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Colorado legislators demand answers from Aurora VA about patient safety, halt in surgeries due to mysterious residue

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Colorado legislators demand answers from Aurora VA about patient safety, halt in surgeries due to mysterious residue


Colorado’s senators and a congressman are demanding answers from U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs leadership over a series of troubling reports about its Aurora hospital.

Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, both Democrats, and Rep. Jason Crow, an Aurora Democrat, sent a letter to VA leadership on Monday requesting an accounting of patient safety issues, further explanation over its current pause in surgeries due to a mysterious residue on its medical equipment, and steps the hospital has taken to address pervasive cultural problems among its staff.

“As problems persist within the (Eastern Colorado hospital system), we are increasingly concerned about the quality of care Colorado veterans receive, a lack of adherence to the required medical and employee procedures, and how recent leadership changes have impeded the system’s effectiveness,” the lawmakers wrote.

The letter comes on the heels of two scathing reports from the VA’s Office of Inspector General, which investigates departmental waste, fraud and abuse.

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The probes, released June 24, found Aurora’s Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center paused surgeries for more than a year in 2022 and 2023 because the hospital didn’t have the staff to care for those patients after their procedures. They never told the federal VA as required, the investigation found.

The second inspector general report said the Aurora VA suffered from poor organizational health, citing widespread fear among staff that promoted disenfranchisement. Doctors stopped performing high-risk procedures, one staffer said, for fear of punishment if something went wrong.

The investigation mirrored The Denver Post’s reporting since last fall, which found the toxic workplace and culture of fear had permeated a wide swath of departments, leading to high turnover, especially among senior leadership positions. The Post also found that the head of the hospital’s prosthetics department was instructing employees to cancel veterans’ orders to clear a large backlog. The VA later confirmed The Post’s reporting.

Bennet, Hickenlooper and Crow, in their letter, asked the VA to respond to a series of questions, including detailed queries about the mysterious residue that has halted hundreds of surgeries since April. The Post first reported in May that the hospital was rescheduling or referring to community hospitals all surgeries that rely on reusable equipment.

The elected officials also asked the VA about staffing shortages at the hospital network, along with reports that many veterans in the system have been waiting months for their first face-to-face appointment with a provider.

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“We share the goal of providing veterans across the country with timely, quality and consistent health care,” the letter states. “The continuous appointment delays and ongoing quality issues at (the hospital) undermine this objective.”

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What division do the Colorado Avalanche play in?

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What division do the Colorado Avalanche play in?


Prior to their move to the Central Divsion in the Western conference, where they reside now, the Colorado Avalanche played in the Pacific Division. In the 1998-99 season, the divisions changed, and the Avalanche ended up in the Northwest Division in the Western conference. They played in the latter division until 2011-12, before heading to the Central Division in the Western Conference.

Prior to their move to Colorado, they were the Quebec Nordiques, whose home was in the Adams Division, of the Prince of Wales conference.

Since their latest move, the Avalaanche have won their division four times, including year one.

Back in the day, the Avalanche had a famous rivalry with the Detroit Red Wings. There was a lot of fight—a lot of grit between these two teams whenever they played. That series is 64-47-1-10 all-time, with Detroit leading.

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The other teams in the same division as the Colorado Avalaanche are the Dallas Stars, Winnipeg Jets, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, Minnesota Wild, Arizona Coyotes/Utah Hockey Club (as of now), and Chicago Blackhawks.

Last season, the Avalanche had a record of 16-8-2 against their division opponents, including three wins and one loss to the Blackhawks, who have last year’s number one overall pick in Connor Bedard. During the regular season, Colorado lost all three matchups to the Jets, went 1-2 against the Predators, 3-1 against the Blues, 3-1 against the Stars, 3-1 vs the Blues, 2-2 vs the Coyotes, and 4-0 against the Wild.

A fun fact about the 2023-24 Colorado Avalanche is that they sold out 37 of their 41 home games. That is a pretty darn good track record. Even though the team had been up and down over the past two seasons following their Stanley Cup victory in 2021-22, Avs Faithful still believes and has a fun time attending their home games.

Overall, the Colorado Avalanche have won three Stanley Cups: the aforementioned 2021-22 win, 1995-96, and 2000-01. They have had eight head coaches since moving to Colorado, with their current coach Jared Bednar having the longest tenure of them all as he was hired in 2016.

The division race was very tight last season with three teams making a late-season run for first place. Unfortunately, the Avalanche finished third, but still sneaked into the playoffs, and eliminated the Winnipeg Jets but fell to the Stars. So, despite playing their division opponents several times in the regular season, they ended up facing two of them in the playoffs, and fell victim to one.

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At the end of the day, division matchups are some of the best games a fan can watch. There seems to always be that extra sense of urgency in those games and rightfully so.



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3 Colorado poultry workers test presumptively positive for bird flu

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3 Colorado poultry workers test presumptively positive for bird flu


Three poultry workers from a farm in northeast Colorado are suspected to have contracted bird flu, state and federal health officials announced Friday.

The three tested presumptively positive for H5N1, also known as avian influenza, while working at a “commercial egg layer operation,” the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said in a statement.

They were culling poultry at the farm when they showed mild symptoms, including pink eye and common respiratory infections, the agency said. None required hospitalization.

Specimens have been sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmatory testing.

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The CDC said that the three worked “at a poultry facility experiencing an outbreak of the H5N1 virus that is circulating in wild birds and has been causing multistate outbreaks in dairy cows and poultry.”

There have been four confirmed human cases of bird flu in the U.S. since March, all in farmworkers, with two in Michigan, one in Texas and one in Colorado, the CDC said.

