Tag Archives: hospital

6 surprising health items that could disappear with ACA repeal

The Affordable Care Act of course affected premiums and insurance purchasing. It guaranteed people with pre-existing conditions could buy health coverage and allowed children to stay on parents’ plans until age 26. But the roughly 2,000-page bill also included a host of other provisions that affect the health-related choices of nearly every American.

Some of these measures are evident every day. Some enjoy broad support, even though people often don’t always realize they spring from the statute.

In other words, the outcome of the repeal-and-replace debate could affect more than you might think, depending on exactly how the GOP congressional majority pursues its goal to do away with Obamacare.

No one knows how far the effort will reach, but here’s a sampling of sleeper provisions that could land on the cutting-room floor:

CALORIE COUNTS AT RESTAURANTS AND FAST FOOD CHAINS

Feeling hungry? The law tries to give you more information about what that burger or muffin will cost you in terms of calories, part of an effort to combat the ongoing obesity epidemic. Under the ACA, most restaurants and fast food chains with at least 20 stores must post calorie counts of their menu items. Several states, including New York, already had similar rules before the law. Although there was some pushback, the rule had industry support, possibly because posting calories was seen as less onerous than such things as taxes on sugary foods or beverages. The final rule went into effect in December after a one-year delay. One thing that is still unclear: Does simply seeing that a particular muffin has more than 400 calories cause consumers to choose carrot sticks instead?  Results are mixed. One large meta-analysis done before the law went into effect didn’t show a significant reduction in calorie consumption, although the authors concluded that menu labeling is “a relatively low-cost education strategy that may lead consumers to purchase slightly fewer calories.”

PRIVACY PLEASE: WORKPLACE REQUIREMENTS FOR BREAST-FEEDING ROOMS

Breast feeding, but going back to work? The law requires employers to provide women break time to express milk for up to a year after giving birth and provide someplace — other than a bathroom — to do so in private. In addition, most health plans must offer breastfeeding support and equipment, such as pumps, without a patient co-payment.

LIMITS ON SURPRISE MEDICAL COSTS FROM HOSPITAL EMERGENCY ROOM VISITS

If you find yourself in an emergency room, short on cash, uninsured or not sure if your insurance covers costs at that hospital, the law provides some limited assistance. If you are in a hospital that is not part of your insurer’s network, the Affordable Care Act requires all health plans to charge consumers the same co-payments or co-insurance for out-of-network emergency care as they do for hospitals within their networks. Still, the hospital could “balance bill” you for its costs — including ER care — that exceed what your insurer reimburses it.

If it’s a non-profit hospital — and about 78 percent of all hospitals are — the law requires it to post online a written financial assistance policy, spelling out whether it offers free or discounted care and the eligibility requirements for such programs. While not prescribing any particular set of eligibility requirements, the law requires hospitals to charge lower rates to patients who are eligible for their financial assistance programs. That’s compared with their gross charges, also known as chargemaster rates.

NONPROFIT HOSPITALS’ COMMUNITY HEALTH ASSESSMENTS

The health law also requires non-profit hospitals to justify the billions of dollars in tax exemptions they receive by demonstrating how they go about trying to improve the health of the community around them.

Every three years, these hospitals have to perform a community needs assessment for the area the hospital serves. They also have to develop — and update annually — strategies to meet these needs. The hospitals then must provide documentation as part of their annual reporting to the Internal Revenue Service. Failure to comply could leave them liable for a $50,000 penalty.

A WOMAN’S RIGHT TO CHOOSE … HER OB/GYN

Most insurance plans must allow women to seek care from an obstetrician/gynecologist without having to get a referral from a primary care physician. While the majority of states already had such protections in place, those laws did not apply to self-insured plans, which are often offered by large employers. The health law extended the rules to all new plans. Proponents say direct access makes it easier for women to seek not only reproductive health care, but also related screenings for such things as high blood pressure or cholesterol.

AND WHAT ABOUT THOSE THERAPY COVERAGE ASSURANCES FOR FAMILIES WHO HAVE KIDS WITH AUTISM?

