February 28, 2015

House bill tries to address shortage of psychiatric treatment

David Heaton

David Heaton

Legislation to address a shortage of psychiatric treatment beds across the state has cleared a three-member panel in the Iowa House. The bill would direct the Department of Human Services to devise a tracking system to locate an available bed when a patient is having a psychiatric emergency.

Representative David Heaton, a Republican from Mount Pleasant, says a county sheriff from his community recently made 40 calls trying to find room for a patient. “Forty calls and he ended up having to take two of his deputies off staff and place the client in a police car and travel 312 miles across the state to Sioux City,” Heaton said. According to Heaton, officers sometimes make the trip only to find that the available bed was already filled.

“And think about the patient in the back of the car, handcuffed with his hands behind the back, spending 6 or 7 hours in the car,” Heaton said. “It’s horrible. It’s inhumane.” Heaton says the closing of the mental health facilities in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda will make the situation worse. He says it will take time for the state’s new regional mental health systems to come up with more community placements for the mentally ill.

The DHS is already working on a monitoring system with the help of a federal grant.


Former Iowa State University researcher agrees to plea in fraud case

gavel-thumbnailA former Iowa State University researcher who admitted he faked data to make it appear an experimental AIDS vaccine was working has reached a plea deal. Dong Pyou Han had been charged with four counts of making a false statement and pled guilty to two counts.

Prosecutors say Han spiked the blood of rabbits with components of human blood to make it appear the AIDS vaccine he was testing was working.

The 57-year-old Han admitted in his plea that the false data was reported to the National Institutes of Health, which had provided $19 million for the research. Han resigned from ISU following the accusations. He faces a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 on each count. He will be sentenced on May 29th.

Here are the details on the plea agreement: Han Plea Agreement PDF


Expert says deadly bacteria found in California is rare in Iowa

Emergency-signAn infectious disease specialist says Iowans have very little to fear from the so-called superbug that’s killed two people, sickened seven and exposed nearly 180 patients in southern California.

Doctor Trevor Van Schooneveld at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, says the deadly bacterium known as CRE is very rare in this part of the country.

“What makes this bug ‘super’ is that it’s really resistant and it’s typically resistant to most of the antimicrobials we would use to treat it,” Dr. Van Schooneveld says. “It’s not anything different as a bacteria. It’s typical like e-coli or other things we encounter, but it’s highly resistant.”

Health officials believe the “superbug” outbreak at UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center was caused by a commonly used medical device, an endoscope. Vanschooneveld says it sounds like the devices were properly cleaned after procedures.

“The things that have people concerned is that it appears the transmission of these is linked to the use of endoscopes,” Van Schooneveld says. “It doesn’t appear that anybody was doing anything wrong when they were cleaning the scopes.” He says people in Iowa and Nebraska shouldn’t be fearful if they’re having a procedure done that involves one of these devices.

“Duodenoscopes are rather complex pieces of machinery that are used to access people’s pancreas, basically, through their intestine,” Van Schooneveld says. “So, it’s rather difficult to clean these. There may be, it appears, very small areas where, because bacteria are very small, they’re able to survive in these crevices and cracks that just can’t be accessed through cleaning.” He works in the same Omaha hospital complex that treated four Ebola patients in a special biocontainment unit in recent months.

By Karla James


Branstad rapped for comments about getting cannabis oil from Illinois

Joe Bolkcom

Joe Bolkcom

The main sponsor of last year’s legislation that decriminalized possession of cannabis oil for treatment of chronic epilepsy says Governor Branstad offered “false hope” last week when Branstad suggested Iowa patients might be able to get the product in Illinois.

Senator Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City, says he spoke with a key Illinois legislator involved in drafting that state’s law. “You have to be a resident of Illinois and you’re not allowed once you’re certified as a patient in Illinois to take your medicine out of the state,” Bolkcom says. “So it would require that Illnois change their law and allow that to happen and he believed the chances of that are absolutely zero.”

