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Health

A collaboration among KCUR Public Radio, KCPT Public Television, KHI News Service and Kansas Public Radio, Heartland Health Monitor focuses on health issues and their impact in Missouri and Kansas.

Whether breaking news or in-depth features, we strive to bring listeners and readers timely, accurate and comprehensive coverage of a topic that leaves no one untouched.

Celisa Calacal / KCUR 89.3

Although hard numbers aren't available, anecdotal evidence and recent news accounts suggest that since Lime and Bird scooters arrived in Kansas City this summer, emergency rooms are seeing an increase in scooter-related injuries.

Kansas City joins other cities reporting an uptick in scooter-related injuries following the arrival of companies like Lime and Bird and their products' rising popularity.

File photo

Sheri Wood, the longtime CEO of KC CARE Health Center, is stepping down.

Wood oversaw the expansion of what was essentially a mom-and-pop health clinic in midtown Kansas City into three locations across the city.  

When Wood began at KC CARE 22 years ago, it had a staff of 18 and a budget of $1.2 million. Today it boasts a staff of more than 150, a budget of about $16 million and more than 700 volunteers.

Jennifer Morrow / Creative Commons-Flickr

This story was updated at 9 a.m. Oct. 4 to add the comments of Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and Department of Health and Senior Services Director Dr. Randall Williams. 

A federal judge has declined – at least for now — to block a Missouri abortion law, leaving the state with just one abortion provider.

The law requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital or else face criminal prosecution. 

Jason Kander announced Tuesday that he is dropping out of the Kansas City mayoral race, citing his battle with depression and symptoms of PTSD.
Rebekah Hange / KCUR 89.3

Jason Kander’s decision to drop out of the Kansas City mayoral race is bringing more attention to post-traumatic stress disorder and mental health issues faced by veterans.

Kander is an Army veteran who served a four-month tour in Afghanistan 11 years ago. He said in a statement that his time in the military continues to affect him and has led to battles with depression and symptoms of PTSD.  

Susie Fagan / KCUR 89.3

A former emergency room nurse at Lawrence Memorial Hospital has lost her whistleblower suit alleging the hospital falsified patient records to obtain higher Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.

A federal judge on Tuesday ruled that Megen Duffy failed to prove an essential element of her claims, namely that the allegedly false data had an effect on how much the government paid the hospital.

Big Stock

This story was updated at 9:11 a.m. Wednesday to add the comments of a spokeswoman for Overland Park Regional Medical Center.

A Jackson County jury has awarded nearly $29 million to a physician who claimed he was wrongfully terminated by the emergency room staffing companies that employed him.

Bed Bugs Are On The Rise In Kansas City

Oct 1, 2018
British Pest Control Assocation/Flickr

Bed bugs are back, and they’ve become a problem in Kansas City.

The Shawnee branch of the Johnson County Library has been closed since Friday after librarians discovered bed bugs inside the pages of a returned book. Since then, library officials have been working to deep clean the branch of bed bugs, including using bug-sniffing dogs, working with a fumigator, and baking the infested materials.

Bigstock

A licensed nurse in Johnson County is one of 10 nurses and aides accused of Medicaid fraud and other criminal charges in a statewide crackdown on Kansas health care facilities that get Medicaid funding.

In a complaint filed in Johnson County District Court, Catherine M. Santaniello is charged with one count of Medicaid fraud, two counts of mistreatment of a dependent adult, and battery.

The complaint contains few details and the person she allegedly mistreated is not identified. 

Santaniello could not be reached for comment.

www.HealthCare.gov

Kansans seeking health insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s federally run exchange will have the choice of three insurers in 2019.

Kansas Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer said in a statement that Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas, Medica Insurance Co. and Ambetter from Sunflower Health Plan will offer 23 separate plans for individuals through HealthCare.gov, the federal government exchange.

Olathe Health

Olathe Health, parent of Olathe Medical Center and other medical groups, has named an Arizona health care executive as its new president and CEO.

Stan Holm, currently CEO of Abrazo West in Goodyear, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix, will replace Frank Devocelle, who is retiring after 47 years with Olathe Health, 43 of them as its CEO.

Devocelle is one of the longest-tenured hospital CEOs in the country. He made more than $1 million in 2016.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

The VA Medical Center in Kansas City, Missouri, has made a few changes after receiving a letter from U.S. representatives from Missouri and Kansas that detailed veterans' concerns about the quality of care.

Preferred Family Healthcare

Top executives of a Missouri nonprofit bribed and organized fundraisers for  Missouri and Arkansas politicians as part of a wide-ranging conspiracy to loot the company for their personal benefit, according to court documents filed last week.  

The nonprofit, Springfield-based Preferred Family Healthcare, directed an employee to organize fundraisers for “several candidates running for seats in the Missouri State Senate, Missouri House of Representatives and the Greene County Commission,” according to the documents.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt acknowledges that a multi-state attack on the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, could wipe out some popular consumer protections.

But, Schmidt said, he believes Congress will step in to preserve certain parts of the law if he and 19 other Republican attorneys general succeed in striking down the individual mandate — that everybody buy coverage or face a fine on their tax return — as unconstitutional.

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Sepsis hits nearly two million people in the U.S. a year and kills more than a quarter million. It’s a particular problem in nursing homes, where the aging, confused and immobile are especially susceptible.

