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UI Health nurses authorize strike • U of I’s big testing win • DuPage Medical’s orthopedic play

UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS HOSPITAL NURSES VOTE TO STRIKE: Nearly 1,00 nurses at the University of Illinois Hospital and Clinics authorized a potential strike, demanding the hospital limit the number of patients assigned to nurses.

The hospital has rejected calls for a staffing ratio, instead proposing an acuity-based model, which tries to match staffing levels to patients’ needs.

UI Health, in an emailed statement, said its proposed model “leads to better health outcomes, more consistent and manageable nursing workloads, higher staff satisfaction and better patient experiences.” It’s also supported by the American Nurses Association and the American Organization of Nurse Leaders.

The vote comes ahead of the expiration of nurses’ three-year contract with the hospital this Monday. A strike date has not been set, but nurses would have to give the hospital 10 day’s notice. The two sides say they’ve met 15 times since early June.

“We value and respect all our essential workers and the critical roles they play in providing vital care for our community,” hospital CEO Michael Zenn said in the statement. “While we hope a strike will not occur, we will take any and all necessary steps to prepare for a potential work stoppage to ensure our patients’ continued care and safety.”

The Near West Side hospital was among the first medical centers nationwide to provide some workers with differential pay as a result of the pandemic.

U OF I COVID TEST GETS FDA AUTHORIZATION: The University of Illinois has received emergency use authorization of its saliva-based COVID-19 test developed and now in use on campus, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Wednesday. It piggybacks off the FDA authorization of a similar test developed at Yale University.

The U of I test is potentially more scalable and the university has brought costs per test down to around $10 a test, said Dr. Martin Burke, associate dean for research at the Carle Illinois College of Medicine, and leader of the saliva testing team.  

It was developed in a matter of a few months by researchers in Urbana-Champaign as a way to quickly test roughly 60,000 returning faculty, staff and students twice a week, U of I Chancellor Robert J. Jones said. The testing will now be made more broadly available by a new organization, Shield T3, a limited liability company, governed by a nine-member board of managers chosen by the U of I Board of Trustees.  READ MORE.

DUPAGE MEDICAL LAUNCHES BONE, SPINE PROGRAM: The Chicago area’s largest independent doctors group has tapped one of the nation’s top orthopedic surgeons—and a former team physician for the White Sox and Chicago Bulls—to launch a new program focused on bone, joint and spine injuries.  

Dr. Anthony Romeo is leading DuPage Medical Group’s Musculoskeletal Institute, which includes clinicians who specialize in orthopedics, rehabilitation, physical therapy and chiropractic care, aims to help DuPage Medical compete with other local health care providers. 

DuPage Medical’s goal, Romeo said, is to “become the medical home for the patient in many different ways” by integrating musculoskeletal care into primary care and other medical specialties. READ MORE. 

MAIL DELAYS HIGHLIGHTS RISKS IN POSTAL PRESCRIPTIONS: Anecdotal accounts from patients—and some evidence from pharmacy benefit managers—about widespread U.S. Postal Service delays have exposed the pitfalls of prescription drug mail order services, which are often encouraged by insurers and their pharmacy benefit managers.

AllianceRx Walgreens Prime, a home delivery venture between Walgreens and PBM Prime Therapeutics, said prescriptions have taken longer to be delivered by the USPS since March, and the company is monitoring how those delays affect patients. In some cases, delivery has been significantly delayed by three or more days, a spokeswoman said. Read more from Modern Healthcare.

FORMER ILLINOIS GOV. URGES PRITZKER TO SAVE MERCY: Former Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn joined community activists in demanding Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot block next year’s planned closure of Mercy Hospital & Medical Center on the Near South Side.  

“We want Mercy Hospital to be here today and be here forever,” said Quinn, who was born at the hospital. READ MORE. 

CHICAGO LOOKING FOR MENTAL HEALTH PROPOSALS : The Chicago Department of Public Health has released Request for Proposals that expects to award more than $6.5 million in grants to as many as 25 community-health providers. 

Part of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Framework for Mental Health Equity, the grants would be used to expand access to trauma-informed mental health services in communities in high need, a CDPH statement said.   

“For too long there have been significant gaps in mental health care in Chicago, and the impact is felt most acutely by individuals in our Black and Latinx communities, and this needs to change,” said Matt Richards, Deputy Commissioner of Behavioral Health at CDPH said in a statement.

PANDEMIC’S LONELINESS CAN SPUR MEMORY LOSS, NORTHWESTERN EXPERTS SAY: A Northwestern Medicine neurologist is warning that the loneliness experienced by isolated older adults can put them at further risk for cognitive decline and memory loss. 

“If older adults don’t have enough stimulation and social interaction, they start having cognitive changes,” Dr. Borna Bonakarpour, an assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine said in a statement.

“As we age, amyloid proteins accumulate in our brains, sticky clumps that interfere with communication between neurons,” he added.” The brain is better able to handle these challenges if a person has cognitive reserve, which is more connections or alternative pathways. If one pathway is not working, the brain takes a detour and finds ways around it to compensate for this loss.”

HEALTH STARTUP LAUNCHES INNOVATION CONTEST WITH ILLINOIS BLUES, ANTHEM: Chicago health care startup Matter has announced the Pandemic Response Innovation Challenge seeking ways to prepare for a post-COVID health care system. The challenge, sponsored by health plans Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois and Anthem Inc., is looking for solutions in two tracks: behavioral health and data solutions. 

Winners may get the opportunity to pilot their solutions with BCBSIL or Anthem.

CRAIN’S HEALTH CARE FORUM LOOKS TO POST-PANDEMIC CARE: The coronavirus has revealed the flaws in how Americans pay for health care and the costs of neglecting basic health needs. Watch Crain’s Health Care Forum strategists unpack the issues in keeping communities healthy and coverage affordable. 

PEOPLE ON THE MOVE: 

Augustus Oakes has been named chief information officer at Bolingbrook-based ATI Physical Therapy. Oakes has been serving as the interim CIO since earlier this year. Prior to that, he was vice president of business technology for ATI. 

Dhiraj Rustagi has been named to the newly created position of vice president of e-commerce and marketing at Green Oaks-based NorthShore Care Supply. He most recently served as director of global digital strategy for Omron Global.  

Ellen McElligott has been named senior director of corporate relations and account operations for the Chicago-based American Cancer Society’s north central region. Ellen previously managed corporate partnerships and philanthropic relationships as a nonprofit and corporate social responsibility professional. 


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