Wednesday, December 26, 2012

St. Luke receives $4,000 grant from local group

By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
St. Luke Free Clinic received a $4,000 grant this month from the Hopkinsville Junior Auxiliary.
It’s the clinic’s first grant in recent years, let alone since the announcement this summer that it must seek financial independence.
So far the board hasn’t identified other grants to apply for, Chairman Brandon Garnett said. But between a few fundraisers and the money from the grant, it’s in comfortable shape for the remainder of this fiscal year.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Changes outlined for mental disabilities programs

By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
Compared to other states, Kentucky has a poor record of helping the mentally disabled find regular jobs and build stable romantic relationships. The University of Kentucky established this in a survey.
The state wants improvement. But it has people concerned that disabled members of their families will get pushed into jobs they’re not ready for or will be left with no options.
On Monday night, two representatives of the state came to speak at the Pennyroyal Mental Health Center. They wanted to allay the concerns of any locals whose relatives work at Trace Industries, a sheltered jobs program the Pennyroyal Center runs.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Integrated health plan proposed for schools

Health department says it could alleviate nurse shortage
By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer 
Donna Crick no longer needs to worry about the school nurse being absent from Crofton Elementary, where her insulin-dependent daughter attends.
The school no longer shares a nurse with Lacy Elementary School — because Lacy now has a diabetic student as well.  
The Christian County Health Department's initial plan for saving on payroll costs hasn't worked out. So in the midst of serious budget shortfalls, the department is now considering an alternate model, called Coordinated School Health, that would depend more heavily on educators.
"There is so much more that should be done in the schools with school health other than nursing," Health Department Director Mark Pyle wrote in an email. "As a community we will need to figure out how to use all tax dollars (school system, health department, others) to efficiently offer a coordinated school health program."

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Health Dept. to refuse non-locals

By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer 
Beginning in January, indigent clients who want contraceptives or cancer screenings won’t be able to get them from the Christian County Health Department unless they live here.
The alternative is for their home counties to sign a contract with Christian County before Jan. 1. They would reimburse Christian County for each service rendered, and the exchange could go both ways.

The policy won’t affect any services that depend entirely on federal or state funding. It will only apply to those that depend on local property taxes.

Mark Pyle, director of the Christian County Health Department, said residents of Todd and Trigg counties often seek services here. Those who don’t have insurance can buy contraceptives or cancer services on a sliding scale. Those with low enough incomes don’t pay anything.

Friday, November 9, 2012

17-page plan details steps for improving our health

By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
Several months ago, Mark Pyle, director of the Christian County Health Department, promised a more proactive approach to this area’s health — one that unified the hospital, local government and others toward a common goal.
Now those organizations are getting their assignments.
Jennie Stuart Medical Center needs to bring in more doctors, according to the 2012 Community Health Assessment and Improvement Plan, which the health department will make public next week.
Hopkinsville City Council needs to improve public transportation, so people can get to their doctors’ offices, and get serious about adding sidewalks and walking trails.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Trover merges with Baptist, changes name

Trover Health System officially became a part of Baptist Health, one of Kentucky’s largest health organizations, on Thursday. Its name is now Baptist Health Madisonville.
All of its subsidiary organizations and services are changing to the new name, Trover announced in a news release Thursday morning. This includes the convenient care center at the Hopkinsville Wal-Mart.
Baptist is also changing its name from Baptist Healthcare System. The name “Baptist Health” should “unify its family of services,” according to the release.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Products from Mass. company recalled from local medical facilities

By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
The Massachusetts company blamed for the meningitis outbreak had systemic problems with sterilization in its drug lab, state inspectors found.
Two Hopkinsville facilities, plus others throughout Kentucky and Tennessee, have been using products from the company — though mostly not the ones that cause meningitis. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration released an exhaustive list this week of the company’s customers.
The manufacturer, New England Compounding Center, has recalled all its products. So Jennie Stuart Medical Center has ceased using a muscle relaxant it produced, called Robaxin, and has notified all 73 patients who have received the drug since May.
The FDA has not reported any illnesses associated with Robaxin. Jennie Stuart’s letter to patients described the recall as a precautionary measure, according to a hospital news release.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Pennyroyal Center joins suicide prevention network

