Make Sense of Your Cholesterol

May 23rd, 2012

The first time you locked eyes with your true love. The call about your dream job. Some moments are undoubtedly life-altering. You might not feel the same way about the doctor’s visit when you learned you had high cholesterol—but it should also change your life.

Nearly 34 million American adults have high cholesterol, defined as a total cholesterol level of 240 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) or higher, according to the American Heart Association. Another 65 million have borderline high cholesterol, between 200 mg/dl and 240 mg/dl. While experts say the number of Americans with high cholesterol is on the decline, that doesn’t mean having high cholesterol isn’t serious business.

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Adults Need Vaccines, Too

May 23rd, 2012

If you can’t remember the last time you had a vaccine, then it’s time to review your immunization record with your doctor.

Vaccinations are just as important to have now as they were in your childhood. But research shows that more than 40,000 adults die each year from vaccine-preventable illnesses (compared to 400 children) and nearly half of American adults are unaware of government-recommended shots for their age group.

http://www.regardinghealth.com/oll/RHO/2012/05/Article.aspx?bmkEMC=71811

Advancing Medicine in Tough Economic Times

September 8th, 2010

It is satisfying to see that some components of the new healthcare reform law are now in place, including coverage for young adults under parents’ policies and fixes to the “doughnut hole” in senior prescription coverage. However, coverage for an additional 1.3 million New Jersey residents will not kick in until 2014. During that time, all hospitals will undergo substantial cuts in Medicare funding—dollars that will eventually go to help pay for the now uninsured.

As president of the New Jersey Hospital Association Board of Trustees, I’ve come to appreciate the challenges experienced by hospital providers throughout the state. While New Jersey hospitals provided $2.6 billion in community health programs, education, free or discounted healthcare services for the needy and uninsured in 2009, facilities are struggling to overcome the recession. Half of the state’s hospitals have cut back staff and 25 percent have reduced services.

The economy and healthcare reform are certain to play a significant role in the upcoming elections. All 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, about one-third of the Senate and many local governing body posts are up for grabs. No matter which part of the political spectrum you fall on, I encourage you to participate in the election process and vote on Nov. 2. Every ballot cast makes a difference.

We are grateful for your support. Your commitment will enable us to continue fulfilling our mission of service to the southern New Jersey community.

Tackling Diabetes One City at a Time

June 6th, 2010

I’m not getting all this fuss to stop a sugar tax that we all know is a good idea. Mayor Nutter’s proposal to tax sweet drinks is a progressive response to both a fiscal and a health problem. I understand the jobs issue is a concern, but people will continue to want their sugar fix. Manufacturers and bottlers are not going out of business anytime soon. Come on… one thing we know from cigarettes is that people will pay for their vices. The bigger issue is that the average consumer is unaware of just how much sugar they are ingesting everyday. In fact, thanks to the “low-fat” craze of the early 90’s, there is a misperception that sugar is okay that fat is not. Not exactly.

In Camden, the great work of the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers has been highlighted in the media for its ability to create cooperatives among the City’s healthcare leaders. One of their many projects concern diabetes and its impact on area residents. The Camden Citywide Diabetes Collaborative aims to improve the coordination of care for persons with diabetes. This includes improving self-care. Self-care includes education and that means reminding people that those sports drinks will not make you an athlete and massive, super-sized sodas is not a bargain in the end. At Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, where I work, we have been working with Dr. Jeff Brenner on this and other Coalition activities. We helped develop abillboard  (oll216_billboard_lo FINAL)that resided in the heart of Camden, on Federal Street, to bring attention to the issue. The Board, donated by PNC Bank, is just a step. But over here in Philadelphia, where I live, I’m a little disheartened by the reluctance of City Council to champion a cause that will certainly help to relieve the perfect storm of fiscal difficulties our city is facing.

But I also have a selfish reason to support the sweet drink tax. I give you Exhibit A: a typical clean up from the trash that makes its way to my house. Notice the soda bottles, coffee stirrers, cupcake wrappers, etc. I live on the unfortunate side of my block. That is the side that captures all of the trash that blows up on a windy day. I also live on the path between two schools. Exhibit B gives you an idea of what the kids are eating these days. I don’t mind sweeping my pavement, but it is depressing to see the amount of trash kids (and grownups) are eating and tossing. I cannot help but see the relationship between mental and physical health, between the well-being of an individual and the well-being of a community. I don’t think a tax on sugar is going to stop this overnight, but it might cause a few to stop and consider what they are putting into their body. It’s a start.

