Health News Florida

Since 2006, Health News Florida has provided in-depth journalism on health policy issues in our state.

Health News Florida is a project of WUSF Public Media in Tampa and is heard on public radio stations throughout Florida. It also is available online at http://health.wusf.usf.edu

 Private agencies that play a major role in Florida's child-welfare system will share an increase of more than $17 million under a new funding formula approved by lawmakers during last month's special legislative session.

Most of the new money will go to community-based care agencies --- or CBCs, as they're known --- in Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties and in Southwest Florida, areas where the state system has seen the largest increases of children coming into foster care.

Doctors Call For More State Oversight After Infant Deaths

Jul 7, 2015

 After the deaths of five infants, a team of doctors from across the state was asked in 2014 to review a Palm Beach County hospital's highly specialized program for doing heart surgeries on children.

The team's recommendation: St. Mary's Medical Center should not perform heart surgeries on babies under 6 months old because the program did not handle enough cases to maintain the expertise needed for quality care.

Winter Park Memorial Hospital hopes to start construction at the beginning of 2016 on a major expansion. The $90 million expansion would double the emergency room and add a five-story, 160-bed tower.

If all goes according to plan, the hospital would add 26 bays to its ER by the end of 2016 and open the new tower by the end of 2017. Hospital Administrator Ken Bradley says the hospital is looking to build now because the community is growing: In particular, senior citizens.

Kratom users are celebrating after the Florida Legislature failed to begin a crackdown on the controversial Southeast Asian plant. But the fight isn’t over.

A U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration fact sheet lists Kratom as an addictive substance that’s mildly stimulating or, in large doses, “profoundly euphoric.”

Susan Ash, executive director of the American Kratom Association -- and a Lyme disease sufferer -- calls it a lifesaver.

State Sees Sharp Spike In Number Of Children In Foster Care

Jul 6, 2015

 The number of Florida children in the state's foster-care system has reached its highest level since 2008 --- driven by both a spike in the number of kids being removed from their homes and a drop in the number being discharged after a stint in foster care.

In the last 24 months, the number of children in what's known as out-of-home care has reached 22,004 statewide, up from 17,591 in 2013.

Millions In Free Clinic Funds Vetoed

Jul 6, 2015

Gov. Rick Scott single-handedly vetoed funding for a 10-page list of local and statewide projects that legislators hoped to included in the state’s 2015 budget. The cuts totaled $461 million from the $78 billion state budget.

One area where Scott’s cuts hit particularly hard: health care for the poor. Among his bigger cuts was $9.5 million for the Florida Association of Free and Charitable Clinics, which supports free and low-cost clinics that provide health-care to low-income communities across the state.

Abortion Wait Period Back On Hold

Jul 5, 2015

  In the latest move in a legal and political battle, a circuit judge has issued an order blocking a new law that requires women to wait 24 hours before having an abortion in Florida.

After a hearing by conference call on Thursday, Leon Circuit Judge Charles Dodson granted a motion by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Reproductive Rights to vacate a stay that had allowed the 24-hour waiting period to remain in effect.

In Florida, the official state animal triggers mixed feelings. The Florida panther has been on the endangered species list for nearly 50 years. From a low point in the 1970s when there were only about 20 panthers in the wild, the species has rebounded.

Now, nearly 200 range throughout southwest Florida. And some officials, ranchers and hunters in the state say that may be about enough.

Florida panthers are a subspecies of the cougar or mountain lion. They're slightly smaller than their cousins, but like them, the panthers need lots of room to roam.

In what could prove the largest-ever merger in the insurance industry, Aetna has announced a $37 billion deal to acquire rival Humana.

The agreement, announced by the Hartford, Conn.-based Aetna, "would bolster Aetna's presence in the state- and federally funded Medicaid program and Tricare coverage for military personnel and their families," according to The Associated Press.

 When someone dies, a lot of people honor the memory of a loved one with a funeral.

Those who chose a traditional casket burial spend about $7,000 or more. A service that includes a cremation costs about a third of that.

But there’s a growing number of people who want to remember their loved ones long after the funeral ends in a different way.

A new Florida law kicking in today makes getting an HIV test easier. Doctors no longer need written consent to give patients an HIV test in health care settings, like doctor’s offices and hospitals.

The law could have a big impact in Florida, which has more new HIV infections than anywhere else in the country.

While the “Right to Try Act,” which aims to give dying patients the right to try unapproved experimental drugs, is law in Florida as of today, its implementation isn't so clear.

In theory, the Right to Try law allows terminally ill patients access to drugs that have passed first-phase clinical trials and are going through later-stage trials as part of a new drug application to the Food and Drug Administration.

Vaccine Access Expands At Pharmacies

Jul 1, 2015

Floridians will be able to receive more vaccines at their local pharmacies under a law that takes effect Wednesday.

Pharmacists are already able to administer vaccines that fight some viruses, like influenza and shingles, but the new measure (HB 279) would add several others, including shots targeted at measles, mumps and rubella; tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (or whooping cough); and human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted disease that can cause cancer.

The new law will also allow pharmacy interns to be certified to give vaccines.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday dealt a major blow to death penalty opponents, upholding the use of a controversial drug as part of a three-drug execution cocktail. The vote was 5-4, with unusually passionate and sometimes bitter opinions from the majority and dissenting justices.

A Florida judge is blocking a new state law that requires women to wait 24 hours before getting an abortion.

Tallahassee Chief Circuit Judge Charles Francis on Tuesday blocked the law today, a day before it was scheduled to take effect.

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