IHA Daily Briefing: Feb. 12

Wednesday, February 12, 2020
Illinois First State to Test for Coronavirus
AGs Seek Stronger EtO Emission Standards
Broadband Expansion Grant Applications Due April 3
Get Expert Guidance at IHA Opioid Symposium
Save the Date: COMPdata User Group Meetings in May

Illinois First State to Test for Coronavirus
The Illinois Dept. of Public Health (IDPH) announced Tuesday that it is able to conduct testing for the 2019 novel coronavirus (now named “COVID-19”), making Illinois the first state to be able to do testing in state.

"The ability to do this testing will mean we will be able to detect any new cases of novel coronavirus earlier and prevent any possible spread," said IDPH Assistant Director Evonda Thomas-Smith. "We understand there is concern about this new virus, which is why having test results back quickly can help reduce some of those concerns."

Once specimens from individuals are received at the Chicago IDPH laboratory, test results are typically available within 24 hours. IDPH is in the process of bringing testing for COVID-19 on line in its Springfield and Carbondale laboratories.

"It's an exciting development to be able to add this tool to our arsenal as we work to limit the spread of this virus," said Allison Arwady, MD, MPH, Commissioner of the Chicago Dept. of Public Health. "A quicker response will help alleviate concerns of those being tested as well as the general public. We continue to work very closely with federal, state, and local partners to ensure that we have a robust and coordinated public health response to emerging infectious diseases."

Last Friday, IDPH along with the Illinois Poison Center established a hotline for residents to call if they have questions about the new coronavirus. Residents in Illinois outside Chicago can call the hotline at 800-889-3931 or email DPH.SICK@illinois.gov. The number for Chicago residents is 312-746-4835 Monday through Friday during business hours and 311 during evenings, weekends and holidays, or email coronavirus@chicago.gov.

Currently in Illinois, two residents have tested positive for COVID-19, while 46 test results have come back negative. More information about novel coronavirus can be found on the IDPH website.

AGs Seek Stronger EtO Emission Standards
Yesterday in a comment letter, Illinois Attorney General (AG) Kwame Raoul, along with 10 attorneys general, urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to adopt stricter national emission standards for ethylene oxide (EtO).

Raoul and the coalition argue that the EPA’s current National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) fail to adequately protect workers and communities from the harmful effects of EtO. The attorneys general also call on the EPA to work with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to support research into effective alternatives to EtO sterilization.

The coalition proposes the EPA make several changes to the NESHAP to achieve health-based standards that reduce EtO emissions from commercial sterilization facilities. Along with extending the NESHAP to include facilities that use one ton or more of EtO in any consecutive 12-month period, the revised NESHAP should require that commercial sterilization facilities:

  • Reduce emissions to the atmosphere from each exhaust point by at least 99.9%;
  • Capture 100% of all generated EtO emissions;
  • Conduct all required emissions testing under operating conditions that are representative of maximum emissions;
  • Install, operate, calibrate, and maintain a continuous emissions monitoring system; and
  • Submit dispersion modeling that demonstrates its EtO emissions achieve the emissions reductions necessary to protect human health.

“Illinois has already acted to significantly reduce EtO emissions, but there is an urgent need for the EPA to strengthen national EtO standards to protect communities throughout the country,” Raoul said.

In 2018, the Illinois Attorney General’s office filed a lawsuit against Sterigenics alleging air pollution violations due to the release of EtO at its Willowbrook, Ill. plant. In September, Attorney General Raoul and DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin obtained a court-enforced order that prevented Sterigenics from reopening unless and until it could meet stringent standards. Sterigenics has since announced that it will permanently close its Willowbrook plant.

Joining Raoul in the comments are the attorneys general of Delaware, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

Read more in a press release.

Meanwhile, the Illinois EPA announced yesterday that Medline Industries, Inc. in Waukegan will soon begin the emissions control testing required pursuant to P.A. 101-22, the Matt Haller Act and an Illinois EPA construction permit. Because the facility was not able to install all of the required controls by Dec. 18, 2019, as required under the new Act, the Illinois EPA worked in collaboration with the Attorney General's office to ensure that they ceased ethylene oxide sterilization operations at that time. Medline has informed the Illinois EPA that it has completed the installation of required control systems prior to resuming operations, which means that emissions testing must begin.

