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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.

The University of Kansas Health System

Two Kansas City area hospitals joined 12 other transplant centers this week in a lawsuit over a new liver allocation policy that they say will result in “hundreds of liver transplant candidates needlessly dying.”

The University of Kansas Hospital and Saint Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City are plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit filed in Atlanta against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the United Network for Organ Sharing, or UNOS, the private organization that contracts with the government to manage the nation’s organ transplant system.

Bruce Stidham / Kaiser Health News

When Karolyn Schrage first heard about the “dominoes gang” in the health clinic she runs in Joplin, Mo., she assumed it had to do with pizza.

Turns out it was a group of men in their 60s and 70s who held a standing game night — which included sex with one another. They showed up at her clinic infected with syphilis.

Jason Domingues

Patients who are fed up with the bureaucracy of the health insurance industry are ditching the copays and high deductibles for a different way to get primary care.

One such patient is self-employed attorney Dan Hobart, who struggled to find insurance because of his pre-existing conditions. Even after Affordable Care Act went into effect, doctor visits were still too costly for him to get the care he needed.

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The pain might start after bumping an elbow on a kitchen counter. Or maybe the incident was more minor than that, and went completely unnoticed. But for some people, what begins as "nothing" converts to searing pain over part or all of the body.

"If you sprain your ankle, the nerves should turn off after a while once that's healed, that pain signaling should die down. But if you have a chronic pain syndrome, the nerves don't get the memo to turn off," says Cara Hoffart, a rheumatologist at Children's Mercy Hospital.

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

Buoyed by the biggest gift in its history, $10 million from the Sunderland Foundation, Truman Medical Centers on Thursday launched an ambitious campaign to raise nearly $19 million to upgrade its neonatal intensive care unit.

The push to modernize and expand Truman's NICU has locked in pledges of $14 million, according to hospital officials. That includes additional commitments of $2.5 million from the Hall Family Foundation and other contributors such as Waddell and Reed CEO Phil Sanders, the president of Truman’s board. 

Johnson County Sheriff's Office

An Overland Park psychiatrist has lost his medical license after state regulators alleged he had sex with a patient, exploited a patient relationship for financial gain and continued to practice after his license was suspended in 2018.

Under a consent order entered Tuesday, Brian Patrick Lahey waived his right to a contested hearing and agreed to an indefinite suspension of his Kansas license.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

In a recent national survey, farmers said the biggest threat to their livelihoods wasn’t low commodity prices or global trade policies. It was the rising cost of health insurance.

It’s one of the reasons why state farm bureaus have jumped into the insurance game in Iowa, Tennessee and Nebraska, and are trying to in Kansas.

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

A legal tug-of-war that’s engulfed the Missouri state auditor and tiny Putnam County Memorial Hospital in Unionville, Missouri, appeared to have ended yesterday but may drag on a bit longer.

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

A state court judge has thrown out a lawsuit seeking damages against the board of trustees of tiny Putnam County Memorial Hospital in Unionville, Missouri, and Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway.

The lawsuit was filed by the owner of the hospital, Hospital Partners Inc., in Putnam County in April 2018, but the company had taken no action since then. The case was later moved to Cole County, where it continued to languish and was dismissed on Monday.

File photo

Kansas has dropped its effort to terminate Planned Parenthood’s participation in Medicaid, ending a three-year-long court battle that the state lost at every turn.

The change in policy wasn’t announced publicly but rather came in the form of a joint stipulation to dismiss Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit challenging the state’s move.

File photo

Allegations of financial fraud and stolen hospital records have surfaced in an increasingly nasty legal battle over the fate of Hillsboro Community Hospital in Hillsboro, Kansas.

The critical access hospital, which is partly owned by a company controlled by Florida resident Jorge Perez, is resisting efforts by Perez to move its Chapter 11 bankruptcy case to North Carolina.

That’s where a bankruptcy judge recently consolidated the bankruptcy filings of seven other rural hospitals controlled by Perez and Perez-affiliated groups. The hospitals include the now-closed Oswego Community Hospital in Oswego, Kansas; Horton Community Hospital in Horton, Kansas; and I-70 Community Hospital in Sweet Springs, Missouri.

File photo

An Overland Park weight-loss hospital that lost its Medicare certification last year remains in legal limbo.

On Wednesday, a federal appeals court upheld on procedural grounds a lower court’s dismissal of Blue Valley Hospital’s lawsuit challenging the loss of its certification.

PATIENTCARETECHNICIANSALARY.NET / FLICKR - CC

Even as it seeks to have the Affordable Care Act declared unconstitutional, the Trump administration on Monday reported that about 11.4 million people signed up for coverage in 2019 on the act’s state- and federally run exchanges.

That represents a dip from about 11.8 million in 2018, defying fears of a more precipitous drop after the Trump Administration cut promotion and outreach efforts and Congress eliminated the tax penalty for not having coverage.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

A coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans powered past objections from conservative leaders in the Kansas House Wednesday to approve Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s Medicaid expansion proposal.

