Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

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Tag: MultiCare


When high-tech medicine costs more, it should deliver

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

A recent Time magazine article on the cost of health care points out that while the United States spends twice as much on health care per capita as most other developed countries, we have the same or worse outcomes. One reason is that we don’t understand what we’re buying, writes Steven Brill in “Bitter Pill: Why medical bills are killing us.”

Take this scenario, for instance. Facing surgery, you have a choice between two procedures: One has been done for years with a certain level of success while the other uses a high-tech robotic system and has much the same success rate.

The main difference, which consumers with good health insurance might never be aware of: The latter procedure can cost at least $2,000 more. Read more »


A grassroots counterattack on the obesity industry

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

Most children face obstacles enough in life. Obesity – a preventable problem – shouldn’t be among them.

The Pierce County Health Department, YMCA, MultiCare and other community organizations deserve credit for their attack on childhood obesity, an epidemic of epic proportions in the United States.

Obesity isn’t merely being overweight; it’s being so overweight that grave problems are likely to arise from it – including heart disease, diabetes and, not least, bullying from classmates.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the rate of obesity among 6- to 11-year-olds rose from 7 percent in 1980 to nearly 20 percent in 2008. Among 12- to 19-year-olds, the rate went from 5 percent to 18 percent. There’s no reason to think kids have gotten skinnier in the last four years.

Two factors are driving the trend: Eating junk and staring at screens. Fast food, snacks and sugary drinks pump the calories into them. The calories get packed away as fat when children spend hours a day parked in front of video games, television and computers.

Blame adults for most of this. They control what young children eat and how much time they spend gaping at pixels. In Washington, according to the CDC, roughly a third of all children aged 6 to 17 have televisions in their bedrooms. More than half of all high schools and middle schools provide ready access to high-calorie drinks and snacks during school hours.

A lot of these kids simply have the deck stacked against them.

But don’t underestimate the counter-attack. In the South Sound, a small host of organizations has been pushing back, often in close coordination.
Read more »


Vaccinating hospital staffs should be non-negotiable

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Of all people in the world, those who work in hospitals and medical clinics – physicians, nurses, cafeteria workers, etc. – ought to be vaccinated against influenza.

It shouldn’t even be controversial. Many patients are fragile and highly susceptible to the flu. They can’t rely on “herd immunity,” which can protect unvaccinated members in a group that is mostly immunized. All it takes is one infected nurse or aide to spread the potentially deadly flu virus to the severely ill.

Shockingly, though, roughly half the country’s hospital workers aren’t getting flu shots. In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimated that only 62 percent of health care professionals – a category that includes doctors and registered nurses – got the vaccine in the 2009-2010 flu season.

Washington does quite a bit better than that. The Washington State Hospital Association recently announced that nearly all of the state’s hospitals now require that their employees either get flu shots or take other protective measures.
Read more »


A 21st-century ER at MultiCare

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

American health care is the most expensive in the world. That’s not entirely a bad thing: We sometimes get a whole lot for the money.

MultiCare’s new $72 million emergency department, which opens today, is a good example. At 73,500 square feet, it is 10 times larger than the department it replaces and will transform the way patients are treated when rushed to Tacoma General and Mary Bridge hospitals.

The old department was created in 1992 – not so long ago, in the scheme of things – but a surge in patients and multiple revolutions in urgent care had left it looking downright primitive. And crowded: Designed for 32,000 visits a year, it reached 74,000 last year. Exam rooms were too few and too small. Non-urgent patients often had long waits in the cramped waiting room before they got seen; once through the doors, they and their doctors often wound up in the hallway.

The staff of 50 had only a single restroom, shared by male and female alike. Their lounge had been taken away, turned into a patient room. When blood spurted and hearts faltered, equipment and supplies had to be rushed from one room to another. It wasn’t exactly a sweatshop, but harried doctors and nurses couldn’t be blamed for wanting something better.
Read more »