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Glendale Memorial Chief Exec Starts With Safety

Jill Welton started on June 11 in her role as chief executive of Dignity Health – Glendale Memorial Hospital. Patient safety, staff engagement and customer service are her main goals, she told the Business Journal. “Quality and patient safety will always be the first priority,” she said. Welton was transferred to Glendale from her position as chief operating officer and chief nursing officer at Dignity Health’s Saint Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco. She has been with Dignity Health – a San Francisco-based health care system that has facilities in 21 states – for six years. Prior to joining Dignity Health, she worked as an independent consultant to hospitals in Northern and Southern California. “The foundation of the hospital is the direct bedside contact with patients,” she said. “Regardless of my role, my heart and commitment is always with the patient.” Glendale Memorial has received so-so ratings for patient safety in recent years. The 344-bed hospital was given a “C” on the bi-annual patient safety report card by Leapfrog Group, a health care watchdog group that analyzes data on hospital performance, with below-average ratings for some types of infections and on measures of staff communication. The hospital has consistently earned C marks on Leapfrog’s assessments since 2015. Welton plans to boost the hospital’s ratings by implementing technology that will improve documentation. “(This) will have a significant impact on the Leapfrog safety scores through improved access to data,” she said. ‘Nowhere Near Bankruptcy’ Even as internet skeptics continue to question the long-term solvency of MannKind Corp., the Westlake Village-based biotech is confident that it’s on the right track. “We’re nowhere near bankruptcy,” Chief Executive Michael Castagna said. “We’ve reduced our debt and grown sales consistently.” MannKind announced on June 11 through Securities and Exchange Commission filings that it would issue 3 million shares priced at $1.96 to its creditor Deerfield in exchange for the cancellation of $6 million in debt. The company has paid off $38 million since October, and has $10 million more to pay this year, Castagna said. In addition to restructuring its debt, MannKind also is looking to commercialize its second-ever drug candidate. The company has developed a powder form of a drug called treprostinil – a long-time treatment for pulmonary arterial hypertension – that is taken through Technosphere, MannKind’s proprietary drug delivery platform. “All our energy over the past 10 years was spent on Afrezza,” Castagna said, referencing the company’s inhalable insulin. “We knew 43 of the 45 molecules we tried with Technosphere worked in a powder formulation, but we’d never tested them in humans.” Treprostinil was a logical candidate for development in a powder because its current renditions – a tablet, an intravenous preparation and an inhaled version that requires a nebulizer – necessitate taking several small doses of the medication over the course of a day. So-called Treprostinil Technosphere, or TreT, can offer the same effects with just one or two inhalations, as the platform is capable of delivering higher doses, Castagna explained. “The patient experience is totally different,” he said. With an established safety profile and a clear path with the FDA, TreT was also cost-effective for the company to develop, he added. In the case of Afrezza, Castagna rejects naysayers like Seeking Alpha blogger “Looking for Diogenes,” who predicts Afrezza’s current prescription rate will lead MannKind to fall behind revenue projections. The company reported $3.4 million in revenue for the first quarter of 2018; its guidance for the full year ranges between $25 million and $30 million, according to materials from the company’s first-quarter earnings conference call with investors. Castagna expects that prescriptions of Afrezza will pick up later this month following the annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association, where MannKind will present new data on the drug. “We’re still on track,” Castagna said. “We know this is a turnaround – we know it takes time.” Film Wins Gold Adventist Health Simi Valley made an animated short film about identifying signs of a heart attack – and it was so good that it beat out videos from Amazon.com, PepsiCo Inc. and Google parent company Alphabet Inc. to take a top national prize for brand storytelling. The Simi Valley medical center announced June 4 that its short “Life After” was the only one in its category to receive a “gold” Telly Award, annual accolades that recognize quality video production. Produced by Pathfinder Films, the 6.5-minute short tells the true story of Shawn Willson, a patient whose heart stopped beating as he was being treated for chest pain in the emergency room of Adventist Health Simi Valley. His life was saved by hospital staff, who took turns performing CPR for 52 minutes. Staff reporter Helen Floersh can be reached at (818) 316-3121 or hfloersh@sfvbj.com.

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