Parents of children who suffer from chronic epilepsy say the Iowa law which decriminalized possession of cannabis oil as a treatment for their children is meaningless because they can’t get it here and they can’t go to another state to get it and bring it back. Governor Branstad last week said there might be “the possibility of working with a neighboring state” where cannabis oil is going to be produced and distributed. He noted a firm in the Quad Cities intends to submit a bid to the state of Illinois, seeking to be a distributor of the product.

“Obviously the Quad Cities (is) right across the river from Iowa…maybe that’s a possibility of something we could do,” Branstad said. “But that’s all speculation.”

The Illinois lawmaker who sponsored that state’s medical marijuana law told the Associated Press last week that Branstad was talking “total nonsense” and Senator Bolkcom says the governor’s statement is “astonishing”.

“We need people to engage in a thoughtful discussion about that and not simply throw out really uninformed, irresponsible ideas that provide hope to people where none exist,” Bolkcom says. “The governor and the people that work for the governor need to do more homework on this issue so that when they make statements, they have some basis in fact.”

Bolkcom says sometime in the next week a bill that would set up a system in Iowa for growing marijuana and producing the non-intoxicating cannabis oil for dispensing to epileptics here will be introduced in the Iowa Senate.

“It’s ironic that Senator Bolkcom is criticizing Governor Branstad for exploring opportunities to improve and fix the law that Senator Bolkcom authored,” Branstad spokesman Jimmy Centers said in a written statement. “Governor Branstad empathizes with the families who are exploring treatment options for their loved ones and will continue having discussions with other states’ leaders to explore solutions.”

The State of Minnesota is currently reviewing bids and will designate eight providers of medical marijuana for residents in Minnesota as treatment for a number of conditions, including epilepsy as well as glaucoma, Crohn’s Disease and chronic pain associated with a terminal illness. According to the latest timetable, eligible patients in Minnesota will be able to buy medical marijuana starting this July.

Wrestler who collapsed at state tourney released from hospital

The high school wrestler from southwest Iowa who collapsed last Wednesday after completing a match in the State Dual Team Championships has been released from the hospital. Eighteen-year-old Tayler Pettit was discharged from a Des Moines hospital Sunday evening.

The senior at Creston/Orient-Macksburg was hospitalized after he collapsed and quit breathing. Medical personnel shocked the teen twice with an automated external defibrillator (AED), while he was still on the mat. Tayler’s parents released a statement explaining a test found their son had “an extra electrical pathway in his heart that caused a rapid heart rate.”

Surgery was performed on Friday to correct the problem and doctors said Pettit should be able to return to playing sports this spring.

Full statement from Scott and Melissa Pettit:

Our son Tayler and his teammates from Creston Orient Macksburg (COM) were focused on bringing home a state team wrestling championship when they took the mat in Des Moines on Wednesday. Shortly after completing his second match Tayler complained of shortness of breath to trainer Chris Leonard, assigned to the team by Greater Regional Medical Center, and COM head coach Darrell Frain. Tayler collapsed, experienced seizures and went into cardiac arrest. Within seconds an Iowa High School Athletic Association team of medical professionals staffing the tournament joined Chris and Darrell and began helping Tayler as he began fighting for his life. Paramedics, trainers and physicians started CPR and tried to revive him. An AED was available in the arena and was used to shock his heart back into rhythm. We believe this rapid care and always having someone with Tayler saved our son’s life.

The biggest question for us was how did this happen? As a three sport athlete Tayler had never experienced seizures or heart problems. The physicians at Mercy Children’s Hospital Pediatric Emergency and the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit started care and used a respirator to help him breathe while a cardiologist monitored his heart. By Wednesday night they were able to remove his breathing tube and we discussed testing.

The tests were performed Thursday by Iowa Heart Center cardiologists and they found the cause. Tayler’s heart did not fibrillate from a blow to the chest during his wrestling match and it had nothing to do with maintaining or losing weight. The test found an extra electrical pathway in his heart that caused a rapid heart rate. The cardiologist called it Wolf-Parkinson-White Syndrome. We never knew Tayler had a heart issue and the cardiologist said he could have had it since he was born. We were told the syndrome is the most common cause of rapid heart rate disorders, especially for infants, children and adolescents.

