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

Iowa News

Iowans hurt by decline in home health care aides
Turnover in the home health care profession is high and pay is low. Home health aides make on average $23,920 a year, while nursing assistants make about $26,000, according to 2015 Iowa Workforce Development data. And there are a high number of vacancies as well. A 2015 needs assessment report found that, for nursing aides and attendants, there is an average 574 vacancies per day; for home health aides, there is an average 162 vacancies per day. Many Iowans who rely on home care services are struggling to find and pay for their care. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Eyerly Ball mental health agency to join UnityPoint Health system
An independent mental health center that has served the Des Moines area for 47 years plans to join the state’s largest hospital and clinic system. Eyerly Ball Community Mental Health Services has signed a letter of intent to affiliate with the UnityPoint Health system, leaders of both organizations announced Friday. The planned move comes amid a national wave of independent clinics and medical practices joining large health systems. (Des Moines Register)

National News

Virginia hospital executives say they don’t operate in a free market
Virginia hospital executives want to make one point abundantly clear: They do not operate in a free-market environment. Hospitals treat all patients regardless of ability to pay, and they serve Medicare and Medicaid patients despite being paid less than the cost of care. Officers from the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association Board sat down with Virginia Business editors to discuss issues facing their industry. During the discussion, the hospital officials said they have not given up hope of expanding Medicaid in Virginia despite stiff resistance from the General Assembly. (Virginia Business)

Fix to Ohio’s Medicaid managed care sales tax must hold counties harmless
A federally required fix in the way Medicaid managed care companies are taxed could hit Ohio and Greater Cleveland particularly hard if state law isn’t adjusted wisely to accord with the new federal mandate. The mandate requires affected states either to broaden or eliminate the Medicaid managed care sales tax. The sales tax, in effect, helps draws millions of additional dollars to Ohio in matching federal Medicaid funds. The challenge is that a non-sales-tax would hurt county budgets and transit systems. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

Can poverty lead to mental illness?
After a mother killed her four young children and then herself last month in rural China, onlookers quickly pointed to life circumstances. The family lived in extreme poverty, and bloggers speculated that her inability to escape adversity pushed her over the edge. Can poverty really cause mental illness? It’s a complex question that is fairly new to science. Despite high rates of both poverty and mental disorders around the world, researchers only started probing the possible links about 25 years ago. Since then, evidence has piled up to make the case that, at the very least, there is a connection. People who live in poverty appear to be at higher risk for mental illnesses. (Iowa Public Radio)

Presidential ‘parity’ panel offers steps to treat mental illness like other diseases
Acknowledging that “there is more work to be done” to ensure that patients with mental illness and addiction do not face discrimination in their health care, a presidential task force made a series of recommendations Friday including $9.3 million in funding to improve enforcement of the federal parity law. Over the past seven months, the task force received 1,161 public comments from patients, families, insurers, advocates, state regulators and others. Based on the findings, the group has taken several actions. (Kaiser Health News)

US research points to potential of mental health courts
Health advocate Mary Giliberti stands convinced lack of awareness about consequences of throwing mentally ill Americans into jail ranks as a disgrace crying out for understanding and resolution. The growth of mental health courts designed to provide an alternative to incarceration has inspired academic research into the unconventional attempt to slow jailhouse revolving doors for the mentally ill. Research studies have generally confirmed mental health court participation to be associated with lower incidence of rearrest or reincarceration compared with traditional processing of the defendants. (Kansas Health Institute)

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

Iowa News

Malissa Sprenger named IHA Hospital Hero
Mercy Medical Center – Dubuque is proud to announce that Malissa Sprenger was named a 2016 Hospital Hero by the Iowa Hospital Association (IHA). Sprenger is the coordinator of Mercy Turning Point Treatment Center, which provides care to patients and families dealing with substance abuse. Only 10 people were awarded the status of Hospital Hero this year and they were honored at the IHA Annual Meeting in Des Moines on October 19. (Mercy Medical Center-Dubuque)

Mercy, Methodist gain state approval for rehab facility expansions
The Des Moines area’s two dominant hospital systems received state permission Thursday to spend millions of dollars expanding rehabilitation facilities for people who have suffered strokes or traumatic injuries. Mercy Medical Center plans to spend $5.3 million building a new, 50-bed “rehabilitation hospital” in Clive. Mercy’s main rival, Iowa Methodist Medical Center, plans to spend $4.7 million expanding its downtown Younker rehabilitation wing from 27 to 49 beds. (Des Moines Register)

