Monday, September 30, 2013

Photography: Old & New II.

It was a rather somber day when I gave away all the chemicals that I have accumulated over the years of dark room work. As it happened the couple that got them were both medical doctors. Hopefully they make good use of them.

There is indeed much that modern day software can do to duplicate the work of the traditional dark room. Yet there is something magical seeing your print wet and perfect in the dark room.

I have often been asked about some of my photos:

Here are some of the technical details.

Both are taken with Nikon FM2 180/2.8 ED lens. The lens was probably the best of the hand held pre-digital lens Nikon ever produced and I still use it with my Digital Body. 

Film: Kodak Tmax100 Kodak developer.
Paper: Oriental Seagull (3) FB.
Developed using diluted Kodalith Developer. Further toning using Kodak Selenium toner for enhanced tones.
 ©1995 Am Ang Zhang

New York
Sharp-eyed photographers would notice Pan Am sign thus dating the picture.

Film: Ilford 400 developed by pushed Rodinal developer to get the sharp and huge grains.
Paper: Oriental Seagull (3) FB.
Developed using diluted Kodalith Developer. Further toning using Kodak Selenium toner for enhanced tones.

 ©2008 Am Ang Zhang

It is vital to get the sharp focusing of the grains.

Photoshop can in the quadtone mode assign different tones to different levels at will and the level adjustment will enhance what is often a gamble on Lith. Modern printers cannot quite produce the exhibition quality of good Fibre Base Paper of old.

© Am Ang Zhang 2012

Lith Style Photographic work.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

NHS & Private Insurers: Health Care Money! Your Money.

© Am Ang Zhang 2009

The company is a huge force within US healthcare, with 70 million Americans on its books, employing 400,000 doctors in 4,000 hospitals. UnitedHealth is America's biggest health insurer. And it's growing in influence in Britain.
It already runs two GP practices in Derbyshire and now the government has given the green light to 14 companies, including United, to bid for potentially much bigger contracts from the primary care trusts that run hospitals. They would be paid for providing data analysis and research, giving trusts a clearer idea of how to manage patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes.
But their role may be bigger than that. Companies may also be invited in to act as middlemen, negotiating with hospitals on the trusts' behalf to reduce costs, ushering in the prospect that some patients may find their care plan managed not by a doctor but by an American insurance company.
Allowing UnitedHealth and others into the NHS fills the unions and many health workers with horror. That dismay will be amplified when they watch Michael Moore's latest film, Sicko, which alleges that United and other big US insurers routinely deny care for patients who may be critically ill.

In the WSJ there was a report:
“……UnitedHealth Group Inc. (UNH) agreed to pay $912 million to settle two class-action lawsuits regarding its stock-options practices……”

Rewind to last year in the New York Times:
“In one of the largest corporate pay give-backs ever, William W. McGuire, the former chief executive of UnitedHealth Group, has agreed to forfeit at least $418 million to settle claims related to back-dated stock options.”
How very sad! $418 million is a lot of money!
“The payback is on top of roughly $198 million that Mr. McGuire, an entrepreneur who built UnitedHealth, had previously agreed to return to his former employer.”
An entrepreneur! This reminded me of Dr Crippen’s blog about NHS entrepreneurs, and I duly alerted him. UnitedHealth is said to cover the Health Insurance of 70 million US Citizens.
“As part of the settlement with the S.E.C., Mr. McGuire will pay a $7 million fine and will be barred from serving as a director of a public company for 10 years.”
Oh, no, another $7 million and 10 years! You must feel sorry for him.
“He will, however, be allowed to keep stock options valued at more than $800 million, including many that have been sharply criticized.”

Jul 20, 2010
UnitedHealth Profit Jumps as Medicare, Medicaid Grow
UnitedHealth Group Inc., the biggest U.S. health insurer by sales, raised its full-year profit forecast after increased enrollments and lower-than-projected medical costs lifted second-quarter earnings 30 percent.

The insurer forecast 2010 profit of $3.40 to $3.60 a share compared with a previous projection of $3.15 to $3.35, citing growth in sales or membership for all business units. Net income rose to $1.12 billion, or 99 cents a share, for the quarter, from $859 million, or 73 cents, a year earlier, the company said today. The earnings and forecast topped estimates.

