Health

Beth.herlin via Wikipedia Commons

A Campbell County woman caught the Zika virus while traveling outside the country, and after her return started showing symptoms like fever, rash and joint paint. Department of Health spokeswoman Kim Deti says Wyoming was one of the last states to report a case.

The virus spreads through a certain type of mosquito, but Deti says those mosquitos cannot survive in Wyoming.

Bob Beck, Wyoming Public Radio

Wyoming’s Title 25 program is $13 million dollars over budget and a group of legislators and others were told this week that reforms and policy changes are needed to slow down that spending. 

Title 25 covers court ordered hospitalizations for mental health and substance abuse patients. The state hospital doesn’t have enough beds to house those who need services, so the state has to pay private providers for that care. Natrona, Fremont, and Sweetwater County are driving the costs.  

Conniemod, Wikipedia Creative Commons

Wyoming Department of Health officials say Wyoming’s relatively high elevation could put people here more at risk for skin cancer.

“The thought process may be something closer to ‘Oh, I’m just going to go for a 30-minute run,’”said Morgan Powell with Wyoming Integrated Cancer Services. “But what they don’t realize is that the sun can damage our skin in as little as 15 minutes at our altitude.”

One22

Three non-profits that serve Teton County's lowest income residents and Latino community are merging into a single entity called One22. The Community Resource Center serves low-income residents who find themselves in crisis often due to housing or medical challenges. The center is merging with the Latino Resource Center and El Puente. 

The new group's Executive Director Mary Erickson says the merger will build better relationships with clients.

Bob Beck, Wyoming Public Radio

Due to declining revenues the Wyoming Department of Health has been told to cut $90 million from its budget, that’s a nine percent reduction, the largest cut faced by any state agency. It will impact the two year budget that begins July first.

Director Tom Forslund said the loss of state funds also means the Department will lose an additional $43 million in federal matching money. Had the legislature voted to expand Medicaid it would have softened the blow, especially since the Department could shift some money from its budget to pay upfront costs. 

Wyoming Medical Center Facebook

Wyoming’s current economic decline is beginning to effect the financial wellness of hospitals across the state. Earlier this week, Wyoming Medical Center in Casper announced they would cut 58 positions in order to balance their budget.

Wyoming Medical Center Facebook

The Wyoming Medical Center in Casper has cut 58 positions to meet budget reductions due to a downturn in the local economy. The hospital says they also don’t plan to fill 57 vacancies.

Medical Center CEO Vicki Diamond said the reductions will save the organization over $7 million dollars, but cuts will not harm medical services. For example, no nurses were reduced. 

Chief Financial Officer Yvonne Wiggington said fewer people have insurance and that has led to a rise in charity care and bad debt.

The Fifth Vital Sign

The Fifth Vital Sign, a traveling reproductive healthcare team, will be speaking on the University of Wyoming’s campus Wednesday night.

Wyoming Medical Center

This February, the email accounts of two Wyoming Medical Center employees were compromised in a phishing scam. A phishing scam is an email that looks like it came from a credible source, and tricks the recipient into providing passwords and usernames in an attempt to access sensitive information. The scam won't work if the recipient ignores the email, and doesn't open any links.

When the two Wyoming Medical Center employees opened the email in a phishing scam, they potentially compromised the information of nearly 3,200 patients.

Wyoming Department of Health

The Wyoming Department of Health has received a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to help expand treatment for prescription drug and heroin abuse in the state. The administration has flagged Wyoming as an at-risk state due to recent increases in heroin and other opioid use among the state's residents.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

A new report, released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, says Wyoming's urban counties are far healthier than its rural ones. The annual report shows that people in Teton County are Wyoming's healthiest while its least healthy are in Fremont County. The report ranks health by rates of premature death.

Flickr user USACE Europe District / Flickr - Creative Commons

The Wyoming Department of Health has reported an increase in flu activity, and is encouraging residents to take steps to avoid spreading the virus or becoming ill.

Kim Deti, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health, says that last year’s season was especially severe with 29 influenza-related deaths reported in Wyoming. She also says that it is not too late to get the vaccine, since the timing of peak flu activity can vary from season to season.

William Brawley via Flickr Creative Commons

Teton County has seen a big uptick recently in cases of pertussis, also known as whooping cough.

Health officials have confirmed eight cases in the county this year, which represents one third of those in Wyoming.

Whooping cough is a bacterial disease that’s easily transmitted from person to person. Teton County Public Health Officer Travis Riddell says it’s hard to diagnose and especially dangerous for infants.

User TesaPhotography / pixabay

November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and Wyoming’s percentage of adults with diabetes continues to cause concern.

Joe Grandpre  is the Chronic Diseases Epidemiologist at the Wyoming Department of Health. Grandpre says higher rates of diabetes in Wyoming can be attributed to the state’s rising rates of obesity, which is the leading cause of Type 2 Diabetes. He says he is also seeing more people being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes at younger ages, and that will cost patients more.

Wikimedia Commons

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the American Cancer Society has introduced new guidelines for breast cancer screening. It now recommends people get mammograms at age 45 instead of 40.

Morgan Powell is the outreach coordinator for the Wyoming Department of Health’s Integrated Cancer Services. She says Wyoming recommends starting at age 50, the same as the US Preventative Services.

Still, "There are exceptions to every rule," says Powell. "If there are signs and symptoms of Breast Cancer, that absolutely makes you a priority for the program."

WINhealth To Leave Wyoming

Oct 21, 2015

The health insurance company WINhealth will be pulling out of Wyoming. 

