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Walgreens starting COVID-19 vaccine booster shots • Advocate Aurora anesthesiologist shortage – Crain’s Chicago Business

Crain’s Health Pulse is your source for actionable, exclusive and inside news on the health care industry.

WALGREENS, OAK STREET STAND READY TO GIVE COVID-19 BOOSTER SHOTS: Walgreens announced Friday morning it would provide Pfizer COVID-19 booster vaccinations for eligible people nationwide. 

The Deerfield-base retail pharmaceutical giant said in a statement that following the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s Emergency Use Authorization and the new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention it stood ready to provide booster shots to people age 65 and older, long-term care facility residents ages 18 and older, people 18 and older with underlying medical conditions and adults at an increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting, such as health care and essential workers

Walgreens also encourages customers to let pharmacy teams co-administer COVID-19 shots and flu or other vaccinations on the same day, the statement said.

At Oak Street Health, the Chicago-based primary care network catering to adults on Medicare, most patients got the Moderna vaccine, said  Dr. Ali Khan, executive medical director at Oak Street Health. Data does not support crossover, so only people initially vaccinated with Pfizer can currently get a booster.

Oak Street is working to get office staff and call center employees up to date, preparing voicemails and text messages to be clear just who is and who isn’t eligible for boosters, he said, and “preparing for it and when the Moderna vaccine boosters come, which will be, like a 10-times scale.”

Khan said that in the Chicago area, Oak Street Health vaccinated well over 100,000 patients, health care workers and other essential workers, with Pfizer doses going to about 10 to 12% of them.

Still, Khan said, the booster program creates a new opportunity for those hesitant to get vaccinated to hear positive, peer-to-peer stories of vaccine success.

 

“Hopefully it will be a powerful adjunct to move the needle on overall vaccination rates,” he said.

NORTHWESTERN DOCTORS SAY CDC ACTION STILL NOT ENOUGH: Late on Thursday, the CDC’s advisory committee caused consternation among some in the medical community when it decided to limit its COVID-19 booster recommendation to people 65 and older and a small segment of high-risk patients. Even later that night, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky’s overruling of the recommendation still had its critics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

While Walensky did the right thing, the CDC could have done even better, said Dr. Elizabeth McNally, director of the Center for Genetic Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in a Friday morning statement.

“There is a great deal of confusion about who is eligible for boosters, so it would have been simplest to make boosters available for all who want them,” McNally said.

“Dr. Walensky has assumed a strong leadership position, and frankly, it’s time for new advisors. It was the right thing to do: protect as many people as possible with a safe and effective vaccine before they end up in the hospital,” Dr. Robert Murphy, executive director of the Institute for Global Health at the Feinberg School of Medicine, said in the statement.

AHA-KAUFMAN HALL REPORT SAYS HOSPITAL FINANCES NOT IN RECOVERY YET: An analysis of factors affecting hospital’s financial health, prepared for the American Hospital Association by Chicago-based Kaufman, Hall & Associates shows higher labor, drug and supply expenses, combined with patients who are still putting off care means more instability and negative financial impact through 2021.

Hospitals and health systems are seeing sicker patients, requiring longer lengths of stay and more services than prior to the pandemic in 2019, in part because people avoided getting care during the pandemic, the report shows.

 

The report projects hospitals nationwide will lose an estimated $54 billion in net income over the course of the year, even after taking into account the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, & Economic Security Act funding from last year. More than a third of hospitals are expected to end 2021 with negative margins. 

“However, the uncertain trajectory of the Delta and Mu variants in the U.S. this fall could result in even greater financial uncertainty for the hospital field, despite the recent announcement of additional provider relief funds, which have not yet been allocated or distributed,” the statement said.

RUSH BEGINS USING ROBOTIC TECH IN NEUROSURGERY: Rush University System for Health is the first health care organization in Chicago, and one of the first in the Midwest, to use a robotic technology system for greater precision in the threading catheters through arm and leg arteries and to help diagnose aneurysms, atherosclerosis and other conditions, the health system said in a statement.

The use of the CorPath GRX Robotic System in minimally invasive diagnostic cerebral angiography, carotid angioplasty and stenting began last week. The system’s potential for greater consistency, predictability and accuracy has Rush looking to use it in endovascular and cerebrovascular clinical trials, the statement said.

Another benefit of the robotics is that it provides doctors with greater protection from radiation exposure than performing the same procedure manually, while increasing their ergonomic comfort by placing them at a workstation outside the operating room, the statement said. 

