More hospital mergers in 2012; Massachusetts must allow legal immigrants access to healthcare;

> Underwood-Memorial Health Systems and South Jersey Healthcare submitted a merger agreement to the state and federal governments, both organizations announced yesterday. The partnership will include best practices from each organization and create a system-wide standard of care that delivers more efficient and effective patient-centered care. The organizations expect to receive final approval this spring. Press release

> As of Jan. 1, Georgia's Henry Medical Center will operate as Piedmont Henry Hospital, the Piedmont Healthcare system announced. Under the merger, residents still can access the doctors and nurses they saw at Henry Medical Center but with added resources and expertise from Piedmont Healthcare. Press release

> After Tenn.-based Community Health Systems acquired two-hospital Moses Taylor Health Care System in Scranton, Pa., President and CEO Karen Murphy will now lead a community foundation, and Aaron Hazzard will step in as interim CEO. Statement

> Yesterday, the Massachusetts State Supreme Judicial Court ruled unanimously that the state cannot bar legal immigrants from accessing health coverage. Thanks to the ruling, the state will see approximately 40,000 low-income legal immigrants enroll in the State's Commonwealth Care program. Press release

> Having a pharmacist check discharge orders before patients leave helped Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis drop its medication error rate from 92 percent in 2008 and 2009 to "essentially 0 percent" in only nine months, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The hospital's 30-day readmission rate also declined to almost 5 percent. Article

And Finally... The world's longest cigar. Article

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