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Audio: Hospital Merger Partners Speak at Board of Health Forum

Two hours of explanation did not silence the critics and skeptics of a pending hospital merger, though many new issues and complications have been revealed.

The Louisville Metro Board of Health brought representatives from University of Louisville Hospital, Jewish Hospital and Catholic Health Initiatives to a public forum Wednesday evening. The partners took questions from the public and explained how procedures currently banned by the Catholic Church would or would not be performed at a merged University Hospital.

If the merger is approved, University Hospital will not entirely follow Catholic care directives, according to the partners’ attorney Jennifer Elliott. Rather, only certain procedures frowned upon by the Catholic Church will be banned. Namely, tubal ligations will be moved to Baptist Hospital East.

U of L Chair for Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health Sharmila Makhija explained how other reproductive services would be handled:

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Local News Politics

Meth Debate Picks Up as General Assembly Nears

State lawmakers heard a variety of opinions on how to limit methamphetamine production today.

The number of meth labs in Kentucky has been increasing for years. The drug manufacturer group Consumer Healthcare Products told the Joint Committee on the Judiciary the state should create a database of people who have been convicted of meth-related crimes. Those listed would be blocked from purchasing cold medicines that contain pseudoephedrine, which is used to make meth.

Several law enforcement officers, however, say pseudoephedrine should become a scheduled substance, meaning anyone seeking to purchase it would need a prescription.

Oregon and Mississippi have both reported success after making pseudoephedrine prescription-only.

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Local News Politics

Beshear Touts Growth of Organ Donor Registry

Governor Steve Beshear says he and first lady Jane Beshear are organ donors and he’s urging Kentuckians to join them.

In ceremonies at the State Capitol, Beshear thanked circuit court clerks, who have helped add one million names to the Kentucky Organ Donor Registry. 

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Law Firms Adding Staff in Anticipation of Economic Recovery

by Dalton Main

In anticipation of an economic recovery, many Kentucky Law firms are hiring more staff and taking on more clients.

Gaines Penn is managing partner at English Lucas Priest & Owsley in Bowling Green. He says lawyers in his firm are making sure they are ready to handle the increased demand, which is mostly in areas related to the aging baby boomer population.

“They’re already basically familiar with the primary issues in terms of Medicare and Medicaid and estate planning for the elderly but it’s continuing to change and they’re trying to stay on top of that; as well as get the message out that there are ways that lawyers can help people to do that type of planning,” he says.

Penn says as mid-sized firms like his prepare to bring on new lawyers, they have a wider talent pool to choose from.

“Our highs aren’t as high but our lows aren’t as low; and I think the larger firms in the state have seen some layoffs and that has pushed some people out; and they’re looking for positions and sometimes if we can pick up that talent, we do,” he says.

Penn is among several lawyers profiled in the latest issue of the Lane Report

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Local News Politics

Ophthalmologists Say Optometry Law Will Hurt Care, Optometrists Say It May Not Affect Louisville

Governor Steve Beshear Thursday signed a law expanding the procedures optometrists are allowed to perform. But  the new law may not change many practices in Louisville and other cities.

The law allows optometrists to perform certain procedures—such as laser surgery—that are currently only done by ophthalmologists, who are medical doctors. Optometrists must be certified to do the procedures and they need to purchase the proper equipment.

Kentucky Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons Woodford Van Meter says that’s not enough.

“The analogy is this: Would you like to get on an airplane with an experienced pilot, or would you like to get on an airplane with an inexperienced pilot who just has a certificate that he has recently received,” he says.

Optometrist Richard Gersh of Louisville says the law is aimed mostly at rural areas where ophthalmologists are scarce.

“I’m not going to do laser [surgery] here. In order to do laser, you have to have enough patients to pay for the laser and most optometric practices don’t have that many patients that it would justify getting one. I will continue to refer to my ophthalmologists at this point.”

Ophthalmologists oppose the law. They say even if optometrists are certified to do certain procedures, they still won’t have the proper medical training. In addition, they’re concerned the law will put a strain on Medicaid, as optometrists begin filing more claims for procedures.