SURGEON CALLS ADVOCATE SHERMAN ANESTHESIOLOGIST SHORTAGE A ‘CRISIS’: Dr. Tom Stanley, vice chair of surgery at the Advocate Sherman Hospital, said during a public comment time at an Elgin City Council meeting last week that the hospital’s anesthesia provider shortage was a crisis, the Daily Herald reports.

Stanley said it could be nine months to a year to return to the same capacity as the hospital had before it broke off negotiations with previous provider United Anesthesia Associates in late August. 

“Unfortunately, this situation has not been resolved as quickly as we originally anticipated,” the hospital said in a statement. “We are working hard to address it and to ensure we meet the needs of our patients and the community.”

Hospital officials said that some urgent and elective procedures are now being performed as scheduled, the Daily Herald reported.

NORTHWESTERN, GeNEURO TO RESEARCH NEUROLOGICAL COMPLICATIONS OF COVID-19: The Neuro COVID-19 Clinic at Northwestern Memorial Hospital will look at the relationship between human endogenous retrovirus W-ENV and long-COVID neuropscyhiatric syndroms in a research agreement with Swiss biopharmaceutical GeNeuro, which is developing treatments for neurodegenerative and autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, GeNeuro said in a statement.

The clinic, led by Dr. Igor Koralnik, chief of Neuroinfectious Diseases and Global Neurology at Northwestern Medicine, has provided treated more than 800 patients who experience neurological complications from COVID-19, the statement said.

The research will look at whether the W-ENV protein can be a blood biomarker of neurological complications of long-haul COVID, it said.

MATTER GETS SEARLE FUNDS AWARD FOR HEALTH EQUITY WORK: Health care incubator MATTER said it has received a $225,000 grant from The Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust to advance health equity. 

“MATTER has launched several initiatives to date with more to come, and these funds will help our community make a bigger contribution to reducing unacceptable health disparities in the Chicagoland area,” Steven Collens, CEO of MATTER said in the statement.

The grant will help MATTER’s work in fostering Chicago’s startups that improve health outcomes in underrepresented communities, the statement said. Among the programs MATTER touts is the Health Equity Innovation accelerator, which is being done in collaboration with h the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago, the statement said.

OPINION: GOVERNMENT DRUG PRICE CAPS WILL KILL STATE’S BIOSCIENCE STARTUPS: The Illinois bioscience community is experiencing a renaissance, but recent legislation pushed by the Biden administration “will kill our startup bioscience ecosystem and reduce patient access to lifesaving new medications,” John Conrad, president and CEO of the Illinois Biotechnology Innovation Organization, iBIO, says in a Crain’s opinion piece.

Proposals, like HR 3, currently being discussed in the House and Senate, which would allow the government to dictate the maximum price that a company may charge for a novel drug would threaten many companies with financial ruin, Conrad writes. READ MORE.

DIGITAL TRAINING STARTUP LAUNCHES SALES TRAINING PLATFORM: Explorer Surgical, which makes digital playbooks for training on medical devices, has launched a sale training platform that allows for remote case observation to train and support device sales teams, the Chicago-based company said in a statement.

The company, launched in 2015 by Jennifer Fried and Dr. Alex Langerman University of Chicago Medical Center in the Department of Surgery, said in a statement that remote case observation gives sales teams “product knowledge beyond the classroom during training, and expose them to clinical expertise.”

“Our customers are seeking ways to navigate a landscape that is forever changed by the pandemic, and adoption of remote-based tools is increasing with the early adopters reaping the ROI,” said Fried, CEO and co-founder of Explorer Surgical.

PEOPLE ON THE MOVE

• Michael Richardson has been named to the new role of patient safety and quality officer of St. Bernard Hospital on Chicago’s South Side, effective Sept. 27. Richardson has  30  years’ nursing  experience  in  emergency  care,  hospice,  pediatrics, oncology,  and  transplant  services.  He most recently served as assistant director of risk management at Memorial Health Systems in South Florida.

• Elizabeth Landon has joined UK-based Fishawack Health in the newly created role of chief people officer. Fishawack has more than 1,300 employees in 21 offices in Europe, the U.S. and Asia. It is a marketing consulting firm for life science clients.

Landon, who will remain based in the Chicago area, started her 25-year career at Accenture and for the last six years she has led human resources at the Lyric Opera of Chicago and then Heartland Alliance.

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