A pair of new stories about health care — both with Oregon ties — warrant your attention on this first weekend of fall.
First, The New York Times continues a series of stories about nonprofit hospitals in the United States with a deep dive into practices at Providence, the Washington-based hospital system that operates facilities in Oregon as well. The title of the series — “Profits Over Patients: How Nonprofit Hospitals Lost Their Way” — gives you a good taste of how the series reads. This new installment about Providence focuses on how it established a program to wring money out of patients — “even those who were supposed to receive free care because of their low incomes.” A Providence official essentially fell on his sword, saying that the Times’ findings “are very concerning and have our attention,” adding that Providence wanted “to get things right, on behalf of our communities and on behalf of our patients,” (The story is exclusive to Times subscribers, but I can “gift” you with a link to the story, if you’d like: Just drop a comment below.)
Earlier in the week, Lynne Terry of the Capital Chronicle covered a legislative committee session during which lawmakers were told that patients are dying in Oregon because of the state’s shortage of health care workers. The story includes an interesting detail: The busiest emergency department in the state is at Salem Health. It’s been at 100% capacity nearly every day for the last two years. (Full disclosure: I occasionally do work for the Capital Chronicle, a States Newsroom affiliate that focuses on state news.)
In fact, I did some work for the Capital Chronicle this week, covering a a wide-ranging hearing of the House Interim Committee on Housing. The hearing covered a lot of ground, but the big news was this: A state economist told lawmakers that’s Oregon’s housing crunch got worse during the pandemic. Josh Lehrer said it wasn’t so much because of population growth — instead, the number of households in Oregon grew as people moved out of previous living arrangements, and the growth of households outpaced the creation of new housing units.
It was a busy week in Salem, with legislators gathering for interim committee hearings, but it wasn’t all about housing or health care. Some of it focused on chickens: Longtime readers of the Weekend Reader will recall that there’s concern throughout the Willamette Valley — and particularly in Linn County — about the development of industrial chicken farms near the Santiam River. A group that includes legislators and county commissioners has been working on the issue, and this week, the chair of the group, Sen. Michael Dembrow, briefed a legislative committee about its work. Dembrow said the lawmakers should review state water laws for livestock, allow the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to regulate air pollution from industrial chicken facilities, and ensure that counties have more control over permitting and conditions for these facilities.
Oregon State Treasurer Tobias Read landed a guest essay in last weekend’s New York Times. Read notes that states such as Texas and Florida have warned that certain financial firms and funds could be barred from doing business with the states’ pension plans because the funds are considering environmental risks in their investment decisions regarding the fossil fuel industry. Read argues that these policies are short-sighted and politically driven — and that they’ll end up harming public servants “whose retirement money won’t be managed for a world being disrupted by a rapidly changing climate.”
Here’s an interesting story from High Country News story on news deserts, those growing areas of the nation without affordable access to reliable sources of local news. The story outlines some alternative approaches that some journalists are experimenting with, but the cool thing about the package is that it comes with a nifty map that helps you pinpoint the location of the nation’s news deserts. There are a lot more of those than there were 20 years ago.
You’ve heard about (and no doubt know) people who are making a point about avoiding the news. Joshua Benton at Harvard’s Neiman Lab wrote this week about another reason why people are doing that: anticipated anxiety — that is, people anticipate that the news will make them anxious without being relevant to their lives. So part of the trick here for journalists is to continue making the case for relevance. The anxiety, however, may be unavoidable.
Here’s a story from Jeff Manning at The Oregonian/OregonLive about what almost certainly is the state’s first “Living Building” — that is, it pulls all of its power from the sun, it collects and treats all the water it needs and it composts all its waste. The really remarkable thing is that Portland project came together without any backing from the public sector. This story is exclusive to Oregonian subscribers.
I spent way too much time this past week thinking about the controversies surrounding Olivia Wilde’s new thriller, “Don’t Worry, Darling” — and, in particular, wondering if any of these brouhahas would have generated anywhere near the attention they have if the movie had been directed by a man. Somehow, I don’t think so. Wilde acquitted herself well, I thought, on an episode this week with “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” Sadly, it doesn’t appear that the movie is that good: My elder daughter gave it a “D” and The Atlantic’s David Sims pinpointed two big issues with the movie: One is a script he calls underbaked. The other is Harry Styles.
Did you get that Amber Alert Sunday night about the car stolen in Portland with a sleeping 7-year-old in the backseat? Yes? Here’s how it ended: Some 10 minutes after the alert went out, police spotted the car — with the girl still sleeping in the back, the doors all locked and no one else in the car. Police think the suspect abandoned the car after noticing the child in the back. The car was found about 2.5 miles from where it originally was stolen. Maxine Bernstein of The Oregonian/OregonLive has all the details.