By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
The Pennyroyal Mental Health Center is increasing the scope of its crisis call-in center, trying to eliminate access barriers and fully saturate this section of Western Kentucky.
The call service now belongs to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, so lifeline callers whose phone numbers link them to this region automatically get connected to Pennyroyal Mental Health instead of a center in Louisville.
Further, the call center introduced a text message service last week and will soon offer Internet chatting.
This should encourage teens and young adults to take the first step in seeking help, said Audra Scott, the Pennyroyal Center’s coordinator of crisis services.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Several meningitis cases in Pennyrile

Illness traced to epidural steroid injection
By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
The state has five confirmed reports of fungal meningitis in Kentucky, and three or four evidently occurred in the southern Pennyrile.
An epidural steroid injection from Massachusetts is apparently causing the statewide outbreak, and though no facilities in Kentucky have received it, a major Nashville clinic — the Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgery Center — did use the injection.
All five Kentuckians who contracted the illness received medical care in Tennessee, the state reported. Facilities in Crossville and Knoxville, Tenn., also used the injection, according to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Treating dementia requires facilities

Sen. Pendleton says he’ll lobby for expansion of Western State
Part two in a two-part series
By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
Twenty miles north of Louisville, in Charlestown, Ind., the small St. Catherine Regional Hospital has a 26-bed facility for elderly patients who have mental problems.
The way a nurse describes it, the facility sounds like a far cry from a lush independent living center. But families, nursing homes and hospitals in Kentucky — including Western Kentucky — would be in worse trouble without it.
Often its patients have worked on farms or in auto shops or maintenance departments for years, said Amelia Johns, a St. Catherine nurse.
When dementia short-circuits their mental faculties, their bodies remain strong and even anxious. They can hardly sit still. Sometimes they tear out sinks, and one patient dismantled his entire bed.
“How he even took it apart with his bare hands is beyond me, but he did,” Johns said. “They’re pretty destructive sometimes.”

Friday, October 12, 2012

QuickInfo: Defining dementia

“Dementia” refers to several diseases that result in memory loss, mood changes and communication problems, according to literature from the Alzheimer’s Association. But they all consist of destruction of brain tissue, said Dr. Susan Vaught, director of psychology at Western State Hospital.
Alzheimer’s is the most common form. It results from protein “plaques” and “tangles” developing in the brain’s structure and killing off brain cells, the Alzheimer’s Society reports.
Usually it affects the newest memories first, Vaught said. This may explain why Tommy Hunt didn’t understand his father was dead.

Dementia: Falling through the cracks

Western Kentucky lacks resources for patients with most severe cases
Part one of a two-part series
By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
Roughly eight years ago, Stephanie Gamblin was driving her father to the coal mine where he had worked for 20 years. She asked him to navigate.
It unsettled her when Hunt said he didn’t know the route.
The family had noticed other signs of his memory decaying. Though he’d always been a handyman, for instance, it seemed to take him forever to finish tiling a cabinet for Brenda Hunt, his wife and Gamblin’s mother.
A doctor’s visit confirmed their fear: He had Alzheimer’s disease.
He stayed at home until 2010, when the family decided he needed full-time nursing care and sent him to Tradewater Health and Rehabilitation Center. Its location was ideal — a short drive for Brenda Hunt — but it soon seemed Tradewater was ill-equipped for dealing with his illness.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Event provides women chance to put themselves 1st

By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
All adult women should see a doctor once a year for a physical and — for most — a pelvic examination and a clinical breast examination, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reports.
But in a county where about 18 percent of residents don’t have health insurance and many more have bare-bones coverage, the medical community knows much of the public can’t follow these guidelines.
It’s the reason Helen Cayce, an advanced registered nurse practitioner, is organizing a women’s health show this week for the 12th year in a row.
“Women just don’t take care of themselves,” Cayce said. “They always take care of their family first.”

