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

Iowa News

Sioux City surgeon removes rare tumor robotically
Judy Pottebaum was suffering from sciatic nerve pain, but x-rays revealed an unexpected medical condition that was much more urgent. The 69-year-old Marcus, Iowa, woman had a large mass in the center of her chest. Pottebaum said she had no symptoms related to the thymoma — a rare tumor that originates from the epithelial cells of the thymus gland — that measured 6.5 centimeters. (Sioux City Journal)

Pure Fishing receives Blue Zones designation
Pure Fishing has joined Northwest Bank, Lakes Regional Healthcare, HyVee, YMCA of the Okobojis and Bank Midwest as Blue Zones Worksites in Spirit Lake. The employers fulfilled Blue Zones Worksite designation criteria as outlined at www.bluezonesproject.com, including the registration and engagement of more than 25 percent of their employees. (Dickinson County News)

National News

Shinseki Resigns as Veterans Affairs Chief Amid Furor Over Hospitals
Eric Shinseki resigned as secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department Friday after meeting face-to-face with President Obama about mounting evidence of widespread misconduct and mismanagement at the agency’s vast network of medical facilities. In a statement Friday morning after the meeting, Mr. Obama said that Mr. Shinseki had offered his resignation from the post he has held since the beginning of the president’s administration. “With regret, I accepted,” Mr. Obama said. (The New York Times)

Obamacare Lightens Load For Cancer Patients
Fiona O’Connell is familiar with the working person’s health care nightmare — the one where you get too sick to work, and then you lose your job, and then you have no insurance to pay for the treatment you need. O’Connell lived that nightmare, and she’s still bitter and angry. But now she can talk about it in the past tense. As of Jan. 1, the cancer survivor has medical insurance under the Affordable Care Act. One of the central provisions of the law is that no one can be denied coverage or charged higher premiums because of a pre-existing condition. And there are no annual or lifetime caps on insurance coverage. (Kaiser Health News)

Jay Carney to step down as White House press secretary
President Obama interrupted the White House daily press briefing on Friday to announce that his spokesman Jay Carney is stepping down this summer. Obama named Deputy White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest as Carney’s replacement. (Chicago Tribune)

Doctor Shortage Is Cited in Delays at V.A. Hospitals
Dr. Phyllis Hollenbeck, a primary care physician, took a job at the Veterans Affairs medical center in Jackson, Miss., in 2008 expecting fulfilling work and a lighter patient load than she had had in private practice. What she found was quite different: 13-hour workdays fueled by large patient loads that kept growing as colleagues quit and were not replaced. Appalled by what she saw, Dr. Hollenbeck filed a whistle-blower complaint and changed jobs. A subsequent investigation by the Department of Veterans Affairs concluded last fall that indeed the Jackson hospital did not have enough primary care doctors, resulting in nurse practitioners’ handling far too many complex cases and in numerous complaints from veterans about delayed care. “It was unethical to put us in that position,” Dr. Hollenbeck said of the overstressed primary care unit in Jackson. “Your heart gets broken.” (The New York Times)

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(From time to time, the blog features recipients of the IHA Iowa Hospital Heroes Award.  These outstanding hospital employees come from across the state and work at hospitals of every size.  They exemplify the courage, caring and community focus that are at the center of the hospital mission in Iowa.)

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At Great River Medical Center in West Burlington, a surgical patient who is Cherokee Indian had asked hospital staff if he could have the resected bone from his hip. He was told that he couldn’t “due to hospital policy.” But he asked one more person as his cart was being rolled into the operating room. This time, Clinical Nurse Educator Carol Eibes assured him that she would get information and do her best to honor his wishes.

During the man’s surgery, Carol researched Cherokee Indian beliefs on the Internet. She learned that Cherokee Indians believe bone is one of their four souls and it is needed to cross over to the next life. Carol asked the laboratory’s medical director if the patient could have the bone. He approved it – as long as the surgeon was in agreement. Carol got the surgeon’s approval.

Carol asked the pathologist and infection-control coordinator how to prepare the bone before sending it home with the patient. With the help of a nursing supervisor, Carol autoclaved the bone to remove bacteria. When the patient woke up from surgery, Carol was there – with the bone.

Although she met some resistance, Carol persevered and wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. She was successful by being persuasive and an advocate for the patient.

“It meant a lot, to say the least. It’s my birthright,” said the patient. “I met her 10 feet from the operating room and we had a 30-second conversation. I knew she was sincere in wanting to help me.

