Health

Health news from 90.5 WESA.

More than 8,000 people are awaiting transplants in Pennsylvania. That’s according to Donate Life PA which also said an average of 490 people die each year while waiting for a matching organ to become available.

SB 850, also known as the Donate Life PA Act, would revise the 1994 law on organ donation.

The legislation aims to create more awareness about donation, emphasize that transplantation is the priority for donated organs and increase the likelihood that people will donate.

It has been a little more than a week since the United States Justice Department completed its investigation of a rash of preventable deaths at the Pittsburgh Veteran’s Affairs Healthcare System.

Five veterans died of Legionnaires’ disease at the Pittsburgh VA in 2011 and 2012, while more than 20 other patients were sickened. The Justice Department has concluded that no VA employees are criminally liable for the deaths.

During the last flu season there were 1,415 confirmed cases of influenza in Allegheny County, but the health department adds that for every one laboratory-tested case there are as many as 100 others.

More vulnerable groups of people, such as the elderly and infants, are often affected by life-threatening symptoms brought on by the virus. This Thanksgiving, healthcare organizations in the area are starting a new initiative to help some of the most vulnerable residents.

UPMC is alerting nearly 1,300 people treated at various UPMC locations over the past year that their records were viewed inappropriately. The now former employee at UPMC McKeesport was not involved in the care of the patients and therefore should not have been looking at their information.

“Another employee called it to the attention to the management of the hospital,” said UPMC spokeswoman Wendy Zellner. “Thus, we took the action we did to terminate this employee.”

A new report from Georgetown University finds that nationwide, the rate for uninsured children continues to decline, even as most Americans perceive that the rate is on the rise.

“As of 2012 it was just over 7 percent nationwide without coverage,” said Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. “That is certainly still too many, but in fact that’s a historically low number.”

Operation Safety Net’s Severe Weather Emergency Shelter opened two days early this year with more than four times the expected turnout.

When the temperature drops down to 25 degrees Fahrenheit, Pittsburgh Mercy Health System’s Operation Safety Net opens a Severe Weather Emergency Shelter at the Smithfield United Church of Christ in downtown Pittsburgh to protect homeless people from the cold.

The shelter has overnight accommodations, social services and medical care.

Could a hashtag save someone’s life? The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence (PCADV) and Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) think so. 

That’s why they are asking Pennsylvanians to post the message “NO MORE” with the hashtag #pasaysnomore on their Twitter accounts on Nov. 24.

Steve Halvonik, PCADV communications director, said they chose Nov. 24 because it's the day before the United Nation’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

A study released Thursday by local researchers finds people living in Allegheny County have a substantially higher risk of getting cancer due to simply breathing the air over the course of their life time than those who live in 20 other counties in the area.

The report from the Heinz Endowments-supported Breath Project based its findings on publicly available data looking at the predicted levels of more than 200 toxic air pollutants.

The U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania says he does not think charges are warranted in relation to the deadly Legionella out break at the Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare System.

Twenty-two veterans who were treated in 2011 and 2012 at the Pittsburgh VA were sickened by Legionella.  Five of them died.

U.S. Attorney David Hickton called the situation “tragic” but feels no charges should be filed by his office.

Brother's Brother Foundation / Facebook

In the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the Philippines on November 8th, organizations all over the world have been sending aid to the victims.

Locally, Brother’s Brother Foundation is working with the Philippine American Medical Society of Western Pennsylvania to move medical supplies to the Philippines.

Luke Hingson, president of Brother’s Brother says his organization has been active in the Philippines since the 1950s. One of the inherent problems when responding to natural disasters is the uncertainty of what to expect from the situation.

Flickr user Grumpy-Puddin

If you have hemophilia, multiple sclerosis or any number of other hard-to-treat diseases, the cost of your medications alone could reach into six figures, depending on your insurance coverage.

“It’s roughly $15,000 a month, and from that I’m lucky to have good insurance so we have good co-pay structure, co-insurance," said Nick Vizzoca, whose 13-year-old son has hemophilia.

The Pittsburgh resident said he is worried his son’s medication could be placed into a specialty tier and the co-pay could sky rocket.

'Sarah’s Amendment' Faces Vote in Harrisburg

Nov 18, 2013

About 60 percent of stalking victims aren't currently able to obtain a restraining order in Pennsylvania, according to numbers from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Under current law, PA victims can only obtain one if their stalker is a relative or someone they dated.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 715,000 Americans have a heart attack each year. 

The Allegheny Health Network hopes to help these people with its new “First Contact-to-Balloon” initiative.

“First Contact-to-Balloon,” refers to the time when a patient first calls for a paramedic to when their blocked blood vessel is actually opened.

The initiative will enable Emergency Medical Services (EMS) providers to diagnose patients from the field and then alert hospital cardiac catheterization teams to prepare for their arrival.

"The Fault in Our Stars," a movie adaptation of a critically and commercially popular young adult novel, has just finished filming in Pittsburgh and in the Netherlands.

The book and movie center around two teenagers who meet and fall in love at a cancer support group. Many of the extras in the movie are young people with cancer.

There’s a lot of buzz surrounding the movie adaptation of the beloved novel. Book author John Green says the story goes against the typical trope popular media brings us about the ailing.

Nearly half of all Americans say they would favor a ban on contact in youth football among kids that have not yet entered middle school. The 47.6 percent number comes from a recent survey released Thursday by Robert Morris University.

That number falls to 40.5 percent when the age is increased to high school. 