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Postponing tests gave cancer time to spread

For the KNE's special fall section on health
By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
Karen Wheeler can’t remember what scheduling conflict made her postpone her annual doctor’s visit in March 2008 — though it seemed important at the time.
The next slot her doctor, Elizabeth Toms, had open was at the end of June. When it came around, Wheeler told Toms about a lump she’d noticed on her breast just before she’d postponed the office visit.
A mammogram showed she had cancer. Toms told Wheeler to get a lymph node biopsy.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Risk of flu varies by job, condition, age

Teachers, day care staff, others, urged to get shot
By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
Though the traditional flu season doesn’t begin until October, four of the 18 or so staff members at Kidz Academy are already sick, said the director, Eva Akpom.
Between all the hugging and cleaning they do, and the kids’ sneezing and coughing, the staff members have more exposure to germs than most of the public, Akpom said.
Many local businesses — including Kroger, Walgreen’s and even, from 9:30 this morning to 5:30 tonight, Cash Express — in addition to the medical offices — are now offering the influenza vaccine.
Health officials say everyone should get immunized. A shot from last year isn’t good enough, as there are now two new flu strains circulating, according to reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But some groups, such as people who work with children all day, stand especially high risks of infection if they don’t get shots.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

St. Luke director declares resignation

Committee developing clinic’s new funding model
By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
Betsy Bond, the director of St. Luke Free Clinic since 2009, is resigning effective Sept. 27.
Bond said she needs to spend more time with her family. If she works, it will be to resume the office organization business she did before taking this job, she said.
Bond is leaving at a pivotal time in the life of the organization. Leaders of the Christian County Health Department decided in June they cannot afford to continue paying the salaries of the free clinic’s staff after June of next year, so a committee is now researching alternative funding models.
But Bond said she’s not just jumping ship out of concern that St. Luke won’t last.
“I see St. Luke there in the future in some form,” she said. “The staff is wonderful. The board has been dedicated.”

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Jennie Stuart finance chief resigning

By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
Sam Brown, who has overseen all of Jennie Stuart Medical Center’s financial affairs for the last 15 years, will be leaving the hospital Nov. 2 to work for a medical system in Texas.
Eric Lee, the hospital’s president and chief executive officer, praised Brown’s qualities as a manager and his skill at communicating with the board of trustees. Beyond Brown’s advanced knowledge of health finance, Lee believes these leadership qualities will make him hard to replace.
“It’s not just about bookkeeping,” Lee said Tuesday. “I’ve teased Sam about wanting a clone for his replacement.”

Friday, September 21, 2012

Shift means death of PACS program

State wants health departments to teach people on food stamps how to eat healthy
By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
The biggest program of Pennyrile Allied Community Services, a nutrition education service that runs on $5.6 million of federal funding each year, will go to the oversight of the state on Oct. 1.
County health departments all over Kentucky will administer it. The state says this will help it reach more people and use the money more effectively.
However, it will also put 75 PACS employees across the state out of jobs, including 25 in the Pennyrile region.
Each health department will decide whether to hire more employees to handle the new responsibilities.
The program aims to help people who receive food stamps live healthier lifestyles by eating more nutritious food and exercising. Fran Hawkins, manager of the nutrition branch of Kentucky’s Department for Public Health, said it will be a natural extension of services county health departments already provide.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Our Opinion: Public will measure work to fix hospital ER

New Era Staff Editorial
Jennie Stuart Medical Center CEO Eric Lee said in a meeting with our editorial board earlier this summer that the hospital’s emergency department had to improve to meet patient expectations. Addressing complaints from patients who went to the emergency room was a priority when he became the hospital’s top executive in January 2011, Lee said.
Anyone who has lived in Hopkinsville at least a few years has probably heard a story or two about someone who went to the ER and didn’t get the level of care they needed. Often, people describe leaving the ER in Hopkinsville and driving to Clarksville or Nashville for treatment.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Revised ER management at JSMC has changed the culture

By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
Jennie Stuart Medical Center has experienced hit-and-miss success with the doctor groups that have staffed its emergency room in years past.
At low points — including most of last year, Beth McCraw’s first year as vice president of nursing services — the phone rang continuously with complaint calls. Patients could wait all day for treatment for low-level emergencies, and about 9 percent walked off without getting treatment.
McCraw says Align MD, a Clarksville-based doctor group that took over around early March, has reversed the trend.
“It’s a totally different place down there,” she said Friday.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Hospitals aim to reduce early births

