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Featuring hospital and health care headlines from the media and the Web.

Iowa News

Heroin returns with vengeance to East Iowa
Twenty-two people have died from heroin overdoses in the Cedar Rapids area within the last 18 to 22 months and three people have died in Johnson County so far this year. There also have been several other non-fatal overdoses in Cedar Rapids but they can’t be linked to heroin. Scott Smith, Drug Enforcement Administration resident agent in charge, said heroin is being brought into the area from drug organizations in Chicago that can offer the cheaper, more potent alternative for the harder-to-obtain opiates like oxycodone or OxyContin. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Couple feel call to give kidneys
Sherry Whisler had never had such an epiphany. Sitting next to Karen Harris in a Bible study at their Urbandale church on a Wednesday night last year, she suddenly realized that she would be the one to change, and perhaps save, Harris’ life. “I can’t explain it,” she said. “I just knew that it would be me.” Whisler asked Harris for her blood type, and how she could donate a kidney, setting off months of tests, surgery and recovery. Then came a second realization: Whisler’s husband, Mike, told his wife he also wanted to donate. (Des Moines Register)

9 in 10 low-income Scott County kids see doctors regularly
A program run by the Scott County Health Department shows that nearly 90 percent of low-income children in the county receive regular medical attention and care from a doctor, according to the 2011 Care for Kids report. Recent numbers indicate that 89.8 percent of Care for Kids clients – all of whom qualify for the Iowa Medicaid program – have what’s called a “medical home.” That means they see a doctor and receive regular immunizations and care, said Brianna Huber, the child health consultant at the health department. (Quad-City Times)

Cherokee hospital’s hospice provides compassion
To help individuals and their families deal with the end-of-life journey, Cherokee Regional Medical Center Hospice started providing care to area residents in 1992. The Hospice philosophy centers on compassionate care and focuses on pain and symptom management. Hospice neither hastens nor postpones death and recognizes that dying is a natural part of the life process. Contrary to what many believe, Hospice is not about giving up. Rather, CRMC Hospice helps provide a better quality of life in the remaining time and allows patients to die in comfort and with dignity. (Cherokee Chronicle Times)

National News

Medicare back on the brink over cuts to doctors
It’s become a symbol of sorts for the federal government’s budget dysfunction: Unless Congress acts before Jan. 1, doctors will again face steep Medicare cuts that threaten to undermine health care for millions of seniors and disabled people. This time it’s a 27.4 percent cut. Last year, it was about 20 percent. A thousand miles away in Harlan, Iowa, Dr. Don Klitgaard is trying to contain his frustration. “I don’t see how primary care doctors could take anywhere near like a 27-percent pay cut and continue to function,” said Klitgaard, a family physician at Myrtue Medical Center. “I assume there’s going to be a temporary fix, because the health care system is going to implode without it.” (Associated Press/San Francisco Chronicle)

Marilyn Tavenner: Medicare’s new pragmatist-in-chief?
Donald Berwick and Marilyn Tavenner have taken markedly different paths to the same job. Berwick spent decades writing, thinking and speaking about overhauling America’s health care system. His sweeping policy ideas, celebrated by many, also became a major political liability. In blocking his confirmation, Republicans seized onto Berwick’s comments about the British National Health Service as a possible “example” for the United States. Such a situation is unlikely to play out with Tavenner, whose health-care experience lies much more in management than policy. (Washington Post)

Cleveland Clinic, others say patients need more financial help
The need for free and discounted medical care is escalating across Northeast Ohio, according to the latest tax filings. Hospitals from the giant Cleveland Clinic to smaller players like Parma Community General Hospital have seen drastic jumps in the amounts they spend to provide free care to those who have no insurance. They also have seen jumps in the unpaid portions of bills of those who do have health coverage – portions that the patients are supposed to pay but can’t. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

Doctors, hospitals go into business as equals
St. John Providence Health System is increasingly teaming up with its doctors — including private practice physicians — to help manage services as it works to improve patient care, following a trend that’s becoming more common in Michigan. The Warren-based health system has set up three companies with physicians to help health system leaders manage cardiovascular services at its east side hospitals, surgery services at its west hospitals and medical neurology across its five-hospital system. Doctors have a similar management agreement in place at its St. John Macomb-Oakland Hospital in Madison Heights. (Detroit News)

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