Advocates for children with autism and people with degenerative diseases argued that many insurance plans did not provide care their families needed. That’s because insurers would cover rehabilitation to help people regain functions they had lost, such as walking again after a stroke, but not care needed to either gain functions patients never had, such speech therapy for a child who never learned how to talk, or to maintain a patient’s current level of function. The law requires plans to offer coverage for such treatments, dubbed habilitative care, as part of the essential health benefits in plans sold to individuals and small groups.

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. This story from HKN is published under a Creative Commons license.

Shots urged as flu cases rise in Wisconsin

Wisconsin health officials say flu cases are on the rise and they are urging people to take precautions like getting a flu shot.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services said on Dec. 28 there had been 161 influenza cases so far this season, and 95 hospitalizations, including eight children and 78 adults age 50 and older. Of those hospitalized with influenza, 63 percent were 65 or older.

State Health officer Karen McKeown says getting a flu shot is still one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family and friends from complications of the flu.

McKeown says other steps include practicing good hand-washing hygiene, covering your cough and not sharing drinking cups and straws.

 

Walking with my mother in her heart-breaking decline

All life cycles have watershed moments, times when another bridge has been irrevocably crossed. In the life of a child, that moment is often a joyful one. But for an elderly parent, life proceeds in reverse, leading often to sorrowful conclusions. 

My mother Liz, who is 93 years old, reached one of those watershed moments one night three years ago. 

We had moved my mother from Milwaukee to a senior housing complex near our Madison home five years earlier. My wife Jean and I had visited her twice that Sunday to address various issues. She seemed strange, but we weren’t yet seasoned enough to understand what was wrong.

After her third call, we returned to find Mom sitting in her nightgown on her bed, with three television and cable system remotes and three cordless telephones alongside her. We realized that something was happening.

Jean began to remove the clutter, which snapped Mother out of her stupor,

“Don’t touch those,” she said anxiously. “Those are my phones!”

Some were her phones, and some weren’t. Due to their similar shape and color, she could no longer tell the difference. We bundled her up and took her to the nearest emergency room.

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More than 10 million adult children over 50 care for aging parents, according to a 2011 study by the MetLife Mature Market Institute. Baby Boomers comprise the majority of caregivers. The number of parents cared for both physically and financially by their kids has more than tripled over the past 15 years.

Not surprisingly, daughters tend to provide more care than sons and suffer more financially because of it. On average, the amount of lost wages, pension dollars and Social Security benefits for women forced to leave the workforce early to provide care totals $324,044, according to the study. Men suffer less financially, but it still costs them an average of $283,716 in aggregate salary and benefit losses to care for elderly parents.

A disproportionate number of boomers caring for parents are gay and lesbian, according to John George, health care administrator for Saint John’s On The Lake, a retirement community of 330 residents on Milwaukee’s east side.

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Upon reaching the hospital that Sunday night, my mother was diagnosed with dehydration and a urinary tract infection, both of which accounted for her confusion. But we would soon discover she also suffered from transient ischemic attacks, often called TIAs or “mini-strokes.” Those would lead to more dire consequences. 

TIAs are caused by blood clots that come and go in the brain. Some are relatively harmless, while others can be precursors to larger, fatal strokes. A series of TIAs followed by a large stroke killed Mom’s older brother Harold decades earlier. We felt that a similar outcome was possible, if not imminent, for her.

While doctors worked to get her situation under control, we made arrangements to move Mom temporarily to a nursing home for rehabilitation. A former RN, my mother had worked at Sunrise Care Center on Milwaukee’s south side until she was almost 86. We thought she’d be comfortable with the transition.

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Transitions to some level of assisted living are often the most difficult things for families to cope with, according to Elaine Dyer, a registered nurse and administrator for the Jewish Home and Care Center, a 160-bed retirement community also on Milwaukee’s east side. Large families often have the hardest time agreeing on what should be done with an elderly parent.