In the latter case, a Northern Colorado farm worker suffered pink eye after having direct contact with cattle that were infected with avian flu, CDPHE previously reported.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there have been bird flu outbreaks confirmed in 152 cattle herds so far this year.

The CDC said the risk to the public from bird flu remains low, noting that “there are no signs of unexpected increases in flu activity otherwise in Colorado, or in other states affected by H5 bird flu outbreaks in cows and poultry.”

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However, it added that “human infections with this novel influenza virus (and others) are concerning because of the potential to cause severe disease.”

Federal officials are considering if and when to deploy 4.8 million doses of bird flu vaccine. Finland announced last month it would offer shots to workers who might be exposed to the virus.

— Alexander Tin contributed to this report. 

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Civil Discourse in Action: DU’s Colorado Project Addresses Sustainable Economic Growth | University of Denver

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Civil Discourse in Action: DU’s Colorado Project Addresses Sustainable Economic Growth | University of Denver


The Colorado Project seeks to reduce polarization, strengthen democracy and find solutions to the tough issues facing Colorado by harnessing the power of civil discourse. This year-old initiative is housed in the Douglas and Mary Scrivner Institute of Public Policy at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies. In early March, the Project released a report proposing a strategy for sustainable and inclusive economic growth in Colorado, addressing topics like water, energy, jobs and housing.

Starting in July 2023, the Project’s 33 members met eight times, virtually and in small groups, to develop recommendations for an economy that lifts all boats when the Colorado economy grows. 

“On the surface, our economy looks good but historically our economic growth hasn’t benefitted every segment of the population the same, particularly people of color and people living in poverty,” says Rebecca Montgomery. She is the former director of democracy and civil discourse initiatives within Scrivner and was the staff facilitator for the Project. “Rural communities haven’t recovered since the recession of 2008. Up until now, leaders have worked on these issues in silos but there is potential for political alignment we are not seeing if we can break out of these silos.”

Landon Mascareñaz believes the group succeeded in doing that. He was a committee member and has been brought on as a constultant to replace Montgomery, who has since left the Project. He currently serves as the chair, State Board for Community Colleges and Occupational Education and is the co-founder of The Open Systems Institute. The civil discourse process used by the Project left him enthusiastic about the Project’s potential and results.

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“I had a really incredible experience,” he says. “I loved the partnership, the facilitation and really great ways we could take the content and move it to the next level.”

The group’s members were selected to ensure diverse viewpoints were represented through geography and backgrounds: industry, business, non-profits, rural, urban, racial, water, energy, workforce, housing, land use and others. Only a couple held elected office.       

While civil discourse was the rule of the day, the conversations weren’t easy. The group adopted four rules to keep talks civil:

1. assume positive intent
2. come to every meeting and engage meaningfully
3. keep all conversations confidential
4. base all your contributions in facts, research or practical experience

“We held each other to these values on those constructs we made at the beginning,” says Lisandra Gonzales, one of three co-chairs and chief executive officer of Rocky Mountain Partnership.

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These points kept discussions on track, especially when talks became tough, as they did the first day. Ideas about equity and inclusion provided a tall first hurdle.

“How do you deal with racial issues in parts of the state where race is not a prominent issue?” says Steve ErkenBrack, co-chair and chief executive officer of the Buell Foundation. “That was very tense for a bit but we worked through that because we realized it’s all about inclusion. Parts of rural Colorado also feel they have not always been included.”

Gonzales says that talk revealed something else. Definitions are shaped by people’s personal experiences, giving language shades of meaning beyond the dictionary. In the end, she says people generally agreed on what something meant but used different words to describe it.

“Even if you hear something that is off-putting,” ErkenBrack says, “rather than react immediately, make sure the person is really saying that. We all have biases. These biases we all bring to the human experience are not inherently negative, but you have to face them and recognize them in yourself. We ended up with a candid process and there was a unanimity of where we wanted to get.”

Questions were not left to fester unresolved. “If something felt off, we connected to make sure we had real conversations,” Gonzales says. “We didn’t lose anyone for the sake of not having those accountability conversations.”

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The issues often emerged from smaller working groups, were introduced to the larger group, discussed, sent back, reworked, reintroduced and accepted, or not, usually by consensus.

“Can you live with this in the end? That’s where we had the ultimate buy-in,” Gonzales says. “Are you comfortable with your name being associated with this? That is the question we were asking.”

ErkenBrack says that the diversity of the group was its strength, especially as the participants came to realize all the issues were interrelated. Water affects business which affects housing, education, land use, etc. Any single issue brought up others, and the commitment from the group was to create a plan that would benefit the entire state, not just part of it.

“You wind up realizing whatever your own background and expertise is, you have to access other expertise,” ErkenBrack says. “You realize the importance of listening to other people’s expertise.”

Gonzales says the group spent a lot of time “sitting in the dialogue” and listening before decisions were made. “What was most inspiring about this process and gives me the most hope, even for the country,” she says, “by bringing together this vast array of people, what we all committed to was the end result. We were respectful of other opinions.”

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“You can’t assemble people from all these diverse backgrounds and expect everybody to think like you,” says ErkenBrack. “We live in an environment of policy that is increasingly contentious and emotional. Bringing together several dozen leaders from different fields and reaching a result and consensus document inspired us to take this back to our day jobs and communities – listening to make progress.”

“We built relationships across ideas and differences. That was so powerful,” Mascareñaz says.

The focus now is on getting the report into the hands of thought leaders. Eventually, a new group will be convened for the Colorado Project to tackle a new topic, yet to be identified, certain to be tough, but the discourse civil. 



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