Sarah Pusateri

Former Health News Florida reporter

Sarah Pusateri is a former multimedia health policy reporter for Health News Florida, a project of WUSF. The Buffalo New York native most recently worked as a health reporter for, a two year grant-funded project at WUSF. There, she co-produced an Emmy Award winning documentary called Uniform Betrayal: Rape in the Military.

Pusateri got her start in television at TV 20 News in Ocala as a  bureau reporter. Her next move was to Fort Myers as video journalist at WINK News covering crime. While she sometimes misses the fast pace of television news, being a multimedia journalist allows her to focus more on her favorite aspect of journalism--storytelling.


Ways to Connect

Bill Whitstine is in the business of training dogs to detect bed bugs. Business is good, he said, and some of his customers are health-care facilities.

"Bed bugs over the last ten years, it's become an epidemic in many states and here in Florida as well," Whitstine said. "And the fastest and easiest way of detecting them is with a drug dog or a bomb dog."

Sarah Pusateri / WUSF

Almost 950 Florida-licensed pharmacies engage in “sterile compounding,” the type of high-risk drug-making that led to a deadly fungal meningitis epidemic last year, according to a Department of Health survey released last week.

Sterile compounders are now given priority for state inspections, but it’s going to be a daunting task to check them all, judging from the survey report and interviews with pharmacists and health department officials. There are  two reasons:

State health officials are on the scene at Town and Country Hospital this afternoon. The Tampa medical center has been barred from admitting any new patients into its surgical unit, pending an investigation into the death of three patients last month.

Lutz resident Jean Miller was shocked to find out about the emergency moratorium put on Town and Country hospital. She's been admitted three times.

"I had gallbladder surgery there and I had no problems," she said. "I would always go back there."

Contaminated steroid injections for back pain may not be the sole source of infection sent out from New England Compounding Center, health officials say.

While the Florida Department of Health says it has notified 99 percent of all the patients in Florida who received the back injections, they now are concerned about products produced by the NECC.

"The processes that led to the contamination of steroids may have led to the contamination of other NECC medications," Armstrong said.

"The FDA has urged all patients, who since May 21 2012, have received any NECC injectable medications that they be notified of the possibility of infection."

Is there such thing as being too careful when it comes to buying health insurance? According to a recent study, seniors on average spend $368 more than they need to on their Medicare prescription drug plans.

According to the Health Affairs study, there are a few reasons for this.

1.) So many choices.

There are 1,736 prescription-drug plans available to Medicare beneficiaries under the Medicare's Part D benefit. That's about 50 plans per region; Florida has 35.

The Department of Health announced that the cases of fungal meningitis in Florida have risen to nine. A 52- year old woman and a 79- year old woman are being treated after getting steroid shots in the back at the Marion County Pain Management Center.

Nationwide 170 cases have been reported. Health Department Officials say all cases are a result of contaminated steroids from the New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts.

There have been two deaths in Florida and 14 nationwide. An 83-year- old Marion County man died as a result of the contaminated back pain injection he received at the Marion Pain Management Center in Ocala. The first death was an unidentified 70-year-old man who had been treated at the Florida Pain Clinic in Ocala in July.

In 2024, the trust fund that pays for Medicare is expected to be depleted. What should be done about the future of Medicare?

That's the issue Tampa senior citizens got a chance to tackle at the AARP's "You've Earned a Say" initiative forum at the Poynter Institute.

The audience voted on five questions with a hand held clicker.

1.) Should the qualifying age for Medicare be raised from 65 to 67?

No: 56 percent. Yes: 35 percent. Neither: 10 percent.

The Department of Health announced Thursday afternoon that an 83-year- old Marion County man died as a result of the contaminated back pain injection he received at the Marion Pain Management Center in Ocala.

His death marks the second in Florida and the 14th nationwide. The first death was an unidentified 70-year-old man who had been treated at the Florida Pain Clinic in Ocala in July.

“Across the country, we are seeing the number of cases increase, so it is not unexpected that Florida’s cases will rise,” said Florida Surgeon General John Armstrong.

After suffering from cardiomyopathy for more than three decades, 70- year old David Skand of Tampa found himself in a tough position--his heart had given out.

"My back was pretty much up against the wall," he said.

Skand's doctors at USF Health told him there might be a better option than surgery.