“When there’s more than one child, there’s always more than one opinion,” Dyer says. “As caregivers, we need a point person whose guidance we can rely on, and that person needs to be the patient’s health care power of attorney in order to make the right decisions.”

Dyer’s own mother was a resident at the Jewish Home until she passed away from Alzheimer’s disease last October, and the administrator is acutely aware of how hard the “little losses” of cognitive decline can be on family members.

“Watching cognitive decline is harder than watching physical decline,” Dyer says. “The elderly begin to lose the abilities you gain as a child, including swallowing, talking, walking, bowl and bladder control.”

In terms of providing care, Wisconsin’s 323 nursing homes serve only about 5 percent of the state’s population over 65, Dyer says. The surprising statistic is mostly due to finances. Owing to the recent financial recession, admissions to skilled care facilities have declined over the past four to five years, because too many families need their parents’ Social Security checks to make ends meet.

And then there’s the cost of putting those parents in a skilled care facility.

“The cost for nursing home care is $8,000 to $10,000 a month, and even the wealthiest person who has saved for it could one day run out of money,” Dyer says.

But before that happens, adult children should make sure they understand what their aging parents want and then make those ultimate decisions based on that guidance, she adds.

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Mom spent two weeks in the nursing home, eventually returning to a variant of her former self. But we knew that bridges had been crossed and things would never be the same again.

During my mother’s nursing home stay, we found her an assisted living facility on Madison’s west side. We moved her out of her senior apartment, disposing of furniture and other things she no longer needed. During the grueling two-week process, we discovered clues to her cognitive failure that weren’t previously apparent.

Dozens of unopened bottles of generic acetaminophen and countless file cards and paper scraps with duplicate addresses and phone numbers she didn’t want to forget filled nooks and crannies. We discovered boxes of junk mail — her “bills” as she called them — including some stored in the unused dishwasher. We found cash in the refrigerator.

Mom appeared to be settling in nicely to her assisted living facility, making new friends and regularly eating a healthy diet, something she had also stopped doing in her apartment. There were even activities and outings, but over the course of two years we could see that she had started slowing down.

When construction began on the facility’s new addition, we saw her confusion and anxiety increase. A series of three UTIs in as many months seemed to send her to the moon and back again — not to mention the hospital — on a regular basis. 

George notes that a change in a senior’s environment can result in “transfer trauma” and a large percentage of sufferers are usually dead within a year. When her strange behavior continued, we began to wonder just how long her future would be.

My mother called me on the telephone last week. 

“Mike? This is Grandma,” she said. “If you are out can you stop by? I haven’t had a working phone all day.”

And so, once again, it begins. I don’t want to spend Mothers’ Day at the hospital this year, but maybe just having one more Mother’s Day anywhere is the best I can hope for.

Stop playing politics with women’s health

As a practicing obstetrician/gynecologist for 40 years, I have dedicated my life to making women and families healthier. This commitment makes it all the more disheartening and disturbing to see Gov. Scott Walker commit to signing a ban on abortion that will put women’s health and safety at risk.

Abortion bans are opposed by the medical community, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Medical Association, because they interfere with patient/physician trust and they prohibit women from making private, personal medical decision — even women facing medically complex pregnancies or those whose pregnancy will not survive.

Throughout my career, I’ve provided health care for thousands of women and families and have delivered thousands of babies. Unfortunately, not every pregnancy ends the way a family hopes. Miscarriage, pregnancy complications that threaten a woman’s health and life and fetal anomalies not compatible with life do occur. In these very difficult instances, a woman should have access to all medical options, including safe pregnancy termination.

Only women and doctors — not politicians — should have authority to make these deeply personal medical decisions.

Unlike politicians, who are often working in their best interest, I am trained and obligated to act on behalf of my patients’ best interests. The argument for abortion bans is not based on sound science and is an attempt to prescribe how physicians should care for their patients. Abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy is rare, but when it occurs, it’s often the kind of situation where a woman and her doctor need every medical option available.