Because of health risks for mother and baby, docs say it's best to wait
By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
Women often choose in advance when to have their babies delivered.
Sometimes it’s because they feel serious physical discomfort in their final weeks. Other times they want to coordinate with the schedule of a visiting relative or hit a certain birthday.
But medical experts say this endangers babies’ development and even their lives, and it often harms mothers.
Now the Kentucky Hospital Association is working with 15 of its member hospitals, including Jennie Stuart Medical Center, to cease the practice except when it’s necessary. Another 15 or so may soon start participating.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Group pushing for kidney disease awareness

By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
Wanting more autonomy, some local medical workers split off last year from the National Kidney Foundation and formed an independent group based in Hopkinsville.
It let them continue providing services for renal failure patients — medications for poor patients, rides to dialysis appointments — but with fewer bureaucratic complications, said Sarah Rowland, the group’s treasurer.
The group is using its newfound freedom to create an annual picnic for dialysis patients and staff. This year’s picnic, scheduled for Sept. 16 at the A.W. Watts Senior Center, will be the second.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Todd has state’s third-highest uninsured rate

By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
In 2010, Todd County had Kentucky’s third-highest rate of people without health insurance, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Of roughly 10,458 people below age 65, the county had about 2,455 who didn’t have health insurance. That’s 23.5 percent.
The only counties topping it were Casey and Monroe.
Judge-Executive Daryl Greenfield noted that Todd has a fairly high number of people who are self-employed. Many don’t get health insurance from their companies and can’t afford to buy it independently, he said.

Todd has state’s third-highest uninsured rate

By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
In 2010, Todd County had Kentucky’s third-highest rate of people without health insurance, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Of roughly 10,458 people below age 65, the county had about 2,455 who didn’t have health insurance. That’s 23.5 percent.
The only counties topping it were Casey and Monroe.
Judge-Executive Daryl Greenfield noted that Todd has a fairly high number of people who are self-employed. Many don’t get health insurance from their companies and can’t afford to buy it independently, he said.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

County hardly adds to state’s pollution

Local air quality still hard to determine
By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
Kentucky ranks 10th in the nation for releasing toxic chemicals into the environment.
However, this ranking shouldn’t worry Christian County residents about the quality of the local air, as the state’s worst offenders, by and large, are power plants.
The nearest power plants to here are the Lake Barkley Power Plant and the Paradise Fossil Plant in Muhlenberg County.
Earlier this month, the National Resources Defense Center named this state’s power plants the worst in the country for exposing residents to toxic air pollution.
For the toxic chemicals Kentucky releases in highest quantities — sulfuric acid and hydrochloric acid — power plants dominate the list of worst culprits.
Three Kentucky counties that have power plants — Carroll, Jefferson and Muhlenberg — rank among the top 50 counties in the U.S. for the pollution they produce.
Christian County, on the other hand, is nowhere near the top of the list.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Uninsured Rates

As my story in today's New Era explains, Todd County has the third-highest uninsured rate in Kentucky, according to 2010 data from the U.S. Census Bureau. To report this story, I put census data into spreadsheets and sorted it by different variables. You can view simplified charts here.
Click here for a chart of Kentucky's counties ranked by uninsured rates.
Click here for a similar chart that only has information on the poor: those whose incomes are below 138 percent of the federal poverty line.
To view the data at its source, head over to the Census Bureau’s website.

