Health and health care news

Patty Wight / Maine Public

While hundreds of thousands in southern Maine lost power due to Sunday night’s storm, the state’s largest hospital was still up and running — but Maine Medical Center isn’t completely immune from power outages.

At any given time, Maine Medical Center cares for hundreds of patients. From moms giving birth to patients who need surgery and those with emergency health problems.

“Today, for instance, we have about 500 patients that are in the hospital, right now,” says spokeswoman Caroline Cornish.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

Next month, voters will decide whether the state should expand Medicaid. At stake is health coverage for an estimated 70,000 Mainers as well as financial stability for hospitals.

With flu season ahead, researchers at University of Maine say they've uncovered another reason to get a flu shot - especially for those with muscle disorders.

"The flu virus actually gets into your muscle cells," says Associate Professor Clarissa Henry, "so this is the first time it's been shown in a live animal."

Obesity rates in the US and Maine appear to be leveling off, according to new data from U.S. Centers for Disease Control. But health experts say the numbers are still too high.

Courtesy MDI Biological Laboratory

An MDI Biological Laboratory scientist's work on wounds is getting federal funding from the National Institutes of Health. 

Dr. Vicki Losick is getting $1.7 million over the next three years to study different ways that cells heal themselves after an injury.

Losick says wounds that don't heal - which are associated with diabetes and more generally with aging - are becoming more of a problem. "If your wounds don't heal you're at a higher risk for infection, and that's a considerable problem for Maine, where we have an aging population."

Toddler’s Lead Poison Scare Turns Phish Family Into Accidental Activists

Oct 11, 2017
Gabor Degre / Bangor Daily News

Jon and Briar Fishman tried to do all the right things when they moved their growing family from Vermont to a 200-year-old farmhouse in Lincolnville in 2006.

They had asked a contractor to test it for lead paint, which they knew was a common hazard in old homes, and were told that it was fine.

“I’m a hippie mom,” said Briar Fishman, a mom of five, whose husband is the drummer for the band Phish and a new selectman for the town of Lincolnville. “I thought this house was lead free.”

Gary Knight / NPR

This Sunday, Maine Public Radio debuts “Hidden Brain” with Shankar Vedantum.   Shanker has been exploring the social sciences in segments for NPR’s Morning Edition program, along with a “Hidden Brain” podcast.   He talked with Maine Public Radio’s Irwin Gratz about his new show, which will run for one hour, and air Sunday mornings at 11 on Maine Public Radio.

GRATZ: Good morning sir.


GRATZ: Tell us first how you came to this exploration of human behavior you've been on.

More than 150 small-business owners in Maine are endorsing a ballot question to expand Medicaid. At a press conference in Portland on Tuesday, members of the Maine Small Business Coalition made the economic case for extending health care coverage to about 70,000 people.

When Portland-based developer Tim Soley looks at Medicaid expansion through a business lens, he sees the federal money that would flow into the state. Under the Affordable Care Act, the U.S. government covers about 90 percent of the cost to expand Medicaid.

In response to the mass shooting in Las Vegas that has sent hundreds to Nevada hospitals, Maine Medical Center issued a written statement Monday saying its thoughts are with all those affected by the tragedy.

Hopsital officials say no health care facility can fully prepare for an event like what happened in Las Vegas, but that Maine Medical Center’s staff train regularly for mass-casualty incidents, which includes coordinating with other agencies and providers.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

The fate of a Lewiston dentist accused of putting the health and safety of his patients in jeopardy likely won’t be known for several months.

Maine’s hospitals came out in support Friday of a November ballot item that would expand the state’s Medicaid coverage to tens of thousands more state residents.

Maine Hospital Association vice president Jeff Austin says the group is generally wary of using voter referendums to make policy. But now that the question is on the ballot, he says, the association feels obligated to support the goal of helping those without good medical access get care.

And he says it will help the hospitals’ bottom line.

Maine’s nursing shortage is becoming critical, with some regions poised to lose about half of their nursing staff to retirement in the next 10 years, according to a new analysis released Thursday by the Maine Nursing Action Coalition.

Lisa Harvey-McPherson, a registered nurse and co-chair of the coalition, says that during the 2008 recession, many nurses due to retire chose to keep working. Now she says they’re getting out of the workforce, along with others nearing retirement age, contributing to a projected shortage of 3,200 nurses in the next eight years.

The Maine People’s Alliance has launched a campaign to put a universal home health care initiative before voters in 2018.

“There are far too many Maine families right now that are going broke because they can’t afford to care for their elders,” says Mike Tipping with the Maine People’s Alliance.

Tipping says the citizen’s initiative would establish a program to provide in-home services and support for those with disabilities, and for those over age 65. He says the program would be funded through a 1.9 percent payroll tax on incomes over $127,000.

CARIBOU, Maine - A medical group is offering free trainings for those who prescribe opioid medication.
A 2016 state law that addressed the opioid drug abuse crisis set education and training standards for opioid prescribers. The Maine Medical Association is holding a training session in Caribou on Wednesday evening.
Maine saw 376 drug overdose deaths last year. Lawmakers and advocates for individuals say that too often, addictive and potentially deadly prescription painkillers wind up in the wrong hands.

Maine is seeing a significant increase in sexually transmitted diseases, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Maine CDC epidemiologist Dr. Siiri Bennett says that follows a national trend.

“So far this year we’ve had 55 cases of syphilis. At this same time last year, there were only 22,” she says. “We’re also seeing very large increases in the number of gonorrhea cases. So far this year, we’ve received reports of 400 cases of gonorrhea.”