Albeit a slightly revised version.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute

It’s no longer news that when it comes to its residents’ health, Wyandotte County ranks near the bottom of Kansas counties and Johnson County ranks at the top.

Dan Margolies / KCUR

Three Kansas hospitals are among six hospitals once run by a North Kansas City-based company that have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Camilo Rueda Lopez / (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Social workers can perform a myriad of tasks. Some check on children in abusive homes and some train foster families. Others support patients through medical procedures like kidney dialysis or provide talk therapy to mental health patients.

But there are too few of them in Kansas.

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This story was updated to include comments from Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly. 

Yet another ailing rural hospital once operated by EmpowerHMS, which used to be based in North Kansas City, has closed.

The Horton (Kansas) Community Hospital about 78 miles northwest of Kansas City shut its doors at 5 p.m. Tuesday, according to City Administrator John Calhoon.

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Three Kansas City-area hospitals are among 17 in Missouri and seven in Kansas that are being penalized by Medicare this year for high infection and patient-injury rates.

Truman Medical Centers, Research Medical Center and Belton Medical Center will see their Medicare payments reduced by 1 percent because of high rates of complications. It’s the fifth year in a row Truman has been penalized.

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In mid-February, I-70 Community Hospital in Sweet Springs, Missouri, took the unusual step of voluntarily suspending its own license after state regulators said it was “out of regulatory compliance.”

The 15-bed critical access hospital said it planned to reopen in 90 days. But now the path forward has become steeper.

On Thursday, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services cut off the hospital’s participation in the Medicare program. CMS cited deficiencies that are “so serious they constitute an immediate threat to patient health and safety.”

About 15 miles southwest of St. Louis is Fenton City Park. It’s pretty unremarkable, with picnic shelters, softball fields, and flags waving gently from a memorial to fallen soldiers. This is where Kevin Mullane sought refuge as he struggled with an opioid addiction.

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Reported syphilis cases in Kansas City jumped by 71 percent last year and included nine cases of congenital syphilis in which the mother passed the disease on to her newborn child.

The spike has set off alarm bells at the Kansas City Health Department, which could see cuts in or reallocations of health levy funds that support the city's safety net system in next year’s municipal budget.

Nathan Lawrence / KBIA

Federal prosecutors on Monday charged a Columbia, Missouri, resident with setting a fire at the Planned Parenthood clinic in that city that led to its closure for a week.

Wesley Brian Kaster, 42, was accused of one count of maliciously damaging, by means of fire or an explosive, a building owned by an organization that receives federal funding.

The University of Kansas Health System

Doctors at the University of Kansas Hospital say a change in the distribution of livers across the country could result in Kansans waiting longer for life-saving transplants.

So they’re backing a bill in the Kansas Legislature that would allow residents who donate their organs to specify whether they want them used to benefit Kansas transplant patients.

“The purpose of the Kansas Donor Rights act is to bring the conversation to the forefront,” said Sean Kumer, a liver transplant surgeon at KU.

Crysta Henthorne / Kansas News Service

Things were supposed to be different on the Medicaid expansion this year.

Expansion advocates thought Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s election would elevate the issue to center stage. They figured that would all but guarantee that Kansas would join the ranks of expansion states — now numbering 37 plus the District of Columbia.

But so far this legislative session it’s been déjà vu all over again.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

In 2017 in Missouri,  75 children and teenagers killed themselves — the most on record, according to an analysis of the most recent available data for the state.

That same year in Kansas, 99 young people took their own lives. Another record.

A Roe v. Wade challenge could be coming. Will it come to Missouri?

Feb 26, 2019

With multiple abortion-related bills on the table for the 2019 session, some are raising questions about the possibility of a future legal challenge or an eventual Supreme Court hearing.

“In order to get Roe versus Wade changed, we need to push it further than we’ve pushed it in the past,” Sen. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester, said.

Nathan Lawrence / KBIA

Missouri has one remaining abortion provider after a federal judge on Friday refused to block the state's law requiring that abortion providers have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Brian Wimes was the latest development in a case that has bounced around the federal courts for more than two years, after Planned Parenthood challenged the requirement as medically unnecessary.

File photo / Kansas News Service

Twice, Rep. Jarrod Ousley introduced bills that would create a watchdog over the Kansas agency in charge of looking after children from troubled families.

It’s a massive department hounded by stories of overlooked abuse cases and foster children caught in punishing patterns of shifting from one temporary home to the next.

Ousley says he’s dropping the idea of a state child advocate. For now.

Big Stock

A physician who won one of the biggest jury awards in Missouri last year in a whistleblower case over emergency room staffing is going back to court after a judge slashed his award by more than half.

Dr. Raymond Brovont had worked in the regular emergency room and the pediatric emergency room at Overland Park Regional Medical Center. Technically, his employer was an emergency-room staffing company called EmCare. After he raised concerns that only one physician was being used at night to cover both ERs – a policy he believed endangered patient safety — Brovont was fired.

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