Among males who played football in their youth, the percentage slips to 44.3 for a ban prior to middle school and 38.2 for a ban prior to high school.

Elementary and secondary schools in the Pittsburgh region are increasingly interested in integrating gardening into their curricula. At least, that’s what it looks like from where Jake Seltman is sitting.

Seltman is the director of educational programming at Grow Pittsburgh, a nonprofit organization that provides gardening and farming education to people of all ages.

Seltman said that in the last six months he’s fielded 22 requests from schools and school districts to bring the Edible Schoolyard program to their schools.

A study of the economic impact of Pennsylvania's home health care industry shows the sector has a big financial footprint and is expected to grow larger yet.

The report was commissioned by the Pennsylvania Homecare Association, representing about 500 homecare and hospice providers. It finds the home-based health care industry contributed to nearly $22 billion in economic activity in the commonwealth last year, putting the sector just behind the state's medical schools and nursing homes in spending and jobs supported.

The mortality and re-admission rates for patients undergoing coronary artery bypass graft surgery and valve replacement continue to decline in Pennsylvania.

The new report by the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4) studied 20,164 patients who underwent bypass and/or valve replacement surgery in 50 Pennsylvania acute care hospitals between July 1, 2011 and Dec. 31, 2012.

HHS.gov & casey.senate.gov

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will be back on Capitol Hill Wednesday. This time she will be fielding questions from members of the Senate Finance Committee about the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the failure of the launch of the website HealthCare.gov.

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania) is a member of the committee. He thinks the session will start with a look at why the website used to sign up for new healthcare insurance collapsed on the first day and has never fully recovered. However, he hopes it will not end there.

The number of ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) in Pennsylvania increased by 10 in 2012, bringing the total to 281. That’s according to an annual report from the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council, or the PHC4.

An ASC is a facility that offers outpatient procedures that don’t require an overnight stay, such as a colonoscopy or endoscopy.

The local media, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and members of congress have all tried to dig into the outbreak of Legionella at the Pittsburgh VA hospital and now the American Legion is getting involved.

The group tours fifteen hospitals each year to gather information for an annual report from its System Worth Saving Task Force, which assesses the facilities on several criteria.  The Task force chose Pittsburgh to be among those reviewed this year.

One out of every three people in the United States feels the painful inflammation of periodontal disease, or gum disease.

That’s according to University of Pittsburgh researchers who believe they have discovered a way to treat the disease by mimicking a tumor.

Steve Little, associate professor and chair of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, said tumors have a way of hacking into the body’s immune system and convincing the system to accept it.

The Porch restaurant in Oakland closed Wednesday in response to several E. coli cases among employees and customers.

The restaurant voluntarily closed for the day, but has been approved by the Health Department to re-open Thursday.

Karen Hacker, Director of Allegheny Health Department, said the restaurant is undergoing extensive cleaning.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is once again facing the ire of some of its employees, but this time it has nothing to do with alleged union-busting tactics at the healthcare giant.

About 50 people gathered Wednesday outside the Steel Building where UPMC has its corporate offices to protest the outsourcing of the medical transcription department to a Massachusetts company called Nuance.

The Pennsylvania Medical Society wants to light a flame under e-cigarette regulations.

More than 200 physicians called on the state legislature to pass electronic cigarette legislation similar to existing tobacco laws. 

The physicians met at the Pennsylvania Medical Society’s annual meeting over the weekend and expressed concerns about the devices.

E-cigarettes are marketed as a healthier alternative to regular cigarettes, but the battery-powered devices give smokers doses of nicotine and other additives in an aerosol.

More than twenty years after the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) became law, a new report finds that about 1 in 20 Pennsylvania children is still uninsured.

According to the second annual State of Children’s Healthcare in Pennsylvania report by the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, or PPC, nearly 148,000 children in the state lack health insurance.

In its last big recruitment push for its latest major research study, The American Cancer Society is seeking participants in rural southwestern Pennsylvania counties such as Fayette, Cambria and Westmoreland.

Cancer Prevention Study 3 (CPS-3) is the third massive American Cancer Society study. CPS-1, which started in the 50’s, found links between smoking and lung cancer. CPS-2, which started in the 1980’s and is ongoing has found links between unhealthy behaviors and cancers. CPS-3 hopes to find major factors that can affect cancer risk.

United Way Report: Elderly Needs on the Rise

Oct 23, 2013

Fewer funds and resources for elderly and disabled people along with a growing aging population are creating problems of “epic proportion,” according to a new report from the United Way of Allegheny County.

United Way President Bob Nelkin said that with new medical advancements people are now outliving their spouses and caregivers more than before, and their needs are increasing. 

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day

Oct 23, 2013
Flickr

Be it antibiotics or pain medication, in the past, most people have disposed of their leftover pills in toilet, which can cause drinking water contamination and other environmental concerns.

Run by the Drug Enforcement Administration, National Prescription Take Back Day provides people with a safe, responsible and convenient way to turn in their drugs.

According to Michael Stepaniak, an environmental program coordinator for the PA Resources Council, they accept everything from prescription drugs to controlled substances. It is completely anonymous and no questions are asked.

Flickr user jrgcastro

A federal judge says she's likely to put on hold a civil rights lawsuit over Pittsburgh's challenge to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's tax-exempt status.

Meanwhile, in the related state case, attorneys wrangled Monday over whether UPMC has employees.

The city sued UPMC in earlier this year, saying the medical center shouldn't be treated like a charity because it doesn't act like one.

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