Saturday, February 23, 2013

Nursing facility lawsuit bill lands in Senate

Extendicare's exit could minimize impact locally
By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer 
State Republicans are trying to reduce the number of “frivolous” lawsuits against nursing homes. They want panels to review all complaints before they reach the court system.

Bills like this have failed in years past. It’s one of the reasons Extendicare Health Services Inc., a company that owns two local nursing homes, shed management responsibilities last year for all 21 of its facilities in Kentucky.

Without Extendicare around, the volume of local nursing-home lawsuits appears to be shrinking.

And in recent years, nearly all the local cases that have been closed were dismissed via settlements, not by judges declaring them unfounded. This may suggest the bill would affect Christian County minimally.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Public transit - a rural model

A couple weeks ago I wrote about the top factors for making a city walkable, and I said one of those was accessibility. As the transportation engineer Peter Lagerwey explained, this goes beyond having space for walking. It means having good walking routes that take you to your destinations.

You know what improves access? Public transit. With an expansive bus or rail system, residents don't have to choose between walking and driving; they can essentially combine the two and still leave their cars at home.

Christian County's only bus system is the one Pennyrile Allied Community Services uses for services funded by Medicaid. But it's possible that Mayor Dan Kemp will allocate money for new buses in his 2013-14 budget proposal. A poll showed thousands of people would use buses if this town had more for the general public.

If you haven't filled out the state's transportation survey, you should do so now. Tell the state whether or not it should allocate money for public transit.

Regardless of your views, take a look at VelociRFTA, a rapid transit system being built in Colorado. It will run 39 miles along the state's most congested highway. As the DC Streetsblog reports, when it opens in September, it will be the first bus rapid transit system in the U.S. to serve a rural area. At $40 million, this kind of project likely falls beyond Kentucky's price range. But it might spark some inspiration.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

From A to B

Rail-trail could reduce dependency on cars
By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
Some winter days, Jane Hall, 83, puts on long johns and a sweater and two coats before going out. Ignoring the wind, she walks to the grocery store, Dollar General, her bank or her doctor’s office.
Hall walks everywhere. Her habits were forged in the 1930s and ‘40s, in rural parts of the county, when the roads were dirt and mule-driven wagons were common.
Hopkinsville has sped up around her. Now most streets are paved, have high speed limits and are mainly for automobiles. She admits her routes are unsafe, as they lack sidewalks, but she never learned to drive.
“People just too lazy to walk,” she said in her living room. “They’d drive their cars to the mailbox if they could.”
But like most people, she takes infrastructure for granted.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Diabetes classes will be offered in Elkton, Cadiz

By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
Many of the 18,600 or so Pennyrile residents living with diabetes have no access to classes on diet, blood sugar and disease-management techniques, a local dietitian said.
Theresa Clark, who owns the Diabetes Resource Center of Hopkinsville, drives all over Western Kentucky to give diabetics counseling and classes. But this area, squarely inside what a federal agency calls the “diabetes belt,” needs more help, she said.
Now Clark’s clinic is one of just 10 organizations in the U.S. to get a grant for educating more diabetics.
She’ll soon launch free satellite classes in Elkton, Cadiz and Central City. They’ll be in community centers, like libraries or senior-citizen centers.
“You know, a lot of people don’t have the financial ability to come all the way to Hopkinsville,” she said.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Pharmacies carry burden to stop meth producers

By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
Now that Kentucky is limiting the amount of pseudoephedrine customers can buy in any given month or year, methamphetamine cooks may try recruiting accomplices to buy them in batches, as they have in other states.
At Cayce’s Pharmacy, customers the workers don’t recognize have sometimes entered the store, about five minutes apart, each wanting cold medicine, Owner Mike Cayce said.
Workers have usually caught on quickly enough, Cayce said.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Health dept. could bankroll rail-trail

Director urges board to OK spending $100,000 on project
By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
The director of the Christian County Health Department wants to give $100,000 from the reserve fund to Hopkinsville’s rail-trail project.
But most members of the Board of Health fear the health department can’t afford it.
They need to save enough for a “rainy day,” said Dr. Wade Northington, the board’s new chairman. Several board members noted the budget shortfall in this fiscal year, financial troubles with the school nurse program and ongoing delays in Medicaid reimbursement.
The reserve fund has nearly $2.4 million.
Some $650,000 of that will go into the general fund by this summer, but more will come in too, Health Department Director Mark Pyle said.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

New health care law pressures hospitals, doctors

By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
Changes in insurance reimbursements are putting serious pressure on hospitals and doctors alike — but different kinds for each, said Eric Lee, president of Jennie Stuart Medical Center, in a presentation Thursday evening.
For Jennie Stuart, much of the pressure is competitive.
At one time it only competed with other nearby hospitals, like those in Madisonville and Clarksville, for patients. But on account of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, it now competes with all the nation’s hospitals in quality measurements. If it ranks highly enough, its Medicare reimbursements don’t get docked, Lee said.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Officials: Flu shots still worth it

Outbreak started early, but still raging
By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
Anyone looking for a flu shot locally would be wise to call the pharmacy or doctor’s office before making the trip. Some have run out in recent weeks.
But despite that complication — and despite how late it may seem in flu season — doctors and health officials agree that getting the vaccine is still worth it.
Though the vaccines become available in late summer or early fall, traditional flu season doesn’t start until February or March, said Dr. Keith Toms, a physician at Generations Primary Care in Hopkinsville. So it might just last longer this year.
“Thus far, it’s not showing much abatement,” Toms said. “So it may be more of a smoldering outbreak.”

