Thursday, July 18, 2024

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Health and Fitness

Judge Rules HealthBridge Violated Federal Law

By Aroosa Masroor

www.ctmirror.org

An administrative law judge has issued a decision on two issues raised in a hearing on the controversy between New Jersey-based HealthBridge Management and the employees of five Connecticut nursing homes.
Some 600 employees of the homes—one in Westport—have been on strike since July 3 to protest what they call unfair labor practices.

Administrative Law Judge Steven Davis, in a 23-page ruling issued July 20, agreed with the National Labor Relations Board and New England Healthcare Employees Union, District 1199, that HealthBridge violated the National Labor Relations Act by preventing workers from wearing stickers or distributing flyers advertising that HealthBridge has been the subject of a labor board complaint.

But in the second issue, the judge sided with HealthBridge.

Since the company’s contract with its five Connecticut health care centers—in Danbury, Milford, Newington, Stamford and Westport—expired March 16, 2011, the homes stopped deducting union dues from the employees’ paychecks. The company also refused to remit those funds to the union.

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Plan Set to Collect Life-Saving Umbilical Cord Blood

By Grace Merritt

www.ctmirror.org

Hoping to collect a wider variety of potentially life-saving stem cells, a state committee wants to launch a public umbilical-cord blood collection program by the end of the year.

Under the plan, Connecticut mothers who have just delivered babies could opt to donate their post-birth umbilical cord and placenta to a public blood bank. The donated cord blood, which is rich with stem cells, could be extracted and then transplanted into someone with a deadly disease, possibly saving that person’s life.

Cord blood transplants have been used to treat bone marrow cancers, such as leukemia and multi myeloma; and genetic diseases, such as sickle cell anemia.

Similar to a blood drive, donors would not get any direct benefit from the donation except perhaps the satisfaction of helping someone. “It’s an altruistic thing to do,” said Dr. Edward Snyder, professor of lab medicine at Yale University. He is chairman of the Connecticut Cord Blood Collection Program Committee, which is developing the program.

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Bridgeport Coal Plant Under Scrutiny

By Neena Satija

www.ctmirror.org

More than 150 people crowded into a room in the Bridgeport City Hall Annex Monday night to weigh in on Bridgeport Harbor Station’s request to renew its five-year operating permit, which expired earlier this year.

Environmentalists have been trying for years to shut down the coal operations at the station, which is owned by the Newark-based Public Service Electric & Gas. This may be their best chance, said John Calandrelli, program director for the Sierra Club’s local chapter.

“This is the first, big, major step in what we believe will be, hopefully, a short fight to convince them to not only retire this plant but to revitalize Bridgeport,” Calandrelli said.

PSE&G insists that the plant’s coal operations are among the cleanest in the nation.

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Large Turnout for ‘Farmageddon’

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More than 200 persons turned out Friday night to view the documentary film “Farmageddon” at Westport’s Christ and Holy Trinity Church followed by a question and answer session. The screening of the film which tells the story of small family farms battling the bureaucracy to provide fresh, healthy foods to their communities was presented jointly by the Westport Cinema Initiative (WCI) and the Westport Farmers’ Market and sponsored by Whole Foods Market. “The highlight of the evening was a community of all ages coming together to share in their passion for their support of the independent farmer and their concerns for the food that we eat,” said Sandy Lefkowitz, executive director of WCI. Contributed photo

‘Spook-tacular’ Happenings on Main Street

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Studio 44 Dance and Fitness Center located at Westport’s 44 Main St. celebrated Halloween tonight with nine different “spook-tacular” performances. The night opened with a bang with a Soprano-themed gangster garbed Jazz number choreographed by Sue Benton and Luisa Tanno. A hip hop presentation of Michael Jackson’s Thriller was one of the night’s highlights as was the dead beauty queens who danced with famed New York choreographer Eddie Villanueva to a Lady Gaga-inspired piece. For more information visit http://www.studio44danceandfitness.com. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

Westporter Wins Nobel Prize for Medicine After Death

UPDATE A Westport man who died three days ago today shared in winning the Nobel Prize in medicine for discoveries about the immune system that led to new ways to treat and prevent infectious illnesses and cancer.

