS ending sales of tobacco:

Kicking the tobacco habit just got easier, especially if you shop at CVS drug stores.

The retail chain said earlier this year that it would remove tobacco products from its 7,700 stores by Oct. 1. They beat their own deadline by almost a month by ending sales of tobacco products Wednesday.

When CVS announced its plans, company leaders said the sales of tobacco, and its harmful and widespread effects on people, contradicted the company’s broader mission in delivering health care - the pharmacies also have about 900 walk-in clinics. Appropriately there will also be a name change for the company with the new emphasis: CVS Health.

In addition to dropping tobacco, CVS also offers smoking cessation programs to its customers. USA Today reports the programs include “an assessment of the smoker’s ‘readiness to quit,’ education, medication support to help curb the desire to use tobacco and coaching to help people stay motivated and avoid relapses.”

The move is a fascinating curve in a business arc, and it also demonstrates responsible corporate citizenship that other companies should emulate.

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have noted, cigarette smoking harms almost every organ in the body. It causes almost 500,000 deaths in the nation each year - and it’s responsible for 10 times as many premature deaths than all the deaths in all the wars in U.S. history. It causes 90 percent of all lung cancer deaths (more than 159,000) each year; there are about 224,210 new cases of lung cancer every year. Driving the point even closer to home, Kentucky outpaces every other state in lung cancer deaths.

Way to go, CVS.




August 31

Herald-Leader, Lexington, Kentucky, on fixing delays in ER:

A carefully reported account by staff writer Mary Meehan detailed the long waits patients have at the University of Kentucky’s new, state-of-the-art emergency room - waits that are the longest in Kentucky and far exceed the national average.

Patients are lined up on beds in the halls while friends and family perch on stools for hours on end.

The time between entering the ER and being settled in a hospital bed is 10 hours and 44 minutes at UK. The average among the nation’s top hospitals - with whom UK wants to compete - is three hours and 37 minutes. At the University of Louisville Medical Center, Kentucky’s other Level 1 trauma center, the wait is seven hours and five minutes.

UK blames the long delays on a dramatic increase in patients (from 30,000 to 70,000 patients since the ER opened in 2010), the fact that it treats very sick people and a lack of hospital beds.

However, individuals and organizations that study hospitals say creating a more efficient system could cut wait times without spending hundreds of millions of dollars on new beds. Kentuckians need to know that the hospital is taking this challenge seriously, even if it requires bringing in outside expertise or rethinking current operations.

For now UK is going full steam ahead on at least two fronts: recruiting more patients and pushing forward on building out the remaining medical tower at a cost of $763 million. Until that’s complete - four to six years from now - “we will have to muddle through,” Dr. Michael Karpf, UK’s vice president for health affairs, told Meehan.

By all accounts, muddling through with delays like those at UK can easily create patient-safety problems and affect the quality of care, especially as the Affordable Care Act allows more people into the health-care system.

Avoiding that, experts say, is simple: Improve the flow of patients through the hospital to reduce bottlenecks and silos within the process to make better use of both staff and facilities. It’s not a new idea in medical care, but the Joint Commission, an independent nonprofit that accredits and certifies more than 20,500 health care organizations, says it has been “grossly underused.”

The reasons are many but they mostly boil down to the cultural challenges when huge, complex organizations are directed by people with medical, rather than management, backgrounds. Streamlining and efficiency raise hackles and are often seen as code words for reducing the quality of care.

But the results at hospitals that have worked with outside consultants to examine and improve their systems tell a different story: More patients are treated with better outcomes and profits increase.

The Boston Globe reported that Cincinnati Children’s Hospital achieved efficiencies, without any new construction, that allowed it to treat as many more patients as if it had spent $100 million to add 100 rooms. That is a plan worth following.

UK HealthCare should not push for spending hundreds of millions on more rooms without making every effort to examine and improve the ER system that could put patients at risk.




August 31

The News-Enterprise, Elizabethtown, Kentucky, on BackPack Program:

This much we know: There always will be children going home from school on a Friday without knowing if they will have enough food to carry them over until the next Monday.

It’s a sad statement, but a true one, given there will be an estimated 700 children - about 4 or 5 percent of the student body in the Hardin County Schools and Elizabethtown Independent Schools districts - taking part in the Feeding America, Kentucky’s Heartland BackPack Program for this school year.

For 40 weeks this school year, volunteers will spend hours every week stuffing backpacks with food for those 700 children. From granola bars to Pop Tarts to shelf-stable milk, the backpacks get filled.

The need, sadly, never stops.

Now the organization is facing a financial shortfall as a new school year nears its first month of completion and stares at the sad reality that without more funding and more food, some children will not be helped.

Milissa French, director of agency services and programs for Feeding America, offers this dose of reality on the urgency of needed funds: “If we only have money for 350 children, 350 children will get fed. That means 350 are doing without on the weekends.”


There are more children in need in Hardin County this year, up about 50. And the funding shortage can be pinpointed to the lack of available grant money.

When the BackPack Program was launched in 2006, there were a number of start-up and expansion grants that helped pay for the program. Most are gone now.

For all the wonderful traits the BackPack Program offers, it is only a temporary fix and an example of the direction United Way of Central Kentucky is urging agencies to take.

Providing food solves one problem, but doesn’t solve the greater problem of families providing for themselves. Why spend money and find money to spend on feeding a child when every Friday, they will have a stuffed backpack to take care of their hunger?

United Way’s three building blocks are education, income and health.

Finding funding this year is merely a bandage for the BackPack Program because the need, as numbers attest, is climbing. According to United Way, one in six people live in poverty and one in four children live in poverty - about 13,000 children - in Central Kentucky.

We trust completely that the children who are getting the backpacks would go hungry without them. But the funding issue just peels a layer of the overall problem of child hunger.

It is the responsibility of all of us to help solve this. It may start with a donation where $100 will take care of one child’s food for a year, but it certainly doesn’t stop there.



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