Despite political efforts to restrict access, abortion remains a legal medical procedure — and it is safe because it is legal. Abortion is subject to rigorous safety standards and research is constantly evolving best practices and regulation at the local, state and national levels. Physicians who provide abortion services adhere to strict medical standards based on recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

But politicians in Wisconsin keep intruding into our doctors’ offices. They make laws that ignore sound science, best practices and the recommendations of doctors like me.

Walker’s vow to take away women’s access to safe and legal abortion in difficult medical situations is dangerous. It would interfere with my ability to provide medical care in the best interest of my patients. It won’t make abortion go away, it will just make it dangerous.

As a physician, I must speak up to provide the expertise that lawmakers lack. I urge other medical professionals to join me in illuminating the facts before the Legislature overreaches even further into our field.

Dr. Doug Laube is former chair of the UW Medical School Obstetrics Department, former chair of Physicians for Reproductive Health and former president of American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.


Florida hospital threatens to force pregnant patient to undergo cesarean surgery

A Florida hospital has threatened to force a pregnant patient to undergo cesarean surgery against her will and to report her to child welfare authorities for exercising her right to medical decision-making.

The threat was made in a letter from the chief financial officer of Bayfront Health in Port Charlotte to Jennifer Goodall, a Cape Coral, Florida, mother of three who at the time was nearly 39 weeks pregnant.

The letter informed her that because she decided to have a trial of labor before agreeing to cesarean surgery, her prenatal care providers intended to report her to the state Department of Children and Family Services, seek a court order for the surgery and to perform cesarean surgery on her “with or without (her) consent” if she came to the hospital.

Goodall had three previous cesarean surgeries and based on that experience and careful informed consideration, seeks to avoid additional surgery if possible and to allow labor to proceed in hopes of having a vaginal birth after cesarean.

According to medical research, both VBAC and repeat cesarean surgery carry risks. The risk of uterine rupture increases for women who labor after having had previous cesarean surgeries, but the risks associated with another surgery also increase.

In fact, undergoing a cesarean surgery for the fourth time carries a 1 in 8 chance of major complications and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that 60-80 percent of women who attempt VBAC are successful.

“I would definitely consent to surgery if there were any indication during labor that it is necessary,” Goodall said. “I am trying to make the decision that will be safest for both me and my baby, and give me the greatest chance at being able to heal quickly after my child is born so I can care for my newborn and my three other children.”

National Advocates for Pregnant Women, with Florida attorney Patricia E. Kahn, filed a complaint on behalf of Goodall in federal court seeking a temporary restraining order preventing the hospital from carrying out its threats.

U.S. District Judge John E. Steele denied the request, stating, in part, that Goodall has no “right to compel a physician or medical facility to perform a medical procedure in the manner she wishes against their best medical judgment.”

Farah Diaz-Tello, staff attorney for NAPW, expressed disappointment in the ruling: “The process of labor and delivery isn’t a procedure; our client is the one trying to avoid a compelled medical procedure. Deciding whether and when to consent to surgery is a constitutionally protected right.”

Diaz-Tello said that every appellate court to rule on this issue on a full record has held that pregnant women retain their constitutional rights, including rights to medical decision-making and bodily-integrity.

“No woman should fear that because she’s pregnant, she can be threatened, coerced, or deprived of her constitutional rights,” the attorney said.

According to declarations of medical experts filed with the lawsuit, the hospital’s actions violate medical ethics. Mary Faith Marshall, Director of the Center for Biomedical Ethics & Humanities at the University of Virginia School of Medicine called the hospital’s actions “troubling.”

Diaz-Tello acknowledged the hospital’s concerns about malpractice liability, but noted that there is no legal or ethical authority that supports managing liability concerns by forcibly performing unwanted surgery.