Quad Cities’ psychiatric hospital plan blocked again
State regulators effectively blocked a new psychiatric hospital in the Quad Cities on Thursday by voting 2-2 on its request for a permit. This was the second time the Iowa Health Facilities Council deadlocked on the $14 million, 72-bed project, which was proposed by a national chain called Strategic Behavioral Health. Supporters said the new hospital would offer desperately needed care for people with serious mental illnesses. But opponents, led by existing hospitals, said that the area already has enough psychiatric beds and that the new private hospital would focus on well-off patients and provide insufficient care. (Des Moines Register)

Cedar Falls hospital project delayed
The timetable for building a new hospital in Cedar Falls has been delayed. But staff and the new owners of Sartori Memorial Hospital in Cedar Falls and Covenant Medical Center in Waterloo still plan to make the project happen. “The commitment to doing a project in Cedar Falls hasn’t changed,” said Joe LeValley, a senior vice president with Mercy Health Network in West Des Moines, which took over Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare-Iowa hospitals in May. A new timetable has not been determined. (Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier)

New facility honors Iowa child abuse victim
Autumn Elgersma’s smile will soon shine on other children making their way through the darkness of child abuse, neglect and other emotional conditions. A grand opening and ribbon cutting on November 10 for Autumn’s Center in Spencer will celebrate the new facility, an outpatient behavioral and developmental health service center that will help young people from birth to age 21 suffering the effects of child abuse, substance abuse, bullying and many other conditions. Jen and Phil Elgersma both hope that Autumn’s Center will be a place of healing. (Des Moines Register)

National News

California rules about violence against health care workers could become a model
Workers in California’s hospitals and doctors’ offices may be less likely to get hit, kicked, bitten or grabbed under workplace standards adopted by a state workplace safety board which approved a rule last week that requiring hospitals and other employers of health professionals to develop violence prevention protocols and involve workers in the process. The California Hospital Association has been opposed to creating new standards and says several recent trends may contribute to violence at health care facilities, such as cuts to mental health care services leading to more psychiatric patients in hospitals. (National Public Radio)

Vermont’s all-payer ACO will begin in January
In January, Vermont will become the first state in the nation to move to a voluntary all-payer accountable care organization (ACO) model, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced Wednesday. The Vermont ACO will cover Medicare, Medicaid and commercial payers, requiring those who participate to pay similar rates for all services. “We will become the first state in America to fundamentally transform our entire health care system so it is geared towards keeping people healthy, not making money,” said Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin. (Modern Healthcare)

OU Medical System partnership to create continuous health care network in Oklahoma
University of Oklahoma (OU) Medical System is partnering with the St. Anthony Hospitals and the University Hospitals Authority and Trust to create a continuous health care network for Oklahomans. The new network will be made up of more than 23 Oklahoma hospitals as well as more than 1,100 physicians and providers. “The goal is to completely integrate St. Anthony and OU health services so it would be a seamless network so patients would be able to get care at both entities without noticing any obstacles or barriers to accessible care,” said Paul Sund, director of marketing for OU Physicians. (OU Daily)

How teletherapy addresses mental health needs
An acute need for more and easier access to mental health treatment and improvements in communications technology have set off a boom in remote therapy, but strict licensing rules and varying state laws are hampering its growth. Like telehealth in general, using videoconferencing, smartphones and other technology to treat mental illness has long been recognized as an invaluable tool for getting care to people in rural areas, where shortages of psychiatrists, psychologists and other providers are even more acute than in the rest of the nation. (Stateline)

Pharmacists can provide the right prescription for a projected crisis
The demand for health care in the US is growing as the average age of our population increases. Because of this change in demographics, the Department of Health and Human Services expects the shortage of primary care physicians to reach 20,000 by 2020. Mid-level health care professionals are starting to fill the void, but state-level regulation is stifling their considerable potential. Pharmacists are a good example: Mid-level professionals who could do more to help patients but often cannot because of seemingly arbitrary barriers that appear to have little effect on health care quality or safety. (RealClear Health)