Chief Executive Officer Stephen Hemsley boosted enrollment in Medicare Advantage, the U.S.-backed program for the elderly. Weakness in the economic recovery in the U.S. also helped, by keeping people away from doctors and hospitals, said Jason Gurda, a Leerink Swann & Co. analyst in New York. UnitedHealth did better than expected for commercial enrollment, taking business from rival insurers, he said.

October 18, 2006
UnitedHealth's Options Scandal Shows Familiar Symptoms

Stephen Hemsley, who upon being hired in June 1997 was presented with 400,000 stock options with an issue date of five months earlier. Hemsley told the Wilmer Hale lawyers that he "didn't recall focusing at the time" on the $2.9 million gimme he'd just been handed as a result of the backdating.

You might say that Hemsley comes honestly to his lack of focus and ethical sensitivity. Before coming to UnitedHealth -- I'm not making this up -- he'd spent the previous 23 years at Arthur Andersen, rising to chief financial officer. That's the same accounting firm that helped bring you Enron, WorldCom and Freddie Mac. And, you'll be shocked to learn, it's the same Arthur Andersen that served as a consultant to Spears and other members of UnitedHealth's compensation committee.

Hemsley was rewarded for his lack of focus by being named to succeed McGuire as chief executive. He was also directed to root out the senior executives in the legal, accounting and personnel departments who provided the bad advice on which the board and chief executive now say they have relied. Hemsley, too, has volunteered to reprice his options.

The reward:
Chief executive Stephen Hemsley pulled in $102 million in 2009, with $98.6 million coming from exercised stock options, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission Wednesday.    Star Tribune

Friday 16 July 2010
The Minnesota-based firm beat Bupa and Humana to win the contract from the health department to advise PCTs

The Minnesota-based UnitedHealth has already become a key adviser to primary care trusts (PCTs) on commissioning health services and operating bids to run GP practices. Earlier this month it beat Bupa and Humana, another US health insurer, to win the contract from the health department to advise PCTs.

The decision follows successful bids to run two GP practices in Derbyshire in 2006 and three practices in central London in 2008, taking over from the Brunswick Group. In April the company announced a 21% increase in profits for the first three months of the year to $1.2bn (£784m).

United said it brought high level management expertise and efficient provision of services to the UK health service but it has faced accusations of overcharging and malpractice in a series of legal suits.

New York Settlement:
January 15, 2009 
UnitedHealth Group Inc., the biggest U.S. health insurer, said it will spend $400 million to settle allegations it has manipulated payments to doctors and patients for the last 15 years.
The company agreed to put $350 million into a class-action restitution fund to pay physicians and policyholders for services provided by out-of-network providers, the company said in a statement today. On Jan. 13, the Minnetonka, Minnesota-based insurer settled allegations from New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo by paying $50 million and transferring to a nonprofit group its database that set the amount to be reimbursed when patients used doctors outside their network.
UnitedHealth has been battling the largest physician group, the American Medical Association, over out-of-network costs since 2000. The settlement affects less than 10 percent of health benefits because most policyholders use their health plan’s network providers to minimize out-of-pocket expenses. Still, the AMA said it stopped rampant cheating Its California subsidiary was fined a record $3.5m in the same year for mishandled claims against patients and doctors. In 2006 The UnitedHealth chief executive William McGuire resigned after an investigation "concluded he had received stock option grants 'likely backdated' to allow insiders to maximise financial gains." During his tenure as chief executive, McGuire was granted more than $1.6bn in stock options. In 2007, McGuire avoided trial after he agreed to repay $468m.

In one example, Cuomo’s office said that when $200 was a fair-market rate for a 15-minute doctor’s visit for a common illness, Ingenix said it was $77. UnitedHealth would pay $62 when it should have paid $160, leaving the consumer with a $138 bill.

The British Medical Association may now have a new role.

The future is here now:


Patricia Hewitt: now with Cinven (Bupa Hospitals)


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Anorexia Nervosa: The Peril of Diagnosis!

