More than 10,000 patients caught Covid-19 in a hospital, analysis shows. They never made it out

They left with covid-19 — if they left at all.

More than 10,000 patients were diagnosed with covid in a U.S. hospital last year after they were admitted for something else, according to federal and state records analyzed exclusively for KHN. The number is certainly an undercount, since it includes mostly patients 65 and older, plus California and Florida patients of all ages.

Yet in the scheme of things that can go wrong in a hospital, it is catastrophic: About 21% of the patients who contracted covid in the hospital from April to September last year died, the data shows. In contrast, nearly 8% of other Medicare patients died in the hospital at the time.

Steven Johnson, 66, was expecting to get an infection cut out of his hip flesh and bone at Blake Medical Center in Bradenton, Florida, last November. The retired pharmacist had survived colon cancer and was meticulous to avoid contracting covid. He could not have known that, from April through September, 8% of that hospital’s Medicare covid patients were diagnosed with the virus after they were admitted for another concern.

Johnson had tested negative for covid two days before he was admitted. After 13 days in the hospital, he tested positive, said his wife, Cindy Johnson, also a retired pharmacist.

Soon he was struggling to clear a glue-like phlegm from his lungs. A medical team could hardly control his pain. They prompted Cindy to share his final wishes. She asked: “Honey, do you want to be intubated?” He responded with an emphatic “no.” He died three days later.

After her husband tested positive, Cindy Johnson, trained in contact tracing, quickly got a covid test. She tested negative. Then she thought about the large number of hospital staffers flowing into and out of his room — where he was often unmasked — and suspected a staff member had infected him. That the hospital, part of the HCA Healthcare chain, still has not mandated staff vaccinations is “appalling,” she said.

“I’m furious,” she said.

“How can they say on their website,” she asked, “that the safety precautions ‘we’ve put into place make our facilities among the safest possible places to receive healthcare at this time’?”

Blake Medical Center spokesperson Lisa Kirkland said the hospital is “strongly encouraging vaccination” and noted that it follows Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and federal and state guidelines to protect patients. President
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Health care costs for people with rare diseases have been underestimated, study shows

A new, retrospective study of medical and insurance records indicates health care costs for people with a rare disease have been underestimated and are three to five times greater than the costs for people without a rare disease. The study, led by the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), provides new evidence of the potential impact of rare diseases on public health, suggesting that nationwide medical costs for individuals with rare diseases are on par with those for cancer and heart failure. The study’s results were published Oct. 21 in the Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases.

There needs to be greater public awareness of the large and growing medical footprint of rare diseases in society. Only about 10% of rare diseases have an FDA-approved therapy for their treatment. The findings underscore an urgent need for more research, and earlier and more accurate diagnoses of and interventions for these disorders.”


Anne Pariser, M.D., senior author, director, NCATS Office of Rare Diseases Research

Most of the approximately 7,000 to 10,000 known rare diseases disproportionately affect children, adolescents and young adults. Individually, most rare diseases might affect only a few hundred to a few thousand people worldwide. However, rare diseases are collectively common, affecting an estimated 25 million to 30 million people in the United States. Many of these diseases have a genetic cause, are serious or life-threatening and are hard to diagnose and treat.

The pilot study was a collaborative effort among NCATS; Eversana Life Sciences, Chicago; Oregon Health & Science University, Portland; Sanford Health, Sioux Falls, South Dakota; and a health insurer in Australia. Pariser and colleagues analyzed patients’ diagnosis information in medical records and billing codes. They used International Classification of Diseases (ICD) codes, which designate a disease diagnosis and other methods, to determine those individuals with rare diseases and their direct medical costs for 14 rare diseases in four health care systems compared to non-rare disease patients of a similar age.

The pilot study aimed to test the feasibility of this approach in analyzing data on rare diseases prevalence and costs. The 14 rare diseases represented a diverse set of disorders that differ in prevalence, organ systems affected, age of onset, clinical course, and availability of an approved treatment or specific ICD code. Examples of the selected rare diseases include sickle cell disease, muscular dystrophy and eosinophilic esophagitis.

The

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