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

Iowa News

Pharmacies start selling heroin antidote without prescription
Some Iowa drugstores have started to sell a narcotics-overdose antidote without requiring prescriptions. Top Iowa officials gathered at a southside Des Moines CVS pharmacy Wednesday to congratulate the chain on helping lead the way toward the change. CVS’s Iowa stores have started selling the naloxone, or Narcan, to any Iowa adult without requiring a specific prescription. The medication, delivered by a shot or by nasal spray, can quickly reverse the effects of an overdose of heroin, pain pills or other narcotic drugs, also known as opioids. (Des Moines Register)

Mercy Cedar Rapids hires doctor to build open heart surgery program
Dr. CC Lee is no stranger to building a heart surgery program from scratch. And come June he’ll do the same at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids. “It gives me excitement to start something new, to be able to put my imprint on it,” said Lee, who was recently named the hospital’s medical director of its cardiac, thoracic and vascular surgery services. In November, the hospital was given a certificate of need by the State Health Facilities Council to start an open heart surgery program. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Knoxville Hospital expands, adds new technology
Knoxville Hospitals & Clinics has undergone many changes over the past year. From becoming one of few hospitals around the region to offer robotic knee surgery to a $15 million modernization project being completed, the hospital is much different than it was just a few years ago. The most recent change to be implemented is a robotic surgical unit called the Navio. Knoxville is the second hospital in Iowa to add the technology. The other is in Cedar Rapids at St. Luke’s Hospital, which implemented the robotic knee replacement unit in 2014. (Knoxville Journal-Express)

Covenant Medical Center unveils new nuclear medicine department
Covenant Medical Center’s new state-of-the-art nuclear medicine department is easily three times the space of its previous location deep in the halls of the hospital. “We were landlocked,” said Michelle Wright, Covenant’s nuclear medicine supervisor. “New technology requires bigger space.” With a $3.4 million project, the department got both space and technology. Covenant Medical Center unveiled its new nuclear medicine department at an open house Tuesday morning. (Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier)

14 million Hawarden Community Hospital project nearing completion
Construction continues in Hawarden on a $14 million hospital construction and renovation project. Hawarden Community Hospital Administrator Jason Pullman gives provided an update on the project for which planning began several years ago. He said they’re planning on a grand opening and ribbon cutting, which will be sometime between late May and mid-June. The hospital is also looking at adding outreach services and expanding their operating room to keep services close to home for area residents. (KIWA)

National News

Colorado lawmakers give initial nod to $26.8 billion budget that threatens hospitals
A handful of rural Colorado hospitals are facing the risk of closure from the spending cuts embedded in the $26.8 billion state budget bill that won preliminary approval Wednesday in the state Senate. The budget package cuts more than $500 million in payments to the state’s hospitals for uncompensated care in part of an effort to balance a spending bill in a year mired by fiscal constraints and increasing demands. The hospital cuts dominated the initial discussion as Democrats fought to eliminate them from the spending bill. (Denver Post)

Texas House budget writers send budget to full House with massive health care cut
Just one day after the Texas Senate passed its two-year budget, a key House committee sent their own spending proposal to the full House – but not before cutting $2.4 billion from the state’s largest health care program for the poor and disabled. Emboldened by the election of President Donald Trump, Texas House budget writers voted to cut $1 billion in state funding for Medicaid. The proposal could mean reducing the amount doctors and other health care providers get paid by the public insurance program, or restricting patients’ eligibility for health care services. (Texas Tribune)

Americans dislike GOP’s, Trump’s plan on health care
Sixty-two percent of Americans turned thumbs down on Trump’s handling of health care during the initial weeks of his presidency, according to a poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research released Wednesday. An overwhelming eight in 10 opposed the Republican proposal to let insurers boost premiums on older people. Seven in 10 disapproved of premium surcharges for people whose coverage lapses. Overall, just over half in the poll said they worry many Americans would have lost coverage had the GOP bill become law. (Associated Press/ABC News)

GOP revival of health care repeal makes little progress
House Republicans insist they aren’t leaving for dead their effort to repeal Obamacare. But days after failing to move the American Health Care Act forward, there are no discernible signs of progress in bridging the differences within the Republican conference that led to an embarrassing retreat last week. Some centrist GOP lawmakers are pushing back on reviving the House bill, but some say they want to begin working with Democrats to reform the health care law instead of trying to find votes from conservatives who want to see a repeal of Obamacare’s insurer regulations and requirements. (The Hill)

Justice department joins lawsuit alleging massive Medicare fraud by UnitedHealthcare
The Justice Department has joined a California whistleblower’s lawsuit that accuses insurance giant UnitedHealth Group of fraud in its popular Medicare Advantage health plans. Justice officials filed legal papers to intervene in the suit, first brought by whistleblower James Swoben in 2009, on Friday in federal court in Los Angeles. On Monday, they sought a court order to combine Swoben’s case with that of another whistleblower. UnitedHealth spokesman Matt Burns denied any wrongdoing by the company. (Kaiser Health News)

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