Recently, the Houston, Texas based Tondu Corporation unveiled plans to build a 425 megawatt coal burning plant on the already heavily polluted lake in Manistee. Tondu currently burns coal at their Filer City plant, also on Lake Manistee, emitting at least 134 pounds of mercury a year. The new plant, as proposed, would unleash another 420+ pounds of mercury into the atmosphere a year.
Concerned people formed the Manistee Citizens for Responsible Development (manisteecfrd.org) to try to stop this project, for the environmental concerns far outweigh one Texas corporations‘ profit margin. The group raised concerns about seeming conflicts of interest on the Planning Commission, such as one member having a spouse who works at the Filer City plant, another members‘ friendship with a Tondu PR person, and a third member expressing he stood to make a lot of money if this project goes through. Two deeply involved city officials, who shall not be named to prevent any further embarassment, delivered a letter to the attorney working for the group. I give you one paragraph, complete as written (misspellings have been retained -- ed.):
“Who are you people! What ill-willed motives compels this group, of self-titled and alleged ambassadors of the moral voice of this community. What is the true agenda of this fallacious insurgence? What wickedness has become of you to allege an impropriety of bias, of due process and ethics! Why have you hired a Judicative professional to harm the most dedicated, most concuss, citizens who voluntarily give more than just there time, to enhance the quality “good“ of this community and surrounding communities.... lt is now reflective of a coercive mutiny upon the integrity of the City of Manistee and all commissions subserviant to the city consul.“
This is what we face in Manistee. The planning commission, to show they truly care, has given the public ONE chance to be heard. If you made it there, we thank you, but the battte is not over. Mutineers unite! Help stop more coal from being burned in Northern Michigan!
Bob VanderLewn Manistee
Safety at NMH
“I had .. . come to an entirely erroneous conclusion which shows, my dear Watson, how dangerous it always is to reason from insufficient data.“ -- Arthur Conan Doyle, 1892, The Adventures of the Speckled Band.
Is it safe to be hospitalized at Northern Michigan Hospital? Does Northern Michigan Hospital have an infection control problem? What is going on?
I would like to clarify some of the confusion surrounding the “infection control“ issues at Northern Michigan Hospital. This term refers to a program designed to identify, control and prevent hospital-acquired infections. This also includes policies designed to provide a safe environment for patients and staff, such as prevention of spread of influenza from a patient to other patients and hospital staff.
The success of our program is measured by how well we prevent infections that are acquired in the hospital. In order to know how well we do, Northern Michigan Hospital participates in a Center for Disease Control program that allows us to compare ourselves to hospitals throughout the country. Every three months we are able to generate a “report card“ of how we are doing. We carefully monitor these scores or rates to see how we compare to other hospitals and how we compare to our own historical rates. As in any statistical analysis, there will be months or quarters when the rates are low or high. What is important is how we trend over time -- are we better than previous years or are we worse? If we see an increase in rates in a month or quarter, we investigate for potential reasons and then implement control/prevention/education efforts as rapidly as possible.
We care for very ill patients from a large region and like other similar hospitals, someone will occasionally develop a hospital-acquired infection despite our best efforts. This is often related simply to how sick our patients are. Hospitalization in the Intensive Care Unit for weeks requiring many procedures, monitoring devices, etc., does put people at increased risk for infection. This is why we have an active, aggressive infection control program, to minimize any risk of infection.
As stated, we measure how well we compare to a national standard and generate a report card. Comparing our overall rates from the pre-strike to post-strike periods, we have noted no significant changes in our hospital-acquired infection rates. There have been the usual monthly and quarterly variations that we have historically observed. We have post-surgical infection rates that are well below the national standard. We are better than almost 75% of comparable hospitals with regard to bloodstream infections. We are similar to other hospitals with respirator-related pneumonia, experiencing our lowest rate ever in 2003. Hospital-acquired urinary tract infections in the Intensive Care Unit, both pre-strike and post-strike, have been higher than the national benchmark and we continue to strive to improve that rate.
Every year nearly 2 million people in the United States get infections in a hospital. However, efforts to prevent infections can be successful, as documented by a 30-60% decline in hospital-acquired infections in the past decade in hospitals like Northern Michigan Hospital using active, aggressive infection control interventions, despite an aging population and increasing complexity of hospitalized patients. We strive for perfection even though it is an elusive goal. We at Northern Michigan Hospital, like all hospitals, will never be perfect, but we will never stop trying to achieve perfection and continue to maintain our excellence in care of critically ill patients.
Northern Michigan Hospital physicians, nurses, and staff provide both excellent primary and specialty care services. A regional referral hospital like Northern Michigan Hospital that offers specialty care, such as infectious disease specialists, often has very ill patients transferred from other hospitals to assist in their care. This has led to another apparent misperception, in that patients who have acquired an infection at another hospital, such as a “staph infection,“ or who have developed a serious infection unrelated to hospitalization, are often sent to Northern Michigan Hospital to obtain the latest in specialized care. This gives the perception in the community that we have a large number of patients who have acquired these infections here, but in reality these infections were acquired elsewhere and were sent here to get the assistance of infectious disease physicians and other specialists.
A highly regarded accreditation agency, JCAHO, and the Northern Michigan Hospital Center for Disease Control benchmark infection rates, have not substantiated any problems in excess hospital-acquired infections at Northern Michigan Hospital. Even the politicized Governor‘s Blue Ribbon Panel and Congressman Stupak‘s initiated Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) survey, found no problems with excess hospital-acquired infection rates. The CMS survey findings focused on documentation and policy wording issues. At no time was any patient or staff‘s safety jeopardized. To infer that our infection control program is “significantly deficient“ because of documentation and policy wording issues, is in my opinion illogical and an egregious exaggeration of the significance of the actual survey findings.
Our community needs to know that your physicians and hospital staff would not tolerate an unsafe hospital. What we are all about is helping and caring and this would violate those basic values. Is it safe to be hospitalized at Northern Michigan Hospital? Yes! Does Northern Michigan Hospital have an “infection control“ problem? No! Northern Michigan Hospital provides safe and excellent quality care, and yes, I‘m proud of it!
“Practice two things in your dealings with disease: Either help or do not harm the patient.“ -- Hippocrates (460-375 BC).
H. Gunner Deery II, MD, FACP, FIDSA Hospital Epidemiologist, Northern Michigan Hospital Infectious Disease Specialists, Northern Michigan Infectious Diseases
The photo of folksinger Sara Anderson which ran on the cover of the Feb. 19 Express was taken by Larry Wojcik. The photo was originally used for her “Wellworn Timber“ album, recorded with the Third Coast band.