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William Cruice, of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses & Allied Professionals, leads a chant shortly after nurses walked off the job at Temple University Hospital. (Alejandro A. Alvarez / Staff Photographer)

After 12 wonderful days of vacation that included skiing in Colorado and hiking in Yosemite, I returned to news that nurses at Temple University hospital are on strike and a local doctor has been convicted of dealing prescription drugs including Percocet and Xanax.

At Temple, the union representing nurses says its members - 1,000 nurses and 500 other professional workers such as respiratory therapists and social workers - voted to strike because of "bad faith" bargaining on the part of the hospital. Hospital administrators have hired temporary employees through an agency that specializes in strike forces to keep the 746-bed hospital open. Points of contention between the two sides include pay raises, the payments for health insurance, tuition benefits for employees' children, and random drug testing.

In the criminal case, meanwhile, doctor Laurence T. McKinney, 54, was convicted on 30 of 49 counts of distribution of controlled substances.  He had operated the McKinney Medical Center on Frankford Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia since 2004, but three years later began to sell prescriptions for Percocet and Xanax - two of the most frequently abused controlled drugs - for $100 a pop, according to prosecutors. McKinney faces up to nine years in prison when he is sentenced on July 14.

I’ll get back to regular more frequent blog posts tomorrow – after the jet lag abates a bit – but thought these were two interesting stories.

As you all know I was gone when President Obama signed sweeping health legislation that expands access to health insurance for millions of Americans, including potentially adding 15 million people to Medicaid rolls. An interesting bit of news there as well in that the largest hospital network in Delaware County – the Crozer-Keystone Health System that includes 522-bed Crozer Chester Medical Center and 214-bed Delaware County Hospital – and the region’s largest Medicaid HMO – Keystone Mercy Health Plan – are in a major contract dispute.

If Crozer and Keystone Mercy don’t reach an agreement, members of the health plan won’t have access to the hospitals except in emergencies. As Crozer noted in a press release, that would impact thousands of patients.

“In 2009 alone, care provided by CKHS to KMHP members included more than 7000 admissions to our hospitals, 30,000 outpatient visits, the delivery of 1600 babies and more than 100,000 patient encounters with our physicians,” the hospital network stated.

And this raises the question of what happens in such contract disputes, once millions more uninsured people are added to the Medicaid rolls.