Friday, Tayler had a surgical procedure called an ablation to correct the extra electrical pathway and reduce the potential of future problems. He has continued to gain strength and our cardiologist said Tayler should have a complete recovery and be able to return to sports and play soccer this spring.

We are overjoyed by the outcome but it would not have been possible without all of the support, prayers and caring from our wrestling community and people we don’t even know. You have all given us strength.

We’d like to thank our trainer Chris and our coach Darrel; for not leaving Tayler alone for a second. We thank the Iowa High School Athletic Association for its medical planning and assembling a great medical team to deal with injuries, or in this case a life or death emergency. The physicians and staff with Mercy Children’s Hospital Emergency and Intensive Care Units provided great care. Our cardiologists with Iowa Heart Center at Mercy helped us understand Tayler’s heart problem and fixed it.

As parents, our experiences made it very clear how important it is to have an AED available and know how to use it. AEDs can save lives and we can’t imagine not having them readily available at athletic, school and community events. We hope everyone will learn more about these devices so you can help someone should they experience a medical emergency.


Ronald McDonald Family Room opens at Cedar Rapids hospital

St-Lukes-Ronald-McDonald-FaA new space is giving families a place to stay when their sick children require an extended stay at a busy eastern Iowa hospital.

The new Ronald McDonald Family Room at St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids is designed to help offset costs that would otherwise add up quickly.

 Kristin Roberts, Executive Director of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois, told KCRG-TV the room is expected result in more than $257,000 a year in combined savings for all the families that stay there.

And there’s an added benefit to the hospital and the patients. “We have research that shows that kids actually heal faster, about 31-percent faster, when mom and dad or direct family are directly involved in the patient care,” Roberts said.

 Emily and Matt Ackerson of Cedar Falls are the first couple to use the new Family Room at St. Luke’s. Emily gave birth on December 13 to twin girls, Nora and Gabriel, just 23 weeks into pregnancy. With infections and the need for surgery, every day has been a struggle for the premature twins.

 Matt describes the last nine weeks as a roller coaster. “Just go day-to-day and just hang on to the good points and hopefully you get through the rough days and there’s a better day around the corner,” Matt told KCRG.

Nora is getting stronger at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, while Gabriel is at Unity Point Health St. Luke’s. Their parents have made the new Family Room their home away from home. Emily said doctors determined an infection caused her to go into labor early. The twins should be able to go home by April 6, which was their original due date.

By Jill Kasperie, KCRG-TV



Pharmaceutical company to build distribution center in Clear Lake

mckesson-logoAfter months of secrecy, the name of the Fortune 100 company that’s building a huge distribution center in north-central Iowa is finally being unveiled.

The announcement was made earlier today during a news conference by Clear Lake Mayor Nelson Crabb. “One of the top companies in the United States has taken notice and is poised to put down roots right here,” Mayor Crabb says.

Pharmaceutical giant McKesson Corporation will locate in Clear Lake. The $65 million project includes hiring 164 workers to run the giant warehouse of 340,000 square feet. Scott Flory, Clear Lake’s city administrator, says the California-based company will be making a solid investment in Iowa. “McKesson is headquartered in San Francisco and has about 85,000 employees,” Flory says. “It’s one of the oldest companies in the United States, founded in 1883. As of 2014, it ranks as #15 on the Fortune 500 list.”

He says McKesson is one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies. “McKesson is a leader in pharmaceutical distribution in the United States and Canada,” Flory says. “One third of all pharmaceuticals used in North America are delivered by McKesson Corporation.” He says state leaders were also a big part of the process.

“The city does want to express its appreciation for the support that we have received from the State of Iowa for the project up to this point,” Flory says. “We’re hopeful that the state will consider the application by McKesson for our project favorably at tomorrow’s board meeting.” He’s referring to the Iowa Economic Development Authority which meets at 10 A.M. Friday in Des Moines. McKesson Corporation is on the agenda for a financial assistance award.

According to the McKesson website, the company has more than $137.6 billion in annual revenue, specializing in vital medicines, medical supplies and health care information technology solutions.

(Reporting by Jesse Stewart, KGLO, Mason City)