Here’s Jennifer Goodall’s complete statement, released on July 25:

My decision to allow labor to proceed before consenting to a surgical intervention is based on years of research, careful consideration of the risks to me and my baby, and my family’s needs. All I want is to be able to go to the hospital when I’m in labor and have my medical decisions respected – and my decision is to proceed with a trial of labor and not have cesarean surgery unless some medical complication arises that makes cesarean surgery necessary for my or my baby’s health. Instead of respecting my wishes like they would for any other patient, my health care providers have made me fear for my safety and custody of my children. The people who are supposed to be caring for me and my baby have put me into an even more dangerous situation. I know I’m not the only one to go through this; I’m speaking out because pregnant women deserve better.

Planned Parenthood, ACLU in court today challenging Wisconsin anti-abortion law

Wisconsin’s law seeking to put further restrictions on abortion rights goes on trial today in a federal courtroom in Chicago.

The plaintiffs in this case are Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin and Affiliated Medical Services. They are represented by attorneys from Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Wisconsin, as well as the Wisconsin firm Cullen, Weston, Pines & Bach.

The law being challenged requires abortion providers to obtain staff privileges at local hospitals. Such laws have been opposed by medical groups such as the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists because rather than enhance patient safety they put women at risk.

Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the ACLU, said in a news release, “This law was designed by politicians, not doctors, with the single-minded goal of shutting down women’s health care centers and ending access to safe, legal abortion. Requiring a business arrangement that would decrease women’s access to high quality health care providers doesn’t improve women’s safety. Opponents are waging a stealth war on abortion, and women and families are paying the price.”

Wisconsin has only four health centers where a woman can have an abortion. The law, which has been blocked while the legal case proceeds, would force one provider in Milwaukee to close immediately.

Physicians who provide abortion might not be able to obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with their quality or credentials:

• Reasons include the religious affiliation of the hospitals.

• vVarious hospital bylaw requirements that the physicians cannot satisfy, such as minimum number of hospital admissions per year, which the physicians cannot satisfy because abortion is so safe.

• Requirements that the physician live within a certain distance of the hospital.

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood of America, said in a news release, “We all want to protect women’s health and safety. This law won’t do that — in fact, it will do the opposite, which is why we are in court on behalf of the patients who turn to Planned Parenthood health centers for safe, compassionate, respectful care.”

Federal judge orders anti-choice Texas hospital to take pregnant woman off life support

A judge on Friday ordered a Texas hospital to remove life support for a pregnant, brain-dead woman whose family had argued that she would not want to be kept in that condition.

Judge R. H. Wallace Jr. issued the ruling in the case of Marlise Munoz. John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth has been keeping Munoz on life support against her family’s wishes. The judge gave the hospital until 5 p.m. CST Monday to remove life support. The hospital did not immediately say Friday whether it would appeal.

Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant when her husband, Erick Munoz, found her unconscious Nov. 26, possibly due to a blood clot. Both the hospital and the family agree that she meets the criteria to be considered brain-dead — which means she is dead both medically and under Texas law — and that the fetus could not be born alive at this point.

But the hospital had not pronounced her dead and continues to treat her over the objections of both Erick Munoz and her parents, who sat together in court Friday.

“Mrs. Munoz is dead,” Wallace said in issuing his ruling, adding that meant the hospital was misapplying a state law that prohibits the removal of life-sustaining treatment from a pregnant patient.

Larry Thompson, a state’s attorney representing the public hospital, had told the judge the hospital had a legal responsibility to protect the unborn fetus.

“There is a life involved, and the life is the unborn child,” Thompson said.

But Jessica Hall Janicek and Heather King, Erick Munoz’s attorneys, accused the hospital of conducting a “science experiment” and warned of the dangerous precedent her case could set, raising the specter of special ICUs for brain-dead women carrying babies.

“There is an infant, and a dead person serving as a dysfunctional incubator,” King said.

Erick Munoz said he and his wife are paramedics who were clear that they didn’t want life support in this type of situation. Her parents agreed. He declined to comment as he left the courtroom, and King and Janicek did not say what they would do next, pending a potential appeal by the hospital.

The hospital said in a statement Friday that it “appreciates the potential impact of the consequences of the order on all parties involved” and was deciding whether to appeal.