School nurse sharing raises concerns

By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
In the last two weeks, since classes started at Crofton Elementary School, Donna Crick has often asked the school nurse in the mornings whether she would be at the school all day.
“She just tells me she’s there until she hears different,” Crick recalled on Friday.
Crick’s 7-year-old daughter Kaylie was diagnosed with diabetes earlier this year. When she thinks of Kaylie’s blood sugar dropping so low she falls over or goes into a coma, Crick seizes up with fear. She knows it would take an ambulance a long time to reach Crofton from Hopkinsville.
Lately she’s had trouble sleeping.
When facing a budget shortfall in June, the Christian County Board of Health asked the school system to contribute more funding for nurses. It presented two options for staffing levels based on how much the schools would give.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Our Opinion: Leadership right plan for board of health

New Era Staff Editorial
What happens inside the walls of the Christian County Health Department on Canton Street, and what happens outside those walls in the second-largest county in Kentucky, are both concerns for the local health board. Mark Pyle, the county health director, acknowledged this fact during a board meeting Monday. He told the board members their focus should shift from managing the department’s finances to addressing the county’s health needs.
Christian County has serious health problems, and it is consistent with the public health department’s focus to lead the community’s response to those problems. That’s why Pyle’s plan to shift the focus of the health board is an important positive step for the community.

Funds amassing for Little River test

Scientists could identify amount, sources of pollution
By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
Eleven years after the last test, the federal government still has Little River classified as “impaired.”
And if nothing changes within six years, a government agency will impose more restrictions on local farmers and businesses, in an effort to reduce river pollution, said Brian Lacefield, who works for Hopkinsville Elevator Company and Agri-Chem, LLC. For instance, it could ban fertilizers that local farmers depend on, Lacefield said.
Farmers and local officials want a new test conducted. Some believe the 2001 test lacked thoroughness, and they say their farming practices have become more eco-friendly since the test.
To that end, the Christian County Health Department will contribute $20,000 for a three-year test that will start in October. The board of health voted unanimously to do this.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Pyle: Board of health must shift focus to community health

By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
The Christian County Board of Health needs to spend less time on the health department’s budget and more time addressing big questions of community health, said Health Department Director Mark Pyle.
Pyle announced this opinion in a presentation Monday night that closed the board’s quarterly meeting.
For the board members, this will mean informing themselves better about the community’s health needs beyond the department’s doors, he said. He plans to discuss this in more specific terms at the next meeting Nov. 19.
“How many of you, when you signed up for the board of health, thought that the only thing that you would do when you came to a board meeting would be talk about money?” he asked the board. No hands went up. “If you haven’t noticed, the past four years, we haven’t talked about a lot of health issues. That’s going to change.”

Local nurses urge mothers to breastfeed their children

By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
When local nurses rave about the advantages of breastfeeding over infant formula, they sound like they could go on endlessly.
Breast milk passes along antibodies from mother to child, said Jennifer Boone, the certified lactation counselor at the Christian County Health Department. It decreases risks of cancer. It nurtures the brain. It improves night vision, said Jennifer Rush, a lactation counselor at Jennie Stuart Medical Center.
“What else would help with night vision?” Rush said.
Nevertheless, in the most recent data available, from 2007 to 2009, only 38 percent of newborns in Christian County were breastfed, the University of Louisville reports.

Pennyroyal Center taking over rehab

By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
Psychiatrists often see the same drugs paired with certain mental illnesses: patients with severe depression using cocaine, those with panic disorder becoming alcoholics, those with schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder combining narcotics, Psychology Today magazine reports.
The drug addiction can result from the mental illness. For instance, someone with bipolar disorder might smoke marijuana heavily to even out moods.
It’s a way of quelling the symptoms — “self-medicating.”
Tim Golden, spokesman for the Pennyroyal Mental Health Center, said rehab programs typically focus on the addiction alone.
“But if you don’t treat the mental side as well, then you have the recipe for another relapse,” Golden said.
To reverse this trend, this month the Pennyroyal Center took over the rehab program at Western State Hospital. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

JSMC works to address community expectations

CEO of Jennie Stuart Medical Center Eric Lee recently met with New Era Publisher Taylor W. Hayes, Editor Eli Pace and Opinion Editor Jennifer P. Brown to answer questions about the hospital and changes in health care. The interview lasted more than an hour, and in this, the second of a two-part series, the questions are primarily about the hospital and the hospital’s role in the community.
Pace: How is a community hospital fundamentally different from a university or for-profit hospital?
Lee: The biggest difference is at the board level. In a community hospital, like Jennie Stuart Medical Center, you have a strong board who is very committed to keeping its health care, the impact of that health care and the decisions about that health care, and what is available, local. Having local control and the ability of this community to self-determine where we want our health care to go, that is the single biggest advantage we have.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Shore leave