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

Iowa News

West Nile kills first Iowan since 2010
West Nile virus has claimed its first Iowa life since 2010. The Iowa Department of Public Health announced Tuesday that an unidentified elderly person in northwest Iowa recently died from complications of the mosquito-borne virus. The virus has sickened 33 Iowans so far in 2016. Although more than twice as many Iowans have been sickened by West Nile this summer than last, the virus’ effects are not spiking nationally. West Nile virus has received less attention this year than the new threat posed by another mosquito-borne virus, Zika. (Des Moines Register)

Former NICU patients, staff members reunite
Some Cedar Rapids parents thanked the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) staff who cared for their sick kids over the weekend. It happened at the annual reunion between former NICU patients and staff members at the Unity Point Health-St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids. Kids were offered a number of game and activities, and, of course, plenty of ice cream. St. Luke’s says this is one of the events it looks forward to each year. (KCRG)

National News

Wisconsin addresses shortage of rural doctors
As the state’s rural population ages, increasing its need for health care, Wisconsin is facing a shortage of physicians in rural areas that is projected to get much worse in coming decades. To address it, the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, the Medical College of Wisconsin and the state’s health systems are developing residency programs in rural areas. It is expanding its residency programs outside of the Milwaukee and Madison areas for family medicine, general surgery and psychiatry, according to a report released in part by the Wisconsin Hospital Association. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

Pennsylvania joins pact to help doctors practice across state lines
Governor Wolf this week signed legislation making Pennsylvania part of the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact intended to streamline physician licensing, improve health care access and expand telemedicine. “In the world of apps and telehealth, the interstate compact allows qualified, licensed physicians to follow this new technology across state lines. Equally important, as many rural areas of Pennsylvania face physician shortages, is the ability for doctors to move back and forth across state borders,” said Andy Carter, CEO of the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Cal Expo clinic to provide free dental, medical care to thousands in California
Even as medical and insurance costs rise, free health care will be on hand at Cal Expo in California this weekend for anyone willing to wait in line. The three-day medical, dental and vision clinic, hosted by volunteer corps California CareForce, will offer fillings, extractions, eyeglass fittings, diabetes screenings and flu shots to adults and children for no cost. The clinic fills a need for the uninsured, or people who have insurance but struggle to meet copays and deductibles, event spokesperson Krista Bernasconi said. (Sacramento Bee)

Maryland organizations join forces to make medical facilities safer
Consulting firm EY is partnering with Johns Hopkins Medicine to try to make hospitals and other health care organizations safer. The firm plans to help its health care clients devise safety plans and initiatives using clinical research and expertise from the Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality. The Johns Hopkins institute has worked for years on improving infection rates at hospitals, with its first efforts focused on getting doctors and other medical staff to adhere to basic safety protocols and checklists. (Baltimore Sun)

Drug prices, not the health law, top voters’ health priorities for 2017
Until this week, when big increases in insurance premiums were unveiled for next year, the federal health law has not been a major issue in the presidential election. In fact, fixing what ails the Affordable Care Act isn’t even among voters’ top priorities for health issues for next year. The monthly October tracking poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that when voters are asked about what the next president and Congress should do about health care, issues relating to prescription drug prices and out-of-pocket spending far outrank proposals to address the shortcomings of the health law. (Kaiser Health News)

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(The following is excerpted from the inaugural address provided at last week’s meeting of the IHA House of Delegates by Board Chair Michael Myers, CEO of Veterans Memorial Hospital in Waukon).

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Mike Myers addressing the IHA House of Delegates.

Why did I get into health care? To help people, to save their lives, but I quickly learned that it’s not about saving lives, it’s about enhancing them. Why do I stay in health care? It’s because of the lifelong learning that occurs each and every day in all of our institutions that keeps me staying in health care.

I would like to share with you a few examples of the lifelong learning and you may or may not think it has anything to do with health care, but I think it has everything to do with health care. As a new graduate hired in an emergency room, I went from being scared to being cocky. I envisioned myself wearing a t-shirt that said lifesaver, like the candy only better. Until one day I walked up to an oncologist who was admitting a patient in the emergency department and I said “I don’t know how you do it, all of your patients are dying,” and he calmly put down his pen and he looked up at me and he said, “Mike, we’re all dying, some just know it sooner than others.”

It was my first exposure to the true meaning of health care, not saving lives but enhancing them. I learned that sometimes when we make a difference in a person’s life we don’t always know it. We’re never told, but that person will tell others.

