Health and health care news

The University of New England and Apothecary by Design have teamed up to offer a residency program in specialty pharmacy.

UNE pharmacy professor Dr. Kenneth McCall says the residency will give pharmacists hands-on training on how to care for patients with conditions such as organ transplantation, hepatitis C and rheumatoid arthritis.

Fewer American families are struggling to pay their medical bills, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control.

Though the number has been in steady decline for the past five years, health advocates in Maine say there are still too many who can’t afford health care. And the problem of paying medical bills may affect more families in Maine than those in other states.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control say expanding needle exchange programs can help prevent HIV and hepatitis C outbreaks.

A CDC issue brief highlights the need to prevent health problems from shared needles as states grapple with a heroin and opioid abuse epidemic.

According to the CDC, HIV diagnoses have decreased in recent years, but progress is uneven: the number of diagnoses among blacks and Latinos has dropped in half. Among whites, it’s dropped 28 percent.

Corrections Commissioner Dr. Joseph Fitzpatrick will convene a panel of experts in Maine this week to review suicide prevention and LGBT policies at the Long Creek Youth Development Center.

The meeting follows the recent suicide of a transgender teen at the facility, the first death of a child in state custody in more than 20 years.

Fitzpatrick says he’s open to any and all suggestions, and he also says it may also be time to consider creation of a state psychiatric facility for mentally ill youth.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

A year and a half ago, we told you about Lewiston Army veteran Christy Gardner, just days before she was to get one of her legs amputated below the knee. Gardner was injured in 2006 in the line of duty, and ever since, she had been in constant pain, which often relegated her to a wheelchair.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

Exercise is something that most of us don’t get enough of. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, about 80 percent of Americans fail to meet the recommended guidelines for physical activity.

As challenging as it can be to squeeze in time for exercise, for some in this country, the obstacle is more about culture. In Lewiston, the YWCA is helping refugees and immigrants overcome health hurdles by offering a women’s-only swim class, part of a wider effort to improve the health of new Mainers and help them prevent chronic disease.

The Cedars in Portland has received a $4 million donation from a Waterville couple to build a first-of-its-kind “household” model of senior homes in Maine.

Cedars’ president Kathy Callnan says the households will look and feel like private homes, starting with a front door that opens into a foyer.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Attorney General says the number of drug overdose deaths in the state through September already exceeds the total number for 2015.

Attorney General Janet Mills says 286 Maine residents died of drug overdoses through the first nine months of this year. The total for 2015 was 272. The 2015 total was a record at the time.

Mills says the increase is mainly due to illegally manufactured fentanyl and fentanyl analogs. She says the number of deaths due to other drugs is also increasing.

During his campaign for president, Donald Trump vowed that on his first day in office he’ll ask Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act. That puts insurance coverage for 20 million Americans, including 84,000 Mainers, into question.

Trump also promised to implement reforms that will make health care more affordable, broaden access and improve quality. But some health advocates in Maine question whether the president-elect’s proposals will actually fulfill those promises.

Two Maine colleges have experienced an outbreak of mumps this fall. The Maine Center for Disease Control says colleges across the U.S. are seeing an uptick in mumps cases.

Bowdoin College in Brunswick has three current confirmed cases of the highly contagious viral disease. Bates College in Lewiston had eight cases of mumps since early October, but all students have recovered.

Spokesmen for both colleges say it has been years since they’ve had a case of mumps. State epidemiologist Dr. Siiri Bennett says there do tend to be sporadic outbreaks of the disease.

Questions about pain management will be removed from hospital patient satisfaction surveys, according to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Physicians and lawmakers, including Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, asked CMS to examine the questions over concerns that they encouraged physicians to prescribe opioids.

Jeff Austin of the Maine Hospital Association says the problem with the questions about treatment of pain on hospital satisfaction surveys is that unless patients reported that their pain was always well managed, hospitals were penalized.

Maine hospitals overall rank in the top 10 in the U.S. for safety, according to the latest hospital safety grades from the Leapfrog Group. But some individual hospitals, like Franklin Memorial in Farmington, did see a drop in grade level.

The Leapfrog Group’s Jillian West says Franklin Memorial dropped from an A grade, which it has scored since fall 2013, to a C grade because of an incident in which a foreign object was mistakenly left in a patient after surgery.

ARUNDEL, Maine - A Maine school district says an unidentified elementary school student in Arundel has contracted viral meningitis.

Superintendent Katie Hawes says the Mildred L. Day Elementary School student did not attend classes on Monday but parents should still watch out for symptoms in their own children.

The federal Center for Disease Control classifies meningitis as an inflammation of tissue that covers the brain and spinal cord. Its viral form is less severe than bacterial meningitis.

Symptoms include fever, headache, stiff neck, vomiting and fatigue.

Not enough Maine households are testing for arsenic, according to the Environmental Health Strategy Center.

The most recent data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control finds that less than half of the state’s households that rely on well water test for arsenic. Health advocates say the state needs to do more to educate private well owners and achieve a statewide goal of 65 percent testing by 2020.

Maine’s insurance co-op, Community Health Options, is dropping elective abortion coverage for 2017. Co-op officials say it’s a cost-saving measure, but abortion advocates are decrying the move as a step backwards for women’s health.

The backdrop to eliminating elective abortion coverage, says Community Health Options CEO Kevin Lewis, is that the co-op is still digging itself out of a $31 million deficit it accumulated last year.