It is probably too late as so many doctors and psychiatrists are brought up on empirical diagnosis that sheds little light on the sufferings of the individual. The more powerful the diagnosis is, the easier it is to ignore the person as an individual and not to take into account his life history that may have a strong bearing on his treatment.

         In The Cockroach Catcher is a Chapter called “The Peril of Diagnosis”, in which I highlighted three cases where a definitive psychiatric diagnosis was in the end more a hindrance than an aid, as that focused all attention on the cure of the symptoms and little else on the resolution of the underlying psychiatric problems.

........In one of the letters from my contacts at the clinic, I was told that Jane had to be admitted to a hospital in London. Her weight was so low that she was on tube feeding.

News of a famous heiress just flashed through this morning’s news and the psychodynamics of Jane’s Anorexia Nervosa suddenly became clearer. The heiress witnessed her uncle’s murder and was anorectic ever since. Jane was home when her father died in mother’s arms with a massive haemoptysis (coughing up of blood, a rare but not unknown effect of lung cancer, generally a massive bleed). It must have been very traumatic.

How dim of me. That was bereavement, a slow suicide by someone who felt less worthy to survive........

Cape Floristic Region (CFR) of South Africa
 ©Am Ang Zhang 2005

                 Jane got on well with me.

          She had to, as nobody understood that to her achieving was not a hardship but something she secretly enjoyed. She was no longer allowed to pick up her books as she had not put on any weight since her admission.
          Cello would be banned too, if her nurse was to have her way.

          For the unit to function the nurse must have her way. After all I was not there all the time to watch her. To watch if she was eating, vomiting, exercising or whatever else they did to avoid gaining weight.
          But I was determined that it would be the first privilege she would get if she put on half a gram.  Or any excuse I could think of.
          Brutal confrontation is often what happened in many adolescent units dealing with Anorexia Nervosa. The brutality is not physical.
          But these patients are intelligent and have such strong will power that confrontation generally fails and the failure can be a miserable one.  Yet it is the kind of condition that hurts. It hurts those trying to help. It hurts because these patients deserve better for themselves. It hurts because they are not drop-outs of society. 
          Was it too hard for Jane to keep at the top academically? Someone offered that as an explanation. Perhaps she should be moved to a state school.
          The idea horrified me.
          A fourteen year old non-smoking, non-drinking, non-drug taking, intelligent Audrey Hepburn look alike virgin turning up at your local comprehensive.  It sounded like a major disaster to me.
          I had to take the matter into my own hands. She did put on some weight and at the earliest opportunity I decided she should get back to the cello which had always been by her bed at the unit.

          She missed the cello, the only thing she could use to shut out her worries.

          Fourteen and carrying the burden of the world.

          Then she started playing.

          “Ah. The Bach G-major!”

          “So you know it.”

           Of course I do. The hours I spent listening to Yo Yo Ma and it was such amazing music, melancholic and uplifting at the same time.

          For a moment I forgot that I was her psychiatrist and she forgot she was my patient.

          “My grandma gave me Casals.”
          I knew Casals was even more emotional than Ma, but Ma is Chinese and he was less affecting, allowing the listener to tune in to his own mood.
She played from memory. What talent! What went wrong?”

          “I wish my dad could hear me.”

          It was the first time she could talk about her father. They had a very comfortable life inSouth Africa when father was alive. It was very difficult to imagine what he would have looked like. It was never clear what he did but he was involved in a number of ventures. The plantation Jane’s grandfather ran was sold when apartheid came to an end. He was involved in some private reserve and he was a photographer of sorts but my junior told me that mum started to cry when she talked about him so she did not pursue too deeply.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

NHS: Best Health Care Days!

Best Health Care: NHS GP & NHS Specialist

Does having a good hunch make you a good doctor or are we all so tick-box trained that we have lost that art. Why is it then that House MD is so popular when the story line is around the “hunch” of Doctor House?

Fortunately for my friend, her GP (family physician) has managed to keep that ability.

My friend was blessed with good health all her life.  She seldom sees her GP so just before last Christmas she turned up because she has been having this funny headache that the usual OTC pain killers would not shift.