Faces of the Uninsured

June 22nd, 2009

Dear Lourdes Supporter:

At the State House in Trenton, Catholic Health East New Jersey recently cast a spotlight on the Faces of the Uninsured.  With the support of Senate Deputy Majority Leader Joseph F. Vitale, we hosted a photo exhibit that profiled some of our patients who struggle to maintain their health without medical coverage.  We did so to emphasize the vital importance of the partnership that must be sustained between health-care providers and the State if we are to continue delivering the care our patients need, regardless of their ability to pay.

The portraits of our patients should look familiar to all New Jerseyans.  They are our neighbors, our friends, our family members.  They hail from all over our state, facing cancer, diabetes, and other serious illnesses with no health insurance.  We called upon our state legislators to remember these faces and all who have lost their jobs and health insurance in this economic downturn.

With our Franciscan roots, the hospitals of Catholic Health East New Jersey have always been committed to delivering the best in compassionate care, with a special focus on those in greatest need.  However, we cannot do it alone.

We are the state’s largest faith-based hospital system, and our mission touches many, many lives.  This year, our hospitals will report more than 50,000 admissions, 155,000 emergency department visits, and 400,000 outpatient and same-day procedures.  And together we will provide more than $86.2 million in charity care services, providing top-quality care to many people who do not have medical coverage and who — because of age or income — do not qualify for government programs.

But statistics are impersonal.  They can tell you the scope of an issue — they can’t show you its face.  Take a few minutes to look closely at the Faces on the Uninsured — portraits that capture the dignity of each individual.  

We cannot let a woman whose breast cancer has returned die because she lost her job and health insurance.  We cannot turn away young people with juvenile diabetes because they work as freelancers and have no medical coverage.  And we cannot let a lack of health coverage prevent a young athlete with a fractured ankle from receiving the expert treatment that will allow her to compete again.

The reality, of course, is that our continued ability to pursue our charitable mission remains largely dependent on our collaborative partnership with the State.

Our role in this partnership is to develop and implement innovative, cost-effective ways to provide the care New Jerseyans need and deserve.  And our hospitals are doing just that — in Newark, Trenton, Willingboro, and Camden.  For example, you can see that commitment in our new PACE programs — Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly; in our efforts to promote the efficiency and convenience of tele-medicine; and in our participation in a coalition to address the needs of diabetics in Greater Camden.

The State’s role in this health-care partnership is an essential one.  Faith-based or secular, New Jersey hospitals all depend on the State to support our delivery of top-quality care by adequately funding Medicaid, medical education, charity care, and other programs that help ensure access to care for all in need. 

On behalf of the men, women, and children we serve, we urge our legislators and Governor Corzine to recognize the tremendous importance of upholding the State’s end of the partnership.  

Will hospitals receive the support they need to continue delivering care to every New Jerseyan, regardless of his or her ability to pay?  We are counting on our partners in Trenton to remember the Faces of the Uninsured when they answer that question.

Fair and Equitable Distribution of Charity Care

April 30th, 2009

Dear Lourdes Supporter:

 

New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine recently announced his proposed budget for SFY 2010, and I wrote to offer him my congratulations on doing an admirable job in extraordinarily daunting circumstances.  I also reminded him that adequate, fair, and equitable charity care funding will become more critical than ever to the future of Lourdes Health System and hospitals throughout our state.  

I told the Governor that New Jersey’s health-care providers are pleased — and greatly relieved — that in his proposal he has recognized the importance of prioritizing spending for charity care.  Faced with many tough choices in an exceptionally difficult budget year, that was certainly a prudent one. 

As expected, the number of uninsured hospital patients continues to increase as the economy worsens.  With no economic turnaround in sight, adequate charity care funding will remain essential in helping both to safeguard New Jerseyans’ access to care and to sustain the financial viability of our state’s struggling hospitals.  Clearly, nowhere is this more true than in our urban centers, served by essential safety-net hospitals.