When I was on one of my last days at one of my early jobs, a nurse came in and she was in tears and I said, “What’s the matter?,” and she said, “I just had a patient’s family talk to me.” At that time my first thought was, “Oh good, somebody complained.” Instead she said to me, “You’ll never know what a difference you made to our father.” And it dawned on me: day in and day out miracles occur, acts of kindness and compassion, and we never hear whether or not it made a difference, you never hear how it impacted lives, but on that day she knew and it touched her deeply.

I learned the true meaning of leadership recently and it touched me deeply when I went back to an organization I haven’t had anything really to do with in over 20 years. And yet when I came back people that I used to work with and manage kept coming up to me and saying, “I remember when you told me this and you taught me that and I still do that today.” I learned about the power of our deeds and actions as a leader. It impacted me so greatly that on my drive home I took the long way home. I didn’t have the radio on, I drove along roads I’d never been on and I thought about what it meant to me as a person to have such a positive influence on people that I worked with and it happens every day.

And finally, the greatest lesson that I think anybody can learn and I first got exposed to it in health care is what true love means. I learned it at the bedside of a 16-year-old girl who was dying. After all of the family had come in and visited, I sat down and I held her hand and pretty soon I hear a squeak and the door opens. It was her father and he said, “I can’t leave her like this” and I said I understood.

But I really didn’t understand what he was feeling and going through until I got married, until I had kids and you understand that at any given moment you would sacrifice everything you owned or had to ensure the health of your wife and children. Sometimes that lesson gets tested. Say for example your wife is diagnosed with cancer and you see her in pain and in suffering and you walk off and you say to anybody who you think might be listening, “Hey, give it to me, if not for good, at least for an hour. Let her feel good, let her feel like she used to.” You’d do anything.

And just when you think nobody is listening, all of a sudden these people come into a room, they may be doctors or nurses or therapists and for a few moments in time, maybe a few hours, she does feel better and it reaffirms your belief and your lesson on enhancing lives.

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Recently, Mary Greeley Medical Center in Ames celebrated its 100th anniversary. As part of the festivities, CEO Brian Dieter recited the original building’s dedication as it was delivered in 1916 by Captain Wallace Greeley, the New York-born Union Army officer who supported the hospital’s construction in memory of his wife, Mary, who had passed away two years earlier.

Wallace Greeley

Wallace Greeley

Reading Capt. Greeley’s words 100 years later, it’s clear that his gift was a product of sincere humility from a loving husband who simply wanted to serve his community and provide a proper remembrance of his wife. Not only was Mary his spouse for nearly 50 years, she was his partner in running their farm and settling and developing Ames, which was only a small village of about 100 people when they arrived in 1868.

“My purpose in the erection of this building is not for any credit that may accrue to me individually but to the memory of one I can never forget,” he said. “In tendering you this gift, I trust that it will be received in the same spirit in which Mrs. Greeley would have wished were she here and I hope that the loyal people of Ames will tenderly guard its keeping and make it a home for many needy and afflicted persons whose care will be entrusted to them during the future life of this institution.”

In his brief dedication, Capt. Greeley did not set forth a high-flying medical agenda for Iowa’s newest hospital. Instead, he spoke humbly about serving the community and those in need in a responsible manner. “To care for the sick and to those who by misfortune or otherwise are in need is a heritage left to us which we must meet and to me it seems that in no other way can it be done more satisfactorily or economically than in a home like this.”

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Mary Greeley Medical Center

It’s interesting that twice in the dedication Capt. Greeley refers to the hospital as “a home.” Perhaps this was simply a reflection of the hospital role a century ago, when extended inpatient stays were very much the norm. However, given the lack of clinical references, it seems just as likely he viewed the hospital as a shared place of comfort and hope as well as a hub from which expert care and compassion would emanate – not unlike today’s coordinated, community-based health care model.

Capt. Greeley’s message is an enduring one. Long before Mary Greeley Medical Center opened and dozens of times since, Iowa communities, leaders and everyday citizens committed significant resources to ensure access to health care through their community hospitals. Their commitment is a statewide constant, as community support of hospitals and their value proposition remains strong, notably evidenced by ongoing expansion and improvement of facilities as well as overall support of hospital policy priorities.

That kind of long-term trust is earned every day by hospitals and their leaders who do indeed “tenderly guard” the community hospital mission and work to “make it a home” for everyone.

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