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Jennie Stuart to debut newsletter next month

By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
Jennie Stuart Medical Center will soon start distributing a glossy four-page newsletter each month, spotlighting successful procedures and available services.
“We believe the public will learn something new every issue,” said James Goss, Jennie Stuart’s marketing director. As editor, Goss will write some articles himself and assign others to freelancers.
Each issue will feature at least two patients. The first edition, which is headed to the printing press, tells the stories of a cancer survivor and a woman who had complications while giving birth. Hospital personnel saved her life, Goss said.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Health department applies for accreditation Thursday

By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
The Christian County Health Department applied for accreditation on Thursday afternoon — six months ahead of its deadline.
The next step is to get a national inspector here to spend a week conducting interviews and watching procedures. If the health department passes every test, it could get the accreditation before the end of the year.
Department Director Mark Pyle surprised his staff and board members with the news on Thursday. He invited Mike Cayce, director of the county’s board of health, to click the “submit” button on the website of the Public Health Accreditation Board. Watching it on a projector, the staff cheered and clapped.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Smoking ban’s full economic effects debated

By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
Given how much Kentucky’s budget depends on tobacco taxes, would a statewide smoking ban deal it a staggering blow?
A new poll shows public support for a smoking ban is inching up every year. Though the ban likely won’t get a vote during this year’s General Assembly, state politicians, including those who represent this district, are confronting those economic questions more directly.
Between settlement payments and taxes, Kentucky collects an average of $321 million a year in tobacco revenue, according to a report from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, and Rep. Myron Dossett, D-Pembroke, both said they’d vote down a statewide ban for this reason.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Statewide smoking ban gets a push

Rep. Susan Westrom, a Democrat from Lexington, has filed a bill for a statewide public smoking ban. It's her third attempt.
As I reported earlier this week, more Kentuckians are supporting this kind of legislation every year. A poll released on Monday estimated public support at 54 percent. But the bill's chances of getting a vote this session still look slim.
Regardless, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has just launched an interesting campaign directed straight at Kentucky. "Kentucky has a lot to be proud of, but not the fact that we have the nation's highest smoking and lung cancer rates. It's hurting our health and our economy," the ad states.
Kind of a clever strategy. We’ll see whether it gives HB 193 a boost.

Dollar General to sell tobacco

Company official expects a short-term bump in sales
By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
Four months after stocking their coolers with beer and their shelves with wine, the Dollar General corporation now plans to introduce cigarette sales as well.
It’s a “dying category,” said Mary Winn Gordon, vice president of investor and public relations. But for now, store managers are reporting that customers want them. So even if it only creates a one-time “bump” in revenue, Dollar General will take it.
Some Crofton residents are already boycotting the store just outside their town’s boundaries because it sells beer and wine. They’ve mostly given up the fight to have the store’s alcohol license revoked.
So the introduction of tobacco products is basically moot to them.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Growing up in Kentucky: Study finds discouraging trends for children

By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
A new overview of Kentucky children’s advantages and disadvantages, from birth through high school, shows a heavy dependence on social safety nets, such as public preschools and subsidized meals.
Figures for Christian County reflect trends similar to the state’s.
They also show potentially discouraging gaps in parenting and education: low rates of college readiness, high rates of smoking during pregnancies.
The Kids Count County Data Book study, released by Kentucky Youth Advocates, consists of more than 100 datasets. It gives some broad recommendations but doesn’t delve far into causes. But walking through the numbers, in chronological sequence, gives a unique and useful perspective.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Birth indicators bode poorly for Todd’s future

Study: Nearly 40 percent of births to high school dropouts
By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
Nearly 40 percent of children born in Todd County from 2007 to 2009 were born to mothers without high school diplomas, according to state records.
It’s a figure widely disproportionate to the percent of adults over 24 who have finished high school or gotten equivalency degrees — 74.9 percent, according to U.S. Census data.
Regardless, it doesn’t bode well for the future of Todd County’s population, according to literature from Kentucky Youth Advocates. Children born in these circumstances have higher rates of infant mortality, and it can hurt their school readiness skills, academic achievement and health outcomes, the Kentucky Youth Advocates study reports.