A variety of financial difficulties including low reimbursement via the Affordable Care Act is causing the company to leave Wyoming at the end of the year. Insurance Commissioner Tom Glause says the state will take over management of the company and make sure its financial obligations are taken care of.       

“Do not panic, your claims will continue to be processed and paid and we will assist in an orderly transition of those policies to another carrier.” 

Flickr Creative Commons

It’s been a wet summer with lots of bugs. And all those flies and insects have led to the worst outbreak in years of a livestock virus known as vesicular stomatitis. The virus is identical to foot and mouth disease, except it can affect not only cattle but horses and other livestock. It causes sores on the animal’s mouth, ears and feet. State Veterinarian Jim Logan advises stopping the spread of the disease by limiting contact with other’s people’s livestock and with insects.

Wyoming Department of Health

State officials say this has been Wyoming’s worst year on record for human cases of the disease Tularemia, or rabbit fever. Tularemia is a bacterial disease that is passed to humans by animals, insects, untreated water, and even contaminated dust. Once you have the disease, symptoms can include fever, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, ulcers, and diarrhea.

Wyoming Department of Health spokeswoman Kim Deti says they have not pinpointed any one factor leading to the uptick in reports.

Wikimedia Commons

Planned Parenthood came under fire when videos surfaced of its employees discussing the distribution of fetal tissue for research. A bill to cut all federal funding to Planned Parenthood was blocked by the U.S. Senate, but some House Republicans say they will continue the effort to the defund the organization after summer recess.

Gonorrhea Cases Double

Jul 22, 2015
knowwyo.org

Wyoming health officials say they are seeing a gonorrhea outbreak. They had 61 reported cases earlier this month compared to a total of 31 last year. Half of the cases involve people in their 20’s.

The Director of the state’s communicable disease surveillance program, Courtney Smith, says the problem is that couples are not using condoms. 

Courtesy Annie E. Casey Foundation

Wyoming has improved in national child well-being rankings over the past year, but still ranks very low when it comes to child health. That’s according the Kids Count Data Book released Tuesday by the Annie. E Casey Foundation.

Wyoming saw improvements in economic well-being, education and family & community concerns—and rose from 19th to 16th place overall in the annual rankings. But the Cowboy State still ranks 45th in the nation for child health.

Wyoming's Governor and Congressional delegation have been fighting to dismantle the Affordable Care Act for years.

But with Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling ruling “Obamacare” looks stronger than ever.

Wyoming Minority Floor Leader Mary Throne of Cheyenne says that might force state legislators to finally start talking about how they could work with federal healthcare policy.

Wyoming hospitals are breathing a sigh of relief following Thursday’s United States Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act.

The ruling allows 20,000 Wyoming residents to keep their subsidies to purchase health insurance via the federal Marketplace.

Wyoming Hospital Association president Eric Boley says, if the ruling had gone the other way, state hospitals would have seen a dramatic uptick in uncompensated care. But Wyoming hospitals are still facing imminent financial challenges.

Wyoming’s decision to not set up a set health care marketplace could haunt it if the United States Supreme Court rules that federal marketplaces or exchanges cannot receive federal subsidies. The King vs. Burwell case could impact close to 20 thousand Wyoming residents, especially the 17 thousand who would lose subsidies to purchase insurance. 

Over 40,000 Wyomingites live in areas with limited or no access to grocery stores, according to a recent report from the Mountain States Regional Health Equity Council.

The report names areas in Platte, Goshen, Crook, Big Horn, Carbon and Fremont counties as being food “deserts:” defined as areas where fresh fruit, vegetables and other healthy foods are hard to find.

Renee Gamino is with the Wyoming AARP and is a coauthor of the report. She said even where fresh food is available, it’s often too costly for low-income residents.

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

A U.S. Supreme Court decision this summer could affect health coverage for nearly 21,000 Wyoming residents. The court will decide if subsidies can be provided to low-income individuals in states that don’t have their own health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act.

Wyoming is one of more than 30 states without its own insurance marketplace.

Of the 21,000 citizens enrolled in a health care plan under the federal government run marketplace, 91% receive the premium tax credit, which on average pays for more than 70% of their monthly premiums.

EmpRes Healthcare

Washington-based EmpRes Healthcare Management has committed to a lease on Rock Spring’s troubled nursing home.

The home’s former owner, Deseret Health Group, abruptly announced its closure and cut off its access to funds last week. Nursing Home Director of Nursing Karen Muto says they got the call that EmpRes was stepping in Tuesday afternoon.

"Right away we called the staff together as well as the residents to make the announcement," she said by phone. "You could not believe how happy everyone was. Everybody was crying, they were so happy."

The State of Wyoming has delayed the transfer of residents from two troubled nursing homes after learning that two private companies are considering purchasing them. The state was contacted by the companies over the weekend.

Wyoming took over operations of nursing home facilities in Saratoga and Rock Springs after Deseret Health Group said it was promptly closing the homes due to financial difficulties. State Health Department Director Tom Forslund says they were looking to place residents of the facilities into new nursing homes. 

The Wyoming Department of Health is taking over private nursing homes in Rock Springs and Saratoga after their parent company, Deseret Health Group, abruptly announced their closure.

Laramie’s Ivinson Memorial Hospital is considering an expansion that could lead to a new Internal Medicine Building among other things. 

Hospital CEO Doug Faus said the expansion also could include the Jeannie Ray Cancer Center, parking areas, and space for University of Wyoming Medical students who are part of the WWAMI  program. The biggest priority is the Internal Medicine building. Faus says a better facility will help recruit and keep doctors.

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