In Kansas, scores of nursing homes have received federal citations since 2015 for practices that can put residents at a higher risk of sepsis.

Charlie's House

A Kansas City nonprofit group is building a house that its leaders hope will help save the lives of young children.

The Charlie’s House Safety Demonstration Home on Hospital Hill aims to provide a model for making a home safe for young children – everything from securing furniture to storing firearms.

“We believe that people learn by seeing and learn by first-hand,” says Cindy Mense, a board member of Charlie’s House, which is based in Kansas City.

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

Registered nurses at 15 hospitals owned by the nation's largest for-profit hospital chain — including Research Medical Center and Menorah Medical Center — have voted to authorize a strike if contract negotiations remain at an impasse.

The 15 hospitals in Missouri, Kansas, Florida, Texas and Nevada are owned by HCA Healthcare Inc. and employ about 7,000 RNs affiliated with the National Nurses Organizing Committee, or NNOC.

Joe Gratz / Creative Commons-Flickr

The Missouri Supreme Court is expected to decide within months whether state law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. But the American Civil Liberties Union alleges in a lawsuit that the Missouri Commission on Human Rights has determined that LGBTQ people are not protected.

Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department

Starting in the mid-1990s, Capt. Dan Cummings worked as an undercover cop going after meth suppliers in his hometown of Independence, Missouri.

He had grown up seeing what meth could do, so for him the work was personal.

“When I was a kid, a cousin brought a bag of this white powder in and said, ‘Man, hey, you gotta try this stuff. Man, you can go forever,’” Cummings says. “He did. He’s now passed on.”

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

The incident Julie Burkhart remembers most clearly about the 1991 Summer of Mercy is the man who attached himself to the front gate of a Wichita abortion clinic using a U-lock.

Burkhart was a college student working at one of the three abortion clinics open in Wichita at the time. Today, she runs the one of two clinics left in the city.

Big Stock

Kansas City’s rental inspection program officially went live on Tuesday, a month after voters approved its creation.

Under the new rules, all landlords must pay $20 to register for a permit. They will also be charged an annual fee of $20 per unit so the health department can hire inspectors to respond to tenant complaints. Additional fees would apply if inspectors have to return to the same property to address unresolved issues.

Donald and Laurie Draughon

When a federal judge decided in July that the Veterans Health Administration was liable for the death of an Iraq veteran who was treated at the VA and later killed himself, it was thought to be one of the few instances nationwide where the VA has been held directly responsible for a veteran’s suicide.

Now the federal government is appealing that verdict.

A notice of appeal filed Wednesday said the United States is seeking review of the judgment by U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson, as well as her findings of fact and conclusions of law.

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

Missouri health officials say they plan to renew the abortion license of Planned Parenthood’s midtown Kansas City clinic now that the clinic has secured an abortion provider.

The Department of Health and Senior Services had allowed the facility’s license to expire on Aug. 10 after its previous abortion physician left. The department said it was impossible to verify compliance with the state’s legal requirements without a physician on the premises.

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Planned Parenthood’s midtown Kansas City clinic can no longer perform medication abortions after its license officially expired on Aug. 10.

Clinic officials say they sought timely renewal of its license, but state health officials delayed it after saying they were unable to conduct a complete inspection of the facility in June.

The clinic had no abortion provider on the premises at the time, having stopped performing medication abortions on March 29 when its previous provider left.

University of Kansas

In their quest to understand how bacteria like E. coli and salmonella become antibiotic resistant, researchers at the University of Kansas have made a discovery that may hold important implications for future treatments.

It turns out the types of proteins that help shield some bacteria cells from antibiotics may have evolved independently rather than from a common ancestor, as has been commonly thought. And that discovery may lead to a more refined approach to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.

Alex Smith / KCUR

Like many people who can’t afford medical care, Larissa Shively-Vitt of Shawnee, Kansas, has been spending a lot of time online lately, trying to tell her story and raise money through crowdfunding.

Medical expenses are the category most often used on GoFundMe, which is the largest crowdfunding platform. And in recent years, campaigns have snowballed for one particular kind of medical care: gender confirmation surgery.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Troubled Medicaid contractor Maximus could soon have a new contract with Kansas officials that pays it more to do less.

State officials say that appears to be the price of getting the job of processing applications for the privatized Medicaid program, KanCare, done right.

Boxes are piled high in Anne Hickman’s hallway. Family photos peek out from behind the stacks in her one-bedroom Indianapolis apartment.

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

In the latest in an ever growing pile of legal challenges, the principals behind a questionable lab billing scheme at 10 small rural hospitals in Missouri, Kansas, and three other states have been sued by a Mission Hills couple for fraud and conspiracy.

The couple, James and Phyllis Shaffer, allege the defendants fraudulently took majority control of a company, HMC Hospitals, that owns the hospitals and used them as “instrumentalities in the operation of an illegal billing scheme.”

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

A judge has put on hold a case challenging Missouri’s regulation of medication abortions because two pending cases on appeal address some of the same issues.

U.S. District Judge Beth Phillips reasoned that a decision in one of the appellate cases “forms part of the facts that bear on the Court’s analysis in this case.”

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

A day after her son Asher was born, state social workers paid a visit to Amber Johnson in the hospital. She had tested positive for meth, marijuana and painkillers during her pregnancy and, fearful she would lose her son, told them about her addiction.

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