They recommended he join a clinical trial testing Neucardin, a genetically-engineered drug designed to treat chronic heart failure like his.

USF Health is one of 10 sites in the country for this study. Skand signed up.

"I really thought this would be a good opportunity to try something--and see if it would work out," said Skand,  a veterinarian who tests racehorses for drugs.

Doctors told Skand he could continue to take his normal heart medication while participating in the trial.

Medicare open enrollment season is around the corner, and lots of bargain plans are available to beneficiaries who shop around. But will they?

Two-thirds of drug-plan enrollees say they won't bother, according to a survey released Wednesday by Medicare Today, a consortium of consumer and professional health groups. They see no reason to -- 90 percent report that they're satisfied with their plan.

But even if they're not satisfied, seniors often don't tackle the job of comparison-shopping. Experts call this "the lock-in effect," and it can keep beneficiaries from taking the pills they've been prescribed.

Seventeen-year-old Jimmy Braat has three passions in life: playing music, photography, and being a caregiver to his grandma.

"It's all I'm good at!" he laughs. He started taking care of his great grandmother at age 9.

"My mom was always at work so it was kind of my role I guess," Jimmy says," She passed away at 92 when I was 13. So now, I take care of my grandmother."

Jimmy is three years behind in school and now participates in an online school program called hospital homebound. 

While he loves his grandmother and says he wouldn't trade her for the world, he admits his education has suffered as a result of his caregiving.

"I suffer from severe depression and bi-polar disorder--anxiety because there's a lot of stress, if you really care about the person you are taking care of, you're going to be thinking are they okay, are they ok?"

Twenty-two percent of high school dropouts say they left school to take care of a family member, according to a study funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

These youth caregivers often sacrifice their own futures because there's no one else to look after their sick parents and grandparents.

Rachel Parks was one of those students. Watch the video below to find out more about Rachel's family and her life in her own words.

Why do students drop out of high school?

One surprising answer: more than one in five dropouts left school to take care of family members.

Rachel Parks dropped out of high school to take care of her mother when she was 17.

"Growing up, I watched my mom take care of her mom," Rachel says, "and that is where I think I got that."

While the real Sarah Palin wasn't invited to speak at the Republican National Convention, someone who looks like her is speaking out in Tampa.

Adult entertainer, Lisa Ann, who starred in the 2008 film satirizing former republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, performed at Thee Dollhouse in Tampa.

During a press conference held at the club she discussed Palin, politics, and business with a room full of reporters.

If you've been to Tampa lately, you may have noticed the new landscaping on Bayshore Boulevard or the brightly lit bridges over the Hillsborough River.

You have the Republican National Convention to thank.

Much of the estimated $43 million improvements to the city are being paid for by the city and by a $50 million federal grant. Other private funders have chipped in as well.

It's hard to pinpoint exactly how much is being spent because many of the projects expedited by the RNC were already on the drawing board. 

Also, others pitched in to cover costs. AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint have each spent $800,000 to upgrade their phone infrastructure in the convention center. Tampa Electric and TECO People's Gas are the founding sponsors of the "Lighting of the Bridges" project.

Here is a list of projects to be completed before the RNC from the city of Tampa.

Fifty-thousand people are expected to pour into Tampa for the Republican National Convention.

By day, they’re expected to attend meetings, patronize shops, and fill restaurants.

By night, high-end escorts hope some convention goers will be spending their time with them.

Prostitution in the Tampa Bay area is expected to increase during the Republican National Convention. But will that lead to the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases?

We asked that question of a county health official, a high-end escort, and an academic expert. The answer is complicated.

When it comes to heat exhaustion, local health officials are planning to hand out fliers to educate convention-goers. But the Hillsborough County Health Department is not planning anything special to deal with the STD threat.

The Affordable Care Act has gotten a lot of attention lately for its mandated provisions, which went into effect in the beginning of August.

Donald Palmisano, a doctor, attorney, and former president of the American Medical Association, says he's not a fan for several reasons.

Palmisano is the head of the anti-ACA group "The Coalition to Protect Patients' Rights." He also offers himself to doctors to "help you protect yourself against the potentially devastating effects of malpractice and liability claims."

When Fred Davis lost both of his legs to infection --he thought his walking days were over.

Then he was introduced to a therapy that combines movement and timing to help the brain redevelop motor skills.