On behalf of Lourdes Health System and its Catholic Health East New Jersey affiliates, I urged the Governor to ensure that adequate charity care funding in the aggregate translates into fair and equitable distribution of reimbursements, particularly with respect to those hospitals with a strong and enduring tradition of charitable service to the poor.  In the months ahead, we will be working with Governor Corzine and with our representatives in the Legislature to make this happen.

Sincerely,

Alexander J. Hatala
President and CEO
Lourdes Health System and
Catholic Health East New Jersey

 

 

Access and Utilization of Prenatal Care

October 15th, 2008

A Message from Alexander J. Hatala, President and CEO, Lourdes Health System.

  

Recently, the New Jersey Prenatal Care Task Force issued a startling report regarding the access and utilization of prenatal care services. It’s well documented that high quality prenatal care reduces premature births which can result in serious, lifelong health problems. New Jersey is the second wealthiest state, yet ranks 40th in terms of women accessing early prenatal care.

 

As a healthcare provider with facilities in Camden and Willingboro, this is a reality we see every day. Based on indicators, Camden is number one for the likelihood of women giving birth to unhealthy babies. Willingboro also is high on the list — ranking seventh statewide.

 

At the Lourdes Health System it is our mission to make a difference in the lives of women who struggle with the issue of access to care. At Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, we offer high-quality bilingual prenatal care, education and counseling through our Osborn Family Health Center. At Lourdes Medical Center of Burlington County we operate a prenatal clinic. Both are focused on populations most at risk — teenagers, the poor and those without insurance.

 

Despite these good efforts, Lourdes and other providers struggle with the financial realities of doing more. We’ve just been through more budget cuts. Smart funding is needed to:

 

  • Develop initiatives that reach women early in their pregnancies;
  • Increase capacity of existing programs that work and develop new models of care; and
  • Support ob/gyns who wish to practice in the state, but are prohibited by high malpractice insurance and threats of liability, forcing them to leave or reduce services.

 

We only need to look at our neighbors in Philadelphia to see a cautionary tale: yet another hospital was recently forced to eliminate maternity services, further burdening an already fragile system. 

 

Charity Care and How You Can Help

September 16th, 2008

A Message from Alexander J. Hatala, President and CEO, Lourdes Health System.

Dear Lourdes Supporter:

I recently had the opportunity to provide testimony before the Senate Budget Committee on the Governor’s proposed budget and its impact on our hospitals and services in Camden and Burlington counties.  I do not envy the Governor and the members of the Legislature who are faced with the very difficult task of cutting hundreds of millions in spending from our state budget.

In fact, recognizing the extraordinary and dire fiscal times in which we now find ourselves, I have volunteered my time and resources by joining Governor Jon Corzine’s “Financial Restructuring and Debt Reduction Steering Committee.”  I believe that until New Jersey gets its fiscal house in order and restores certainty and reliability to the state budget; non-profits such as Lourdes Health System will continue to be at the mercy of the fiscal roller coaster that has become the norm and which threatens programs from year to year.  I further believe that nothing does more damage to the programs and services of well-intentioned non-profits and the citizens we serve than the “on-again, off-again” fiscal spigot that has come to epitomize Trenton.

This year’s state budget cuts proposed by the Governor have the potential to inflict pain and suffering on a great number of our citizens.  In no arena is that possibility more evident than in the budget cuts proposed for the state’s hospitals.  The cuts to charity care, which provides partial state reimbursement for medical services delivered to the working poor who are without health insurance, will be particularly difficult for Lourdes and many of our struggling state hospitals to absorb.

In my testimony, I asked Legislators to consider rewriting the state’s charity care formula to restore a measure of fairness in the distribution of these limited funds. Under the current charity care formula, some hospitals, designated as so-called “Safety Net Hospitals,” in urban areas receive 96 cents for every dollar of charity care they dispense.  Others, in the very same city and often just blocks away, get a little more than 40 cents for treating the very same patients.  Lourdes is in the latter category.

In rewriting the Charity Care formula, I recommended to Legislators that they create “Safety Net Zones” rather than Safety Net facilities, as called for in the current formula. I asked them not to favor hospitals which are in direct competition with one another by arbitrarily creating a state designation for one and not the others.  In short, I said they should “protect the patient rather than the facility.”