The testing regime will include a test of the building's negative pressure system, testing of monitoring equipment, and testing of stack emissions. The stack test will evaluate the flow of ethylene oxide in representative operating conditions. The Illinois EPA will be on site to monitor all testing, which will be handled by a third-party vendor, to ensure it is conducted properly and meets the agency's standards. The facility must demonstrate compliance with the act and Illinois EPA construction permit in order to resume operations.

Broadband Expansion Grant Applications Due April 3
On Feb. 5, Governor J.B. Pritzker announced that the state released $50 million in funding for the first round of matching grants of Connect Illinois, the state's $420 million statewide broadband expansion. The Notice of Funding Opportunity states that applicants must identify and demonstrate broadband-driven economic development in their proposals, with two specific examples in the weighted point structure directly incentivizing partnership with hospitals and health systems:

  • For healthcare, the proposed impact on telehealth, electronic medical records, or related uses; and
  • The proposed impact on community anchor institutions such as public libraries, hospitals, schools, social service centers, community gathering centers, or other health care clinics.

IHA encourages member hospitals and health systems in regions with unserved or underserved access to wireless broadband to work with local telecommunication entities and community partners on these applications. Details can be found on the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s Connect Illinois Broadband Grant Application webpage. Grant applications are due by April 3 at 5 p.m. CT.

On Feb. 13 from 12 to 1 p.m., a Connect Illinois broadband grant webinar will be led by Matt Schmit, deputy director for broadband, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. To register for the free webinar, click here.

For IHA’s memo on the funding, click here.

Get Expert Guidance at IHA Opioid Symposium
Clinicians are well aware of the four main vital signs: body temperature, blood pressure, pulse and breathing rate. Amy Bohnert, PhD, MHS, points to the classification of pain as a “fifth vital sign" in 2001 as one of the turning points in the opioid epidemic.

Bohnert's keynote address at the IHA Opioid Stewardship Symposium on March 9 will shed light on the extensive opioid research she has conducted with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, as well as the University of Michigan Medicine.

Here is a sample of Bohnert's work:

A special panel discussion, Engagement at the Organizational Level, will build on Bohnert's address by examining the challenges and keys to success in changing the treatment of acute and chronic pain. Panelists will also share how to leverage electronic medical records for better outcomes.

You can attend the all-day symposium—from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.—in Naperville or Springfield. Videoconferencing will connect the two sites, with all expert presenters in Naperville. Clinical leaders, physicians and advanced practice providers are encouraged to attend.

The symposium qualifies for continuing education for physicians and nurses, plus continuing education on safe opioid prescribing practices required for license renewal.

Register today. The discounted rate for hotel rooms ends on Mon., Feb. 17.

Save the Date: COMPdata User Group Meetings in May
IHA's COMPdata Informatics is hosting two regional User Group Meetings in May to offer expert insight into its new dashboards. Hospital and health system staff who use COMPdata for analytics and planning are encouraged to attend. The meetings will be held on May 6 in Springfield and May 13 in Naperville.

By attending, you will learn how to leverage these new COMPdata dashboards:

  • Patient Population: Analyze patient counts and occurrences within a defined population;  
  • Readmissions: Learn about your hospital's readmissions activity and compare to other hospitals; and
  • Chronic Conditions: Analyze chronic conditions defined by Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services within hospital visits.

COMPdata experts will discuss developments to the system, including dashboards to assess the impact opioids and cannabis may have on your patients. Users will also have time to share feedback and address data needs.

These meetings will benefit COMPdata subscribers who work in:

  • Strategic development;
  • Quality;
  • Physician relations;
  • Finance;
  • Business intelligence; and
  • Planning.

COMPdata is the most comprehensive source of healthcare and hospital data for over three decades. It provides hospital data reporting services to more than 600 hospitals, health systems, state hospital associations and state data agencies.

Visit their website to read more about COMPdata services and training opportunities.

Additional meeting information will be shared in the coming weeks.