It’s called Interactive Metronome. For six months, Mederi Caretender therapist Tameka Walker has been helping Davis relearn to walk.

"Left hand, right toe, left hand, right toe. Got it?” she instructs.

To the chime of a cowbell, Davis steps one foot forward on a mat – and then pulls it back. Then, it’s the other foot, always sticking to the beat.

Three million Americans will be getting a pleasant surprise in the mail – a refund check from their insurance provider.

That’s because of a provision in the Affordable Care Act. It limits how much insurers can spend on administrative costs. This includes salaries, sales or advertising.

Depending on who they cover, the insurance companies now must spend between 80 and 85 percent of customer premiums on patient care.


Just weeks after U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke barred the enforcement of the so-called “Docs and Glocks ” law, Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Department of Health are appealing the ruling.

The law forbade doctors and other medical providers from asking patients about guns in their homes.

Sal Gentile says sometimes his tinnitus sounds like bacon frying in a skillet.

Other times it’s hissing – like air out of a popped tire. Or it can sound like conveyor belts, or rough ocean waves.

On his worst days, Gentile says, it’s a combination of these things – a cacophony of sounds within his head.

Diabetes, heart disease, and even hypertension -- just three of dozens of pre-existing conditions insurance companies have historically used as reasons to deny health care coverage.

That is, until the Affordable Care Act was upheld by the Supreme Court. 

Families USA released a report showing that  3.8 million non-elderly Floridians are no longer at risk for denial because of the law.

Governor Rick Scott has announced that Florida will not participate in Medicaid expansion on the state level, but Hillsborough County may have a backup plan.

They already have a free health care program for poor residents, established 20 years ago. It's paid for with a half cent sales tax.

A health advisory was lifted at five Pinellas County beaches days after they were reported to have elevated levels of bacteria.

The presence of enteric bacteria in the water is thought to be caused by fecal pollution. The health department says this can come from storm water runoff, pets, wildlife and sewage.

The bacteria may cause disease, infections or rashes.

Honeymoon Island, Sand Key Park, Indian Rocks Beach, Madeira Beach's Archibald Park and Redington Shores are open and safe for swimmers, according to the Pinellas County Health Department.

Jared Rodriguez / Truth Out

The Affordable Care Act is already helping patients with pre-existing conditions in Florida.

Marlys Lenz Cox, a St. Petersburg woman who has battled breast cancer and hepatitis C, is one of them.

"A lot of Americans haven't felt the changes yet. I have because it saved my life,'' she told the Tampa Bay Times.

She was paying $1,100 a month and couldn’t afford it.

Sarah Pusateri, WUSF

Increasingly, 911 dispatchers don't just take your call for help. Now, most of them are trained to help keep you alive until first responders arrive.

They help pregnant mothers deliver children until EMS arrives on scene, and some even walk callers through the process of giving CPR.

And a well-trained 911 dispatcher can double or even triple the chances that someone stays alive until help gets there.

The city of Tampa got a health check Thursday morning from none other than Dr. Mehmet Oz.

Tampa was just one of several stops on the list for the "Dr. Oz Show," a popular health program syndicated and broadcast nationwide.

Oz met with only a handful of contest winners, but volunteers at the Florida Hospital Pepin Heart Institute checked each person's blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure and waist size according to Tampa Bay Online.

Around 700 people were given 15 minute physicals and around 2,300 people completed a 40-question health questionnaire.

From the data collected, Oz came to a few conclusions about the health of Tampa Bay.

It’s a story he’s waited 11 years to tell.

Blair Hamrick is a former GlaxoSmithKline pharmaceutical sales rep. He was fired after blowing the whistle on  the company -- and now, he will be awarded a significant chunk of cash.

GlaxoSmithKline has agreed to pay $3 billion dollars after an investigation by the U.S Department of Justice. It revealed the company encouraged employees to sell prescription drugs off-label.

Three of MacDill Air Force Base's finest retired today -- after serving a combined total of 217 years.

Dog years--that is.

After a fulfilling career of multiple deployments and secret service missions, German Shepherds Conny, Jago, and Haris were honored in a ceremony at the Tampa base.

K-9 Conny had the most accomplished career. Deployed to Afghanistan twice and Iraq three times, she is credited with supporting 12 secret service missions.