The case has raised questions about end-of-life care and whether a pregnant woman who is considered legally and medically dead should be kept on life support for the sake of a fetus. It also has gripped attention on both sides of the abortion debate, with anti-abortion groups arguing Munoz’s fetus deserves a chance to be born. Several anti-abortion advocates attended Friday’s hearing.

Hospital officials have said they were bound by the Texas Advance Directives Act, which prohibits withdrawal of treatment from a pregnant patient. Several experts interviewed by The Associated Press, including two who helped draft the legislation, have said the hospital is misapplying the law because Marlise Munoz would be considered legally and medically dead.

“Marlise Munoz is dead, and she gave clear instructions to her husband and family – Marlise was not to remain on any type of artificial `life sustaining treatment’, ventilators or the like,” the lawsuit said. “There is no reason JPS should be allowed to continue treatment on Marlise Munoz’s dead body, and this Court should order JPS to immediately discontinue such.”

Earlier this week, Erick Munoz’s attorneys said that the fetus, now believed to be at about 22 weeks’ gestation, is “distinctly abnormal.” They attorneys said they based that statement on medical records they received from the hospital.

The hospital argued in a court filing Thursday that there was little evidence of what state lawmakers and courts thought of this issue, but recent laws passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature to restrict abortion made it clear that they wanted to preserve a fetus’ rights.

The Advance Directives Act “must convey legislative intent to protect the unborn child,” the hospital said in its filing. “Otherwise the Legislature would have simply allowed a pregnant patient to decide to let her life, and the life of her unborn child, end.”

Not much is known about fetal survival when mothers suffer brain death during pregnancy. German doctors who searched for such cases found 30 of them in nearly 30 years, according to an article published in the journal BMC Medicine in 2010.

Those mothers were further along in pregnancy — 22 weeks on average — when brain death occurred than in the Texas case. Birth results were available for 19 cases. In 12, a viable child was born. Follow-up results were available for six, all of whom developed normally.

ACLU sues Catholic bishops on behalf of pregnant woman denied care

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Michigan have sued the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on behalf of a pregnant woman who miscarried and was denied appropriate medical treatment because the only hospital in her county is required to abide by religious directives.

The directives were written by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and prohibited the hospital from complying with the applicable standard of care in the case, according to a news release from the ACLU.

Tamesha Means rushed to Mercy Health Partners in Muskegon, Mich., when her water broke after only 18 weeks of pregnancy. Based on the bishops’ religious directives, the hospital sent her home twice even though Means was in excruciating pain, there was virtually no chance that her pregnancy could survive and continuing the pregnancy posed significant risks to her health.

The ACLU maintains that because of its Catholic affiliation and binding directives, the hospital told Means that there was nothing it could do and did not tell Means that terminating her pregnancy was an option and the safest course for her condition. When Means returned to the hospital a third time and suffering an infection, the hospital, again prepared to send her home. While staff prepared her discharge paperwork, she began to deliver. Only then did the hospital begin tending to Means’ miscarriage.

“They never offered me any options,” said Means in a statement to the press. “They didn’t tell me what was happening to my body. Whatever was going on with me, they discussed it amongst themselves. I was just left to wonder, what’s going to happen to me?”

Catholic-sponsored hospitals are required to adhere to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. The directives prohibit a pre-viability pregnancy termination, even when there is little or no chance that the fetus will survive, and the life or health of a pregnant woman is at risk. They also direct health care providers not to inform patients about alternatives inconsistent with those directives, even when those alternatives are the best option for the patient’s health. The lawsuit charges that, because of the directives, the USCCB is ultimately responsible for the unnecessary trauma and harm that Means and other pregnant women in similar situations have experienced at Catholic-sponsored hospitals.

“The best interests of the patient must always come first and this fundamental ethic is central to the medical profession,” said Kary Moss, executive director of the ACLU of Michigan. “In this case, a young woman in a crisis situation was put at risk because religious directives were allowed to interfere with her medical care. Patients should not be forced to suffer because of a hospital’s religious affiliation.”