She would not have gone to the doctor except the extended family was going on a skiing holiday.

She managed to get to the surgery before they close. The receptionist told her that the doctor was about to leave. She was about to get an appointment for after Christmas when her doctor came out and was surprised to see my friend.

I have always told my juniors to be on the look out for situations like this. Life is strange. Such last minute situations always seem to bring in surprises. One should always be on the look out for what patient reveal to you as a “perhaps it is not important”.

Also any patient that you have not seen for a long time deserves a thorough examination.

She was seen immediately.

So no quick prescription of a stronger pain killer and no “have a nice holiday” then.

She took a careful history and did a quick examination including a thorough neurological examination.


Then something strange happened. Looking back now, I did wonder if she had spent sometime at a Neuroligical Unit.

She asked my friend to count backwards from 100.

My friend could not manage at 67.

She was admitted to a regional neurological unit. A scan showed that she had a left parietal glioma. She still remembered being seen by the neurosurgeon after her scan at 11 at night:

“We are taking it out in the morning!”

The skiing was cancelled but what a story.

Best Health Care: France & The NHS

Friends moved to France after their retirement and lived in one of the wine growing districts.
 ©2008 Am Ang Zhang
They were extremely pleased with the Health Care they received from their doctor locally. After all, not long ago, French Health Care topped the WHO ranking.

Then our lady friend had some gynaecological condition. She consulted the local doctor who referred her to the regional hospital: a beautiful new hospital with the best in modern equipment. In no time, arrangement was made for her to be admitted and a key-hole procedure performed. The French government paid for 70% and the rest was covered by insurance they took out.

They were thrilled.

We did not see them for a while and then they came to visit us in one of our holiday places in a warm country.

They have moved back to England.

What happened?

Four months after the operation they were back visiting family in England. She was constipated and then developed severe abdominal pain. She was in London so went to A & E (ER) at one of the major teaching hospitals.

“I was seen by a young doctor, a lady doctor who took a detail history and examined me. I thought I was going to be given some laxative, pain killer and sent home.”

“No, she called her consultant and I was admitted straight away.”

To cut the long story short, she had acute abdomen due to gangrenous colon from the previous procedure.

She was saved but she has lost a section of her intestine.

They sold their place in the beautiful wine region and moved back to England.

The best health care in the world. 

Now we know.

Let us keep it that way.

NHS & Private Medicine: Best Health Care & Porsche

Do we judge how good a doctor is by the car he drives? I remember medical school friends preferred to seek advice from Ferrari driving surgeons than from Rover driving psychiatrists.

My friend was amazed that I gave up Private Health Care when my wife retired.

“I know you worked for the NHS but there is no guarantee, is there?”

Well, in life you do have to believe in something. The truth is simpler in that after five years from her retirement, the co-payment is 90%.

He worked for one of the major utility companies and had the top-notch coverage.

“The laser treatment for my cataract was amazing and the surgeon drives a Porsche 911.”

Porsche official Website

He was very happy with the results.

“He has to be good, he drives a Porsche.”

Then he started feeling dizzy and having some strange noise problems in one of his ears.

“I saw a wonderful ENT specialist within a week at the same private hospital whereas I would have to wait much longer in the NHS.”

What could one say! We are losing the funny game.

What does he drive?

A Carrera.

Another Porsche.

We are OK then.

Or are we.

He was not any better. And after eight months of fortnightly appointments, the Carrera doctor suggested a mastoidectomy.

Perhaps you should get a second opinion from an NHS consultant. Perhaps see a neurologist.

“I could not believe you said that, his two children are doctors. And he has private health care!” I was told off by my wife.

He took my advice though and he got an appointment within two weeks at one of the famous neurological units at a teaching hospital.

To cut the long story short, he has DAVF.

I asked my ENT colleague if it was difficult to diagnose DAVF.

“Not these days!”

He had a range of treatments and is now much better.

All in the NHS hospital.

“I don’t know what car he drives, but he is good. One of the procedures took 6 hours.”

Best health care.

I always knew: Porsche or otherwise.