Moving on up: Palm Beach County now the 8th healthiest in the state

Palm Beach County got it’s annual physical and the news was good.

Diverse and with a population of 1.4 million, Palm Beach County moved up to No. 8. It has moved up one slot each of the last two years and health officials say it shows that wellness programs by the Department of Health are working.

All the other counties ahead of them have far less population.

The  2017 County Health Rankings and Roadmaps is a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute to give a snapshot of health across the country.

The researchers look at physical environments, social and economic factors, health behaviors and clinical care.

“These rankings are a testament to the hard work and commitment our community partners have toward assuring a healthy community,” said Dr. Alina Alonso, Director, Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County.

Dr. Alina Alonso, director of Department of Health in Palm Beach County, has gotten healthier as well in the last few years.

Patrick McNamara, president and CEO of Palm Healthcare Foundation, said programs such as Let’s Move, Diabetes Month and Healthier Together have paid off with healthier citizens.

He pointed to Joshua Timmer, a 14-year-old from St. Ann’s Catholic School in downtown West Palm Beach who took it upon himself to bring the Let’s Move program — a Palm Healthcare initiative – to his classmates. The program encourages 30 minutes of vigorous exercise a day to combat obesity.

Joshua told The Palm Beach Post’s for a story earlier this month that he wanted to get kids moving who play a lot of video games.

On Wednesday, Joshua said between classes he was thrilled with the county’s ranking but wants to get people moving around the world.

He said it wasn’t easy putting down the video games at first.

“It was a hard change,” he said. “At the beginning, I wanted to play more video games, but then I realized I got stuff to do and I need to do more stuff outside.”

These days he plays basketball with his sibling and golf. “I do at least 30 minutes outside every day,” he said.

McNamara said it was Timmer and residents like him that moved the needle for Palm Beach County in the right direction.

“He was just an example of a resident taking it upon himself to be part of the solution,” he said. “One of the affirming things for us is that we are seeing growing numbers like him.”

Timmons is not alone. Andrea Bruton, the owner of SkyeHigh Fitness, leads an exercise program for older women in the black community in Delray Beach.

“Let’s Move has already made such a positive difference, such as bringing people and communities together–groups that would never otherwise mingle and building great rapport between the community and law enforcement,” she said.

The program gets companies, schools, colleges, non-profits, local community groups, families, to organize a team whose members log the minutes they have “moved” and compete against each.

Let’s Move is held each March for the entire month.

So let’s look at the numbers of the county’s annual checkup.

We got good numbers in the category of “health behavior” be it smoking tobacco or drinking excessively, ranking third among all Florida’s 67 counties. We landed in the top 10 in Life Expectancy (9) and Clinical Care (9).

Palm Beach County did get seem dings. It ranked 19th in Social and Economic Factors, such as income inequality and violent crime. It also ranked 32nd in “Physical Environment” that measures everything from pollution to driving alone to work.

We are lonely commuters, it appears.

Dr. Anthony N. Dardano, the vice president for Medical and Academic Affairs at Delray Medical Center.

The hospitals see it from a different perspective. They see a community benefiting greatly from the Charles E Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University which spins out doctors in training to five hospitals.

“It is kind of known fact whenever you have academic institution affiliated with a hospital provider that elevates the level care,” said Dr. Anthony N. Dardano, the vice president for Medical and Academic Affairs at Delray Medical Center.

He also said that increase the quality of care and cutting-edge medical care are due to the elderly population.

So next time you shake your fist at a senior maybe driving too slow think that he or she is to thank for heart surgery techniques not available in other counties and a host of other specialties that are available when it comes to treating cancer and brain disorders.

“The average age of a patient at Delray Medical Center is in the 80s,” Dardano said. “They are sicker people and in order to keep up we have developed state of the art techniques and have recruited physicians who can do all these specialties.”

 

Nixed: Judge rejects plan to revamp state’s trauma-care system

A judge in Tallahassee rejected a Florida Health Department’s plan to revamp the state’s trauma care system.

According to Florida News Service, the judge rejected a plan by the Florida Department of Health that likely would have led to an increase in trauma centers across the state. A contingent of lawmakers are following Gov. Rick Scott’s lead in trying to inject more competition into medical care, saying it will lead to better services and lower prices.

A contingent of lawmakers are following Gov. Rick Scott’s lead in trying to inject more competition into medical care, saying it will lead to better services and lower prices despite many medical professionals saying it will actually do the opposite.

In a 70-page ruling, Administrative Law Judge Garnett Chisenhall, in a 70-page ruling, said the Health Department’s position actually turned two state laws on its head.

Five major hospitals — UF Health Jacksonville, Tampa General Hospital, Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Myers, Bayfront Health-St. Petersburg and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa —had challenged the plan. Currently, Florida caps the number of trauma centers statewide to 44 as well as the how many can operate in 19 different regions in the state.

The battle is not over. A House subcommittee on Monday approved a bill that would eliminate the limits opposed by Gov. Scott and HCA health care company.

Scott was CEO of Columbia/HCA, but resigned in 1997 after the company came under fire for Medicare billing practices.

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Dr. Robert Borrego, medical director of the Trauma Center at St. Mary’s Medical Center.

In Palm Beach County, Tenet Hospitals runs two Level 1 trauma centers at St. Mary’s Medical Center and Delray Medical Center.