Because she received neither the information nor the care appropriate for her condition, Means was unable to direct her course of treatment and suffered unnecessarily, the ACLU argues.

2 hospitalized, 4 arrested after anti-gay assault on Long Island

The New York City Anti-Violence Project reports that two men were hospitalized over the weekend after being assaulted by at least four males in Babylon, Long Island.

Authorities have arrested males – in their late teens and early 20s – in connection with the assault.

One of the injured men, according to the report from the AVP, was in serious condition on July 22. The other man was treated and released.

LongIsland.News12.com reported that four men were walking in Babylon at about 3:30 a.m. on July 21 when they stopped two other men to ask directions to the train station.

The four men then began to beat the two men, while shouting homophobic slurs.

The defendants face charges of gang assault and third-degree assault with hate crime penalties.

A press release from the Long Island GLBT Services Network stated, “The alleged anti-gay hate crime in Babylon is disturbing and frightening. Many people think that just because we are winning the right to marry in many states, that the world has changed and everything is now okay for gay people. This incident reminds us that we need to be vigilant in combatting hate and homophobia and that there still is a tremendous amount of work to do to make our Long Island a safe and welcoming community for all gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and families. It is our hope that the Suffolk County District Attorney will continue to prosecute this as the hate crime that it is, and show no mercy to the attackers – they need to be sent away to prison, and by doing so, this will send a message all across Long Island that hate and violence will not be tolerated against any group.”

The New York AVP has responded to a series of anti-gay assaults this summer, including a fatal attack on one man.

Imprisoned Pussy Riot member hospitalized

A jailed member of the Pussy Riot feminist punk band has been hospitalized and had complained of headaches and of suffering from overwork at a prison colony known for its tough conditions, a fellow band member said.

An official confirmed that Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, who is serving a two-year sentence for an irreverent protest against President Vladimir Putin in Moscow’s main cathedral, is in a hospital at her prison colony in Mordovia in western Russia. But Federal Prison Service spokeswoman Kristina Belousova declined to specify her illness or comment on her condition, saying only it was “nothing serious.”

She didn’t say when exactly Tolokonnikova was admitted, but said it happened recently.

Yekaterina Samutsevich, a band member who also was sentenced to two years in August but later released on appeal, added that during their trial Tolokonnikova said she was suffering from headaches and the judge ignored it. Samutsevich said that Tolokonnikova feels exhausted after working long hours with little sleep.

“They don’t allow her to have any rest; she works nearly round the clock,” Samutsevich told independent Rain TV on Friday. “She said she feels tired, extremely tired.”

Pyotr Verzilov, Tolokonnikova’s husband, said the hospitalization was connected with an appointment Tolokonnikova had been scheduled to have before she was sent to the colony, rather than a specific illness. “Obviously, the conditions aren’t that great, but her lawyer’s dealing with it,” he told The Associated Press.

In an interview published last week in the independent Novaya Gazeta newspaper, Tolokonnikova stoically described harsh prison conditions, saying she doesn’t expect any leniency from authorities. 

Tolokonnikova, who works at a sewing machine like most female prisoners in Russia’s prison colonies, told the paper that she has had her fingers punctured by the needle but has picked up speed and experience and can now meet her quota of making lining for 320 jackets a day. Like other prisoners, she bathes once a week and uses cold water to wash the rest of the week. 

“I am not paying much attention to living conditions,” she said in an interview filmed in December. “I’m ascetic, and living conditions matter little for me.”

Tolokonnikova said she meditates to prevent her spirit from being dulled by the monotonous labor and added that the main thing she misses at her prison colony is the ability to read freely.

Tolokonnikova, Samutsevich and the third band member, Maria Alekhina, were found guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred in August after they raucously prayed to the Virgin Mary for the deliverance from Putin at Christ the Savior Cathedral. Samutsevich was freed in October, but the two others were sent to prison colonies. The verdict has drawn global outrage, highlighting Russia’s intolerance of dissent.