I'll be away until Aug. 12. I'll be in Baltimore, on the campus of Goucher College, where I've been enrolled for the past year as a graduate student. I'll continue posting health stories published in the KNE, but don't expect any other new content on the blog; I can only focus right now on classes.
Many more health stories to come when I return.
- Nick

Health care ‘nosing into an air of turbulence’

An interview with Jennie Stuart CEO Eric Lee
CEO of Jennie Stuart Medical Center Eric Lee sat down with Publisher Taylor W. Hayes, Editor Eli Pace and Opinion Editor Jennifer P. Brown recently to answer questions about the hospital and the future of health care in Christian and surrounding counties. The interview lasted more than an hour, and in this, the first of a two-part series, the questions are primarily about the future of Jennie Stuart, the health care industry as a whole and how the Affordable Health Care Act will affect them going forward. Next week, the questions will focus more specifically on Jennie Stuart and the hospital’s role in the community.
Brown: You’ve had a long career, 24 years at Jennie Stuart. With your institutional knowledge of the hospital, the surrounding communities and the health care industry, how do you see Jennie Stuart changing in the next 10 years?
Lee: I really think heath care is nosing into an air of turbulence, and it all starts with the federal government.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

State's whooping cough increase could match 2010 level

Compared to the outbreaks other states have seen in cases in pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough, the recent spike in Kentucky is relatively small. So far the state has received 164 reports of the illness, according to data provided by the state’s Department of Public Health.
Fayette County’s outbreak is now tapering off, the state’s epidemiologists said. Madison and Estill counties have also reported increases.
Mark Pyle, director of the Christian County Health Department, said no one has reported cases of the illness in this county so far. But the department still taking these measures to prevent the sickness’ spread.
As I reported in today’s paper, the most effective way to fend off whooping cough is to get a vaccination if you haven’t done so in recent years. The health department, Cayce’s Pharmacy, and Walgreen’s are all offering it without requiring a visit with a doctor.
The CDC recommends this video for a glimpse at how whooping cough affects people whom it infects. Look beyond the jump for charts on state historical data on whooping cough.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Forums scheduled on insurance exchange

The state has scheduled six educational forums to discuss the new health insurance exchange and the ramifications of the Affordable Care Act. The Department of Insurance and the Cabinet for Health & Family Services are putting these on. Credit to Tara Kaprowy at Kentucky Health News for this information.
The forum scheduled closest to Hopkinsville, by a slim margin, is the one happening in Paducah on Thursday, Aug. 16. Owensboro has one set for Aug. 17. Here’s the full schedule, as reported by Kaprowy:
Erlanger: 1-3:30 p.m. July 25, Northern Kentucky University, The METS Center
Louisville: 1-3:30 p.m., July 26, University of Louisville Shelby Campus
Prestonsburg: 1-3:30 p.m., July 27, Big Sandy Community and Technical College
Somerset: 1-3:30 p.m., Aug. 1, Somerset Community College
Paducah: 1-3:30 p.m., Aug. 16, West Kentucky Community and Technical College
Owensboro: 8:30-11 a.m., Aug. 17, Owensboro Community and Technical College

Monday, July 23, 2012

Digital records empower many medical patients

Just before Dr. Terry Fuqua closed his internal medicine practice in 2008, he ran ads in the New Era that encouraged patients to come pick up their medical records.
Only about a third of his patients took the offer. So Fuqua destroyed the records from patients who hadn’t visited in more than five years, and he brought the remaining 50 to 75 cases home and stored them in his garage.
He continues shredding records that pass the five-year mark.
He still has word processor documents with detailed notes from patient visits. But since his retirement, he estimates that fewer than a dozen former patients have called him for records.
Fuqua retired on the cusp of a new era. Technological developments are sweeping situations like this into the past. One day nearly all patient records, including those at hospitals and doctors’ offices throughout this area, will survive the way Fuqua’s notes have: on computer hard drives or in cyberspace.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Hospital’s credit rating downgraded

By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
Because of decreases in business, a small revenue base and a large debt load, a rating agency downgraded the bond credit rating of Jennie Stuart Medical Center this week from BBB+ to BBB.
This means the hospital may have to pay a higher interest rate if it needs to borrow money in the near future.
But Sam Brown, Jennie Stuart’s vice president of financial services, said it won’t affect rates the hospital pays on current loans.
“It really has no impact on our financials at all, currently,” Brown said Thursday. “It’s a little disappointing that we had the downgrade, but it’s happening to a lot of hospitals around the country.”