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Ralph Steinman: Westporter honored for 1973 discovery. Contributed photo

Canadian-born Ralph M. Steinman, 68, whose death was disclosed after the Nobel announcement, shared the 10 million-kronor ($1.5 million) award prize with American Bruce Beutler and French scientist Jules Hoffmann. Steinman has been affiliated with Rockefeller University in New York since 1970. The university disclosed his death hours after the Nobel announcement.

The Nobel committee had been unaware of Steinman’s death. But after an emergency meeting, the Nobel Foundation said the award would stand, likening it to a death between announcement of the award and the award ceremony—which its rules permit.

Steinman died Friday of pancreatic cancer, according to Rockefeller University, which said he had been treated with immunotherapy based on his discovery of dendritic cells two decades earlier.

Insurance Department Reduces Anthem’s Rate Hike

By Arielle Levin Becker

www.ctmirror.org

The Connecticut Insurance Department has turned down a request by the state’s largest health insurer to raise premiums by 12.9 percent for more than 25,000 individual-market policies, instead granting the company a 3.9 percent increase.

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield had said that the higher increase was needed to account for rising claims costs, increased use of services by members, and state and federally mandated benefit changes.

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But the insurance department found that a smaller increase was appropriate. Actuary Paul Lombardo wrote that the lower figure was based on reducing the operating margin for the plans and removing “underwriting wear-off” from Anthem’s calculations. Underwriting wear-off refers to the decline in members’ health status since they first bought the policies, making them poorer risks.

The 3.9 percent increase could take effect Jan. 1 for about 25,000 policies covering an estimated 48,000 state residents who buy private insurance on their own rather than through their employer.

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Massive Soil Cleanup Planned at Bridgewater

By James Lomuscio

Westport hedge fund Bridgewater Associates has applied to the state and the town to begin a massive clean up of contaminated soil left by a previous occupant at its 25 Ford Road headquarters site straddling both sides of the Saugatuck River.

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Town officials said Bridgewater’s cleanup application will be reviewed beginning next month. A sign notifies passersby of the work. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Much of the heavy metal soil contamination was caused by coal ash used to fill in wetlands years ago and by waste products left behind by Dorr-Oliver, Inc. of Milford, state officials said. Town officials estimated the clean up could cost several million dollars.

Dorr-Oliver had occupied the 5.89-acre site for 18 years, according to Maurice Hammel, remediation director of the Bureau of Water Protection and Land Resources for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).

Bridgewater Associates did not respond to requests for an interview. But David Fiereck of Loureiro Engineering Associates of Plainville, who submitted the application for Bridgewater, stressed the chemicals left behind pose “no immediate danger, but do not meet the state threshold.”

Westporters Help Launch AIDS Clinic in Zimbabwe

Two Westporters are part of a team establishing an HIV/AIDS clinic in Zimbabwe where 13.7 percent of the adult population, or 1.1 million are infected by the virus.

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A doctor explains the B.E.A.T. AIDS initiative and how to take precautions to prevent acquiring the HIV/AIDS virus to a group of Zimbabweans. Contributed photo.

Called World Health Clinicians, (WHC) Inc., the non-profit foundation has reached an agreement with the government of Zimbabwe to create an HIV/AIDS clinic at historic Victoria Falls
 
Westport resident Andrew Wilk is serving as WHC’s board chairman. He is the former chief creative officer of Sony BMG Music and before that, executive vice president at the National Geographic Channel. 
 
“I can’t stand by knowing I can save a mom and her baby for $3 per day,” Wilk said.

Doctor: Surgery Center’s Violations Being Corrected

By James Lomuscio

A Westport doctor said today that his Center for Ambulatory Surgery in Westport should be reopened by the end of the month as he works with the state Department of Public Health (DPH) to rectify 23 violations investigators cited during visits early last month.WestportNow.com Image
The Center for Ambulatory Surgery at 32 Imperial Ave. was ordered closed by the state for health violations. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

The plastic surgery center at 32 Imperial Ave. had its license suspended May 24 and $4,000 fine imposed due to problems found “that may cause a risk to public health,” a DPH report said.

“The state came to my facility and found various deficiencies, 90 percent of which had to do with paperwork,” said Dr. Joel B. Singer, 69, a Compo Road South resident who has lived in town more than 38 years.

“Since then I have been put on notice, and we have been complying. I have basically corrected most of them, and we’re still working on it and plan to have all of the deficiencies corrected by the middle of this month.”