“My sister made the same request in Alaska and there were no questions asked because there are more Native Americans there. Instead of saying, ‘We’re awfully sorry,’ Carol took the responsibility to make the calls.”

Carol is dedicated to teaching surgery protocol and skills. Besides working with clinical staff, she enjoys sharing information with students who are considering careers in health care. She tells them the best thing about health care is making a difference in people’s lives, and that happens when you are serious about the little things – and when you put patients first.

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

Iowa News

Hancock County Health System Prepares for New Service — Senior Life Solutions
Hancock County Health System (HCHS) has begun the construction phase in preparation to offering a new service—Senior Life Solutions, a program dedicated to addressing the emotional and behavioral health of adults over the age of 65. “When we designed the new North Addition to Hancock County Memorial Hospital (Hospital), we purposely included a third floor to allow for future growth of programs and services,” said Vance Jackson, Administrator/CEO for Hancock County Health System. “We have started a three-month construction project to prepare that space for a new service that will provide treatment to patients suffering from depression, anxiety and other forms of behavior health issues.” (Britt News Tribune)

Greater Regional named top 100 critical access hospital
Greater Regional Medical Center in Creston was recently named one of the iVantage HEALTHSTRONG Top 100 Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) in the United States. “Greater Regional is proud of the leadership and efforts of our board of trustees, physicians and health-care team who have contributed to our medical center achieving this designation,” said Monte Neitzel, CEO. “Our mission is to deliver the highest quality health care and service.” Greater Regional Medical Center scored in the top 100 of critical access hospitals on the iVantage Hospital Strength INDEX. The INDEX is the industry’s most comprehensive rating of U.S. acute care hospitals, and the only one to include the country’s 1,300 CAHs. (Creston News Advertiser)

The Divide Over Involuntary Mental Health Treatment
The attacks near the University of California, Santa Barbara, are renewing focus on programs aimed at requiring treatment for people who are mentally ill as a way to prevent mass shootings and other violence. In California, a 2002 law allows authorities to require outpatient mental health care for people who have been refusing it. Proponents argue that this kind of intervention could prevent violent acts. But counties within the state have been slow to adopt the legislation, and mental health professionals are divided over its effects. (Iowa Public Radio)

National News

7 Things You Should Know About The Next Big Benefit Change
After getting a green light from the Obama administration earlier this month, more employers may begin to cap what they pay for certain medical treatments, such as joint replacements and drugs, potentially shifting more costs to workers. Done right, economists and policy experts say the move to “reference pricing,” as the approach is known, could slow health care spending by prompting consumers to choose less expensive providers or treatments— and leading providers to lower their charges. Still, consumer advocates warn that the approach is likely to make health insurance even more complex, and could expose unwitting consumers to thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs. (Kaiser Health News)

Healthcare IT Security Worse Than Retail, Study Says
Healthcare organizations are rife with insecurity, and it’s only a question of when a Target-like attack puts millions of patient health information (PHI) files on the black market, a new study suggests. A large-scale attack within the healthcare industry could put patients’ safety and lives at stake, cautioned Stephen Boyer, CTO of security rating firm BitSight Technology, in an interview. Despite increasing awareness about these risks, healthcare organizations far behind their peers in other vertical markets, Boyer said, citing a BitSight study titled Will Healthcare Be the Next Retail?, released May 28. (Information Week)

Severe Report Finds V.A. Hid Waiting Lists at Hospitals
In the first confirmation that Department of Veterans Affairs administrators manipulated medical waiting lists at one and possibly more hospitals, the department’s inspector general reported on Wednesday that 1,700 patients at the veterans medical center in Phoenix were not placed on the official waiting list for doctors’ appointments and may never have received care. The scathing report by Richard J. Griffin, the acting inspector general, validates allegations raised by whistle-blowers and others that Veterans Affairs officials in Phoenix employed artifices to cloak long waiting times for veterans seeking medical care. (New York Times)

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

Iowa News

Clarke County Hospital tops rural hospitals in U.S. for quality healthcare
Clarke County Hospital was named one of 20 U.S. critical access hospitals to receive national honors for best practices in quality. The National Rural Health Association (NRHA) designated hospitals based on Quality Index measures submitted to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and found Clarke County Hospital an exemplar of best practices in all critical access hospital healthcare. (Osceola Sentinel-Tribune)

Principal Charity Classic makes donation to highlight tournament cause
The Principal Charity Classic lived up to it’s name this morning as the Champions Tour event opened a week of activities by presenting a ten thousand dollar check to Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines. The money will be used to purchase two Starlight Fun Center gaming units to be used by young patients. (Radio Iowa)

