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Health Notes

Associated Press | 9/10/2008, 5:16 a.m.

City considers toughening cigarette restrictions

Boston public health officials are considering barring cigarette sales at pharmacies and on college campuses.

The new tougher rules, given initial approval last Thursday, would give Boston among the toughest tobacco controls in the nation. Officials now will take public comment on the rules.

The rules would also bar smoking at restaurants and bars with outside service and phase out cigar bars over the next five years. They could go into effect as early as next year.

Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission, says selling cigarettes at drug stores makes no sense.

The proposals also increase fines against violators of existing tobacco regulations.

Drugstore chains and tobacco companies argue that the proposals unfairly limit businesses’ rights to sell a legal product.

Feds grant Mass. another extension in health care law

The state has received another two-week extension of the federal health care funding package that’s crucial to the survival of the state’s health insurance law.

Massachusetts officials have been in talks about the billions of dollars in federal payments, which were set to expire on June 30.

The latest two-week extension gives state and federal officials until Sept. 22 to reach agreement.

Negotiators hit a snag on the state’s request for up to $3 billion more in Medicaid spending over the next three years.

The state is pushing for the increase because it projects 50,000 more people will sign up for a subsidized health insurance program for lower-income residents. That was many more than expected.

First retail medical clinics to open in Mass.

CVS Corp. plans to open the state’s first retail medical clinics next month in its stores in Medway and Tewksbury.

The so-called “MinuteClinics” will be staffed by nurse practitioners and treat relatively minor conditions, such as strep throat, ear infections and colds.

The idea is to unclog emergency rooms and increase access to medical help, since many doctor’s offices close around 5 p.m.

The state Department of Public Health said last Friday that it had approved licenses for the two clinics. CVS is seeking license for clinics in 26 additional stores and Walgreens Pharmacy has submitted plans for clinics at 15 stores.

Some medical professionals have concerns about the clinics, noting there won’t be a doctor on site and worrying they’ll further fragment health care.

State: Safety lapses led to surgery error

State investigators say operating room staff at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center failed to perform a routine and crucial verbal safety check before surgery on the wrong part of a patient’s body.

The Public Health Department’s Bureau of Health Care Safety and Quality also said in a report on the June 30 incident released last Thursday that the system for marking the location of the incision failed.

The report found there were no “associated deficiencies” on the hospital’s part because Beth Israel took immediate action to fix the lapses.

Bureau director Paul Dreyer says the hospital has already implemented procedures to prevent similar incidents.

Beth Israel refused comment. Shortly after the incident, the hospital said the unnamed patient did not suffer any long-term problems.

HIV infections in New York three times the national rate

NEW YORK — New data show New York City residents are contracting the virus that causes AIDS at three times the national rate.

The city health department said last Wednesday that almost 4,800 New Yorkers were infected with HIV in 2006. That number represents 72 in every 100,000 residents, compared with a national rate of 23 per 100,000.

The figures pinpoint when people became infected with the virus, not just when they were diagnosed.

Health officials attribute the city’s relatively high rate of new infections to its large populations of gay men, blacks and other groups on whom HIV has traditionally taken a heavy toll.

Assistant health commissioner Dr. Monica Sweeney says the figures underscore the continued need to promote HIV testing and prevention.

(Associated Press)