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Guest blogger: Jodi Mitchell

Jodi Mitchell is executive director of Kentucky Voices for Health, a coalition of medical providers, public health departments, development districts, and other organizations. It aims to improve Kentuckians’ access to health care and make the state’s medical system more efficient.
Jodi has worked in health policy for more than 10 years at the state and federal levels. This includes positions in lobbying, strategic counseling, government relations for medical associations, and legislative assistance. She and her husband live in Louisville.
In past New Era stories, she has weighed in as an expert on the condition of Kentucky’s health.
I’m proud to feature Jodi as KNE Health Beat’s first guest blogger.
The changing landscape in health care is not all politics
One thing is for certain about the world of healthcare in Kentucky, it is constantly changing. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make life easy for the nearly four million Kentuckians who have to navigate our way through the health maze each day. As the healthcare landscape evolves, it is critical that individuals understand their roles and responsibilities as well as those of their providers, insurance carriers and the government. And most importantly, what all these changes mean in regard to their access to quality healthcare. 

Pennyroyal Center’s care takes teamwork

Its staff integrates physical, mental treatment on an unprecedented scale
By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer

Several years ago, Shirley Porter’s depression and physical ailments were preventing her from keeping a job — and thus from affording medical treatment.
She knew she faced the risk of diabetes, and she knew her blood pressure sometimes shot up too high. But Porter, now 49, felt so lethargic some mornings that she struggled just to brush her teeth and comb her hair.
One day, she told her therapy group at the Pennyroyal Mental Health Center her head ached and her arm felt a little numb.
The Pennyroyal Center was in the early stages of developing its primary care center. A nurse checked Porter’s blood pressure. It was 217 over 135 — high enough to cause a stroke.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Blood trail

A circuitous journey from donors to patients
By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
Lisa Troutman gets an emotional lift each time she donates. She knows it saves lives, she says.
She just doesn’t know exactly how. After staff members bag up and seal her blood, Troutman never sees it again.
On the other end, patients at six Western Kentucky hospitals routinely have blood Troutman donated pumped into their veins.
They never find out where it came from, and few ever wonder where it went in between.

Pennyroyal Center opening clinic to public

By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
Last year the Pennyroyal Mental Health Center opened a primary care clinic where psychiatrists could send clients who needed medical help.
With an expanded staff and a larger facility, the clinic is now swinging its doors open to the general public. Anyone who has insurance, including Medicaid, or money to pay out-of-pocket can get treatment there.
It will bring two full-time physicians, four physicians working on contract, an advanced practice nurse practitioner and a nurse care manager to the supply of local providers — a significant addition, considering this area’s shortage of doctors.
“We want service that anyone would be willing to go to,” said David Ptaszek, the Pennyroyal Center’s executive director. “I’ve got an appointment next Tuesday.”

Read the full entry here.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Rural health award

For the second consecutive year, the Kentucky Rural Health Association created a competition for health reporting. A panel of out-of-state judges graded entries on their relevance to rural health, quality of reporting,  and impact on health-care policy.
In the daily newspaper division, the judges chose my story on the local lack of leadership regarding sexual health issues as the year's best health article. KRHA announced the decision today.

JSMC credit rating downgraded

Fitch Ratings, one of the three major credit rating agencies in the U.S., downgraded Jennie Stuart Medical Center's rating from BBB+ to BBB. Fitch's analysts cited declines in inpatient the hospital was rendering, a small revenue base, and a large debt load.
The downgrade apparently won't affect the hospital's finances for now. But if it needs to borrow money in the near future, this rating could lead to higher interest rates.
In addition to the story in Friday's paper, the analysts' report is available here as a PDF.