New CEO announced for Van Buren County Hospital
Leaders of Van Buren County Hospital and University of Iowa Health Care announced Tuesday that Ray Brownsworth will begin serving as chief executive officer at the hospital in Keosauqua, Iowa, on July 28. Brownsworth is currently the CEO of the George E. Weems Memorial Hospital in Apalachicola, Florida. He previously served as CEO of the Keokuk County Health Center in Sigourney, Iowa, and as Vice President of General Services at the Ottumwa Regional Health Center in Ottumwa, Iowa. (ABC-KTVO)

National News

U.S. Republican Seeks Private Health Care For Waiting Veterans
The Republican congressman overseeing a U.S. House panel investigation into delays in veterans’ treatment demanded on Friday that Veteran Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki allow patients to seek emergency private health care. The VA’s Inspector General’s office is also investigating allegations that long waiting times were covered up at some 26 locations across the United States, including claims by VA doctors in Phoenix that 40 veterans died while waiting months for appointments. (Reuters)

Patients advise doctors on ways to reform medical practice
The patients have spoken, and they want better and easier communication with their doctors. At CapitalCare Medical Group, patients have told managers they want to talk to a person, not navigate a machine’s menu, when they call the office. But they also want to leave a detailed message about symptoms or request a prescription refill at odd times of night. And they could use a brochure with a list of services, as well as the direct phone numbers of the people who can answer questions. All at the suggestion of their new Patient Advisory Councils, established last year to meet the requirements of a federal experiment in improving three aspects of health care: costs, outcomes and patient experience. (Times Union)

Hospitals face O-Care uninsured funding gap
Hospitals are in a state of uncertainty as to how to cover the funding gap from uninsured patients as Medicaid and Medicare are expected to decrease payments for those bills. A new report from the Urban Institute in the most recent Health Affairs journal notes Medicare payments to help compensate for the cost of treating the uninsured in hospitals are set to drop this year as more get coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Similar payments for Medicaid will begin to fall starting in 2016, which means the healthcare providers might have to take a larger financial hit. (The Hill)

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

Iowa News

ORHC celebrates EMS Week
During National EMS week, May 18-24, Ottumwa Regional Health Center (ORHC) celebrated its staff, the community EMS providers and the importance of being prepared in emergency situations through education. (Ottumwa Courier)

Mercy clinics on the move
Mercy Women’s Health Center and Mercy Urgent Care will open Monday, June 23, at their new location, 1631 Fourth St. S.W., at the west end of Willowbrook Mall, officials of Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa announced. Relocating the clinics will provide better access to serve patients, hospital officials said. “We are sure the move will benefit patients of both clinics, and the medical staff is excited to be relocating to the new space,” said Maureen Brantner, regional clinic director at Mercy Clinics. (Mason City Globe Gazette)

National News

Hospitals Look to Health Law, Cutting Charity
Hospital systems around the country have started scaling back financial assistance for lower- and middle-income people without health insurance, hoping to push them into signing up for coverage through the new online marketplaces created under the Affordable Care Act. The trend is troubling to advocates for the uninsured, who say raising fees will inevitably cause some to skip care rather than buy insurance that they consider unaffordable. Though the number of hospitals tightening access to free or discounted care appears limited so far, many say they are considering doing so, and experts predict that stricter policies will become increasingly common. (The New York Times)

Wild Health Insurance Rate Hikes May Settle Down, Filings Show
The wild hikes in health insurance rates that blindsided many Americans in recent years may become less frequent because of the health care overhaul. Final rates for 2015 won’t be out for months, but early filings from insurers suggest price increases of 10 percent or more. That may sound like a lot, but rates have risen as much as 20 or 30 percent in recent years. The rates that emerge over the next few months for 2015 will carry considerable political weight, since they will come out before Republicans and Democrats settle their fight for Congressional control in next fall’s midterm elections. (NBC News)

I.R.S. Bars Employers From Dumping Workers Into Health Exchanges
Many employers had thought they could shift health costs to the government by sending their employees to a health insurance exchange with a tax-free contribution of cash to help pay premiums, but the Obama administration has squelched the idea in a new ruling. Such arrangements do not satisfy the health care law, the administration said, and employers may be subject to a tax penalty of $100 a day — or $36,500 a year — for each employee who goes into the individual marketplace. The ruling this month, by the Internal Revenue Service, blocks any wholesale move by employers to dump employees into the exchanges. (The New York Times)

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