KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Longer Looks: New Views Of The 1918 Flu Pandemic; A Crumbling Mental Health System

Every week KHN reporter Marissa Evans finds interesting reads from around the web. ??

CNN: A Fatal Wait: Veterans Languish And Die On A VA Hospital's Secret List
At least 40 U.S. veterans died waiting for appointments at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system, many of whom were placed on a secret waiting list. The secret list was part of an elaborate scheme designed by Veterans Affairs managers in Phoenix who were trying to hide that 1,400 to 1,600 sick veterans were forced to wait months to see a doctor, according to a recently retired top VA doctor and several high-level sources. For six months, CNN has been reporting on extended delays in health care appointments suffered by veterans across the country and who died while waiting for appointments and care. But the new revelations about the Phoenix VA are perhaps the most disturbing and striking to come to light thus far (Scott Bronstein and Drew Griffin, 4/24).

WBUR: A Surprising New View Of Flu: Rethinking The 1918 Pandemic
Ever since 1918, the world has wondered why a novel flu virus touched off an explosive pandemic that killed as many as 50 million people – most of them healthy young adults — and whether it could happen again. Flu researchers today report some surprising news: They say the 1918 virus was no super-bug. Instead, its deadliness had to do with how very different it was from the flu viruses circulating 25 or 30 years before, when the young adults of 1918 were first exposed to the flu. Indeed, the new study says it's that first childhood exposure that determines how people will fight off – or fall prey to – every other flu virus they will encounter in a lifetime (Richard Knox, 4/28).

The Virginian-Pilot: Dangerous Minds, Insane System: Part I: Can't Hold Him
Bruce Williams couldn't sleep. It was after midnight and quiet in his Portsmouth apartment complex. Quiet, except for the voices in his head. He'd told people about them – the way they shrieked for violence, his fear they'd win. It's all there in his records. ... There was a time when someone like that would have been locked up in a mental institution. Not anymore. ... what happened in Apartment 433 was more than just another murder. It was a window into today's mental health care: a system as dysfunctional as the clients it serves. So gutted it has little power to put away even the most dangerous for any real length of time – and almost nowhere to keep them, even if it could. Last year's tragedy in [Virginia State] Sen. Creigh Deeds' family inspired at least 60 mental health bills in the General Assembly. Nothing emerged that will keep anyone any safer from someone like Williams (Janie Bryant, 4/27).

Vox: The $2.8 Trillion Question: Are Health Costs Growing Fast Again?
A four-year slowdown in health spending growth could be coming to an end. Americans' spending on health care spiked by 9.9 percent in the first quarter of 2014, new federal data shows. That data could be revised, or it could be a blip, but it adds to the evidence that health-care costs are back on the march — which is very, very bad news for the federal budget (Sarah Kliff, 4/30).

The Guardian: Antibiotics Are Losing Effectiveness In Every Country, Says WHO
Antibiotics are losing their power to fight infections in every country in the world, according to new data from the World Health Organisation – a situation that could have "devastating" consequences for public health. It raises the possibility that once-beaten diseases will re-emerge as global killers. Antibiotic resistance is a major threat to public health, says the WHO. It is no longer something to worry about in the future, but is happening now and could affect anybody, anywhere, of whatever age (Sarah Boseley, 4/30).

The New York Times: Are Med School Grads Prepared To Practice Medicine?
One night early in my internship, I received a frantic page for help from a fellow intern. Seasoned nurses had been unable to draw a patient's blood, which senior doctors had ordered be done if his fever spiked, so they'd called the covering doctor, the first-year resident on call. For more than an hour he had poked at the patient's arms and legs, littering the floor with blood-stained gauzes, used alcohol swabs and crumpled syringe and needle packaging. When the patient finally kicked him out of the room, howling, "I'll hit you if you come near me again!" he called the only people he thought he could: the other interns. "We didn't have to draw blood in medical school," he confessed, his eyes red behind his Harry Potter spectacles. "My med school didn't think it was important for us to learn" (Pauline W. Chen, 4/24). 

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