Now we at Lourdes need your help to get our message across to all legislators!  In the days and weeks ahead we will be asking you to join our “Protect the Patient Campaign” and contact key legislators to let them know that you support our effort to create new “Safety Net Zones” in an updated charity care formula.  I know that you will take the time to make this important new campaign a success.

Please check this page often for instructions on how you can help.

Access to affordable healthcare should be a right..not a privilege.

April 10th, 2008
 A message from Alexander J. Hatala, President and CEO, Lourdes Health System.

Voters rank health care along with the economy as the two most important domestic issues, both nationally and in New Jersey. As the national elections near for President and seats in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, candidates are unveiling proposals on how to make health coverage affordable and available to all, particularly those who are uninsured.

Regardless of the details, the success or failure of any plan is dependant upon whether it is adequately and fairly financed. Up to this point, a patchwork of state and federal initiatives, along with ever increasing financial commitments from non-profit healthcare providers such as Lourdes, have been able to fend off catastrophe.  However, these stop-gap measures are just delaying the inevitable and crippling the nation’s health system. True reform is necessary.

Many believe that access to affordable health care should be a right and not a privilege. It should be available and accessible to every United States citizen, with special efforts made to assure that the poor and vulnerable are not left behind. The consequences of being uninsured are significant. This is particularly true for children, who are less likely to receive treatment for common illnesses. Both uninsured adults and children are less likely to receive preventive care, while uninsured patients are up to four times as likely as insured patients to require both avoidable hospitalizations and emergency hospital care.

On the local level, as New Jersey faces a budget crisis, cuts to the provision of care to the uninsured are inevitable. While it may sometimes seem difficult to sort through all of the details of the issues, here are some important facts you should know: 

  • Although New Jersey has the second highest median income in the nation, 15 percent of New Jerseyans lack health insurance, tying it with West Virginia, Idaho, Alabama and Wyoming for the nation’s 19th highest rate of uninsured residents.
  • By law, hospitals in New Jersey must care for all patients regardless of their ability to pay. Our state, with Oregon, is one of only two in the nation to mandate this coverage.
  • The cost of hospitals to provide charity care to uninsured patients in New Jersey is more than $1.5 billion annually. The state reimburses hospitals about half that amount.
  • Statewide, there are 78 acute-care hospitals; all but two are nonprofit.
  • Almost 50 percent of hospitals in New Jersey are operating in the red, while the latest figures available for hospitals nationwide show that 18 percent are losing money.
  • Since 1997, a total of 15 acute-care hospitals have closed their doors, including a number that closed in 2007 and additional facilities slated to close in 2008.

As a Catholic healthcare provider, we are committed to advocating for a just and equitable system that ensures medical care for all. I am worried about the ability of hospitals to continue to serve their mission – providing quality care to everyone without limits and variations based on age, race, ethnicity, financial means or health or employment status. 

In order to help educate the public, over the coming months I will be providing updated information on our Web site about the health care issues that affect you.

We hope to gain your support for this cause and utilize our website as a key source or information about healthcare issues.   

The Makings of a Marketing Director

September 30th, 2007


No one could ever complain that they don’t know how I feel. Take this picture for example. I was probably around five years old, Down the shore in Wildwood. Grandmom had ticked me off for some reason. I feel good looking at this picture. Makes me feel like I was born this way.

Marketing directors use this look a lot. We often need to express our displeasure and having a look that will get one action is important. We are constantly evaluating, sizing things up. At the same time, we have people relentlessly coming at us–selling, complaining, wanting more, better, faster. No wonder we’re all in a bad mood.

The challenge of being in my line of work at a place like Lourdes is that they expect associates (i.e., employees) to provide a level of courtesy that exceeds your average job. Some days it is really hard. This is actually the hardest part of my job. I used to have my own business and we would fire customers we didn’t like. Can’t do that here. And when you have vendors or salespeople who are eating up your time, its nearly impossible. People who work near me can attest to that.

So it is a bit of a tightrope–trying to be nice, or at least professional–when people are getting on your last nerve.