Health Highlights: Dec. 27, 2017

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Trump Administration Relaxing Fines Against Nursing Homes

After requests from the U.S. nursing home industry, the Trump administration is easing back on the fines it levies against facilities that harm residents or put them in danger, The New York Times reported.

According to the Times, the move comes after a request from the American Health Care Association, an industry group. It had complained that under Obama administration rules, federal inspectors were more focused on finding evidence of wrongdoing than on helping nursing homes perform better.

“It is critical that we have relief,” Mark Parkinson, the group’s president, wrote in a letter to President Donald Trump in December 2016, the Times said.

Fines, largely from Medicare, have been levied for at least one serious violation against 6,500 nursing homes since 2013 — that’s about four out of every 10 facilities, the Times said. Fines were for infractions such as neglect, mistreatment, bedsores and failing to shield residents from accidents.

But the new Trump administration rules discourage many such fines, even when incidents have resulted in patient death. For example, in October, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) told its operatives to not levy fines for a “one-time mistake” at a nursing home, even if the mistake had resulted in serious harm.

Repeat offenders will still be fined, however.

“Rather than spending quality time with their patients, the providers are spending time complying with regulations that get in the way of caring for their patients and doesn’t increase the quality of care they provide,” Dr. Kate Goodrich said in a statement. She directs clinical standards and quality at the CMS.

But advocates for nursing-home residents say the new guidelines leave residents vulnerable.

Toby Edelman, a senior attorney at the Center for Medicare Advocacy, told the Times, “They’ve pretty much emasculated enforcement, which was already weak.”


Doctors to Remove Huge Mass From Boy’s Face

Doctors in Miami say they will remove a 10-pound tumor from a teen’s nose next month.

While it is not cancerous, the mass threatens to break the 14-year-old’s neck and suffocate him, the Miami Herald reported.

What began as a pimple of the left side of Emanuel Zayas’ nose two years ago quickly grew to the size of a basketball, the newspaper reported.

Since the tumor presses down on Zayas’ trachea, he’s undernourished because it’s hard for him to eat and swallow, Dr. Robert Marx, chief of oral and maxillofacial surgery for the University of Miami Health System, said during a news conference with Zayas’ family on Friday.

“It’s life-threatening by its very weight. If nothing is done it will cause a fracture of his neck,” Marx explained. So, a team of surgeons will remove the tumor on Jan. 12 at Jackson’s Holtz Children’s Hospital.

Marx said he first heard of Emanuel’s case at a medical conference where a group of missionaries presented X-rays and photos of the boy.

“Nobody knew what it was,” he said. But Marx did, because he has operated on patients with large facial tumors in the past.

Emanuel was born in Cuba with a rare disorder that causes his body to develop scar-like tissue instead of bone. The disorder often causes fractures and deformities of the arms, legs and skull.

In an operation that is expected to take 12 hours, four surgeons will extract the tumor while preserving blood flow, tying vessels and then reconstructing Emanuel’s nose. The surgical team must remove the entire tumor to guard against its return, Marx noted.

But Zayas will need more surgeries to reconstruct his cheek, jaw and other facial features, and to implant prosthetic teeth, the team explained.