Dr. Robert Borrego, medical director of the Trauma Center at St. Mary’s Medical Center, says most trauma surgeons would be opposed to lifting caps on the number of trauma centers in the state.

Borrego told The Palm Beach Post earlier this year that more trauma centers will lead to worse service. He said it is important that trauma centers have a certain number of patients to remain proficient.

“Can you imagine coming to a center and you have traumatic brain injury and the neurosurgeons only do about 10 operations a year? he said. “Are you going to comfortable there or do you want somebody who does 1,000 operations a year?”

Trauma Drama: Tenet, HCA fighting over providing critical care

The hospital wars — readily apparent on practically every other billboard down the interstate — has now bled over into trauma with accusations that expansion by a competitor into the area threatens “the entire care system in our country.”

The fight pits two giants against each other: Tenet Healthcare and HCA Healthcare and puts taxpayers in the middle as the whole system is administered by the Health Care District of Palm Beach County.

Currently, the county’s state-designated Level 1 trauma centers are St. Mary’s Medical Center and Delray Medical Center.

Trauma centers handle the most extreme cases of emergencies, such as car accidents,  gunshot wounds. Life and death hang in the balance with each case that comes through the doors.

TraumaHawk
Tenet and HCA healthcare companies are squaring off over which hospitals will provide trauma in the county.

The current trauma drama stems from Tenet competitor JFK Medical Center in Atlanta filing a letter of intent with the Department of Health on Sept. 30 to upgrade its trauma care services to Level 2 that would cater only to adults.

It is a first step in formerly submitting an application next year.

In a letter sent out today by Mark Bryan and Gabrielle Finley-Hazle – the CEOs of St. Mary’s Medical Center and Delray Medical Center respectively – the Tenet hospitals excoriate the competitor’s plan, saying it would undercut a system in place for 25 years.

“There will be a lack of qualified trauma surgeons to cover an excess center and decrease trauma center staff proficiency,” the letter states.

In the letter addressed to its board members, the community, employees and doctors, the CEOs say that the proposal goes against the five-year plan approved and submitted to the Department of Health and the Health Care District.

The district is an independent taxing district that operates Trauma Hawk and provides a health care safety net for the county.

122611 (Alyssa Orr/The Palm Beach Post) Atlantis--JFK Medical Center off of South Congress Avenue in Atlantis.
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The letter states since JFK is only offering adult trauma services it means if a tragic event occurs involving an entire family, then parents and children will be split up.

The Post plans on interviewing all players in this trauma drama and will update this story as warranted.

Whether its heart surgery or maternity, hospitals are very aggressive in vying for patients in the county.

St. Mary’s closed down its pediatric heart surgery unit last year following criticism that is now being leveled at JFK’s trauma plan: that the program diluted the number of patients and undercut the proficiency of existing programs in South Florida.

In the letter, the Tenet hospitals point to an investigation by the Tampa Bay Times into how HCA is targeting trauma for profit, charging exorbitant fees that pale in comparison to competitors.

“HCA is capitalizing on a marketplace that is unchecked by politicians or regulators. That has allowed one of the nation’s largest for-profit hospital chains to bill injured patients record fees,” according to the March 2014 story.

 

Is Delray Beach’s proton therapy the best cure for cancer?

The city of Delray Beach was so excited that its local hospital will soon have a new cancer cure, it sent out a press release on Tuesday: “Delray Medical Center to Offer Proton Therapy”

And what’s not to like about the state-of-the-art, Star Trek looking device that cure’s cancer – especially those affecting children.

Well, the Wall Street Journal calls it an “expensive and controversial cancer treatment.”

Proton-beam therapy uses positively charged particles to kill tumor cells. Unlike traditional radiotherapy using X-rays, protons treatment minimizes the damage to surrounding healthy tissue.

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Delray Beach Medical Center is getting a proton-beam therapy machines, such as this one in the Czech Republic (Associated Press )

 

Proton-beam therapy centers can cost up to $200 million to build. The cost can be justified for childhood cancers and a small number of adult ones – such as brain tumors at the base of the skull – the jury is still out on cost-effectiveness for most common cancers, the Journal reported.

A 2013 study estimated that for prostate cancer patients, proton therapy cost $32,000 per treatment, versus $18,000 for traditional radiotherapy.

The Delray Medical Center Proton Therapy Treatment Center is estimated to cost approximately $53 million and is scheduled to open in 2018.

The city says the therapy is particularly effective in treating solid cancer tumors including tumors of the brain, spine, head and neck, lung, prostate, colon and some breast tumors.

“Due to its precision and lack of long-term side effects, proton therapy is widely used to treat children,” according to the press release.

In the past five years, proton-beam therapy rooms world-wide have nearly doubled worldwide.  It is also a great marketing tool, giving hospitals more prestige, according to the Journal’s story. Expect a billboard near you soon to tout the treatment at the hospital willing to make the investment.

“We are looking forward to offering this innovative treatment option at Delray Medical Center,” said Mark Bryan, CEO of Delray Medical Center is quoted in the city’s press release. “It is always our goal to incorporate new technologies and techniques that will make treatment safer and less invasive for our patients.”

Proton International out of Louisville, Ky., is going to build the proton therapy treatment center in Delray Beach.

“This will assure local residents won’t have to travel to gain access to this treatment which will reduce the stress and disruption on families,” said Chris Chandler, the company’s CEO.

To read all of the Wall Street Journal’s story click here.