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Local News Politics

Beshear Signs Optometry Bill

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has signed the so-called optometry bill into law.

The measure quickly cleared the General Assembly this year. It gives optometrists the ability to perform certain medical procedures now reserved for ophthalmologists, who are medical doctors. The bill has drawn some criticisms because of its speedy passage and the hundreds of thousands of dollars optometrists spent lobbying and supporting political candidates in recent years.

Gubernatorial candidate and Jefferson County Clerk Bobbie Holsclaw has asked state and federal officials to investigate the issue to see if any rules were broken in the months before the bill passed.

Beshear released a statement after signing the measure saying it will give Kentuckians greater access to eye care.

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Local News Politics

Optometry Bill On Its Way To Beshear

It wasn’t introduced until February. Neither House and Senate leaders nor the governor ever mentioned it as a priority. But a bill allowing optometrists to perform certain surgical procedures currently only done by ophthalmologists—who are medical doctors—is on its way to Governor Steve Beshear for his signature.

It passed the House 81-14, over the objections of Representative Bob DeWeese, who’s a medical doctor.

“Ophthalmologists have been to medical school. They’ve spent five years in surgical training of the eye. And I just wanted to point that out to the body. There is a difference,” he says.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo is defending the legislation. Stumbo admits the bill was heavily lobbied by optometrists, but does not believe it poses any health dangers.

“We all certainly hope that none of the fears do play out. But again, the experience of the other state that has this type of legislation – Oklahoma – it’s been in effect over a decade. That’s not been the case in Oklahoma,” he says.

Aside from DeWeese, the other medical doctor in the House, Representative David Watkins, also opposed the bill.

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Local News Politics

Federal Budget Cuts Changing Research, Fundraising

A Louisville-based foundation that raises money for medical research says cuts in federal support for science and health projects has put more pressure on philanthropists to finance research.

National Foundation to Support Cell Transplant Research board chair Paula Grisanti says the new focus on cutting the federal budget and stopping earmarks in Congress could potentially devastate research projects that rely on federal grants.

“It’s pretty grim,” she says. “Obviously earmarks are off the table for the foreseeable future and funding for research in general in the US is getting very tight.”

Grisanti’s foundation secures money from private sources to help finance research at the University of Louisville and other institutions. She says demand for private dollars has increased over the last few years, especially since the National Institutes for Health budget has been stagnant.

“As federal funding decreases the need for philanthropic funding increases. The imperative now is to increase our fundraising efforts, to work harder than ever,” she says. ”

Grisanti says the foundation has no specific fundraising goals for this year.

Grisanti was interviewed recently in the Lane Report.

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U Of L Receives Grant For Palliative Care

The National Institutes of Health has awarded a 1.5 million dollar grant to the University of Louisville for a new oncology program.

The program focuses on palliative care, which combines medicine, nursing, social work and religious education to provide broad care for cancer patients. Students in each discipline will be required to take new courses in palliative medicine so they can better work together to treat patients.

“Palliative medicine includes, but is not limited to, the traditional view of end-of-life care and hospice work. Palliative care starts the day of cancer diagnosis for all patients, focusing on the alleviation of symptoms in the bio, psychosocial, and spiritual realms,” says U of L Chief Medical Officer Mark Pfeifer. “It meets [patients] at their symptoms, their goals, their worries, their environment, their family. It combines everything, then, from advanced, invasive pharmaceutical procedures, to prayer and music.”

The grant will be paid out over five years as the program is developed.

“For the first year, we’ll be working on specific design details and complex curricular changes for the students. In years two, three, and four, we will implement the new model. And in year five, we will evaluate, refine and disseminate the program,” says Pfeifer.

Pfeifer says some palliative treatments are performed at U of L, but doctors, social workers, nurses and chaplains are not currently required to train together.

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New Dental Practice Act Becomes Law This Month

by Gabe Bullard

Among the legislation passed by the Kentucky General Assembly this year was an updated dental practice act, which will become law this month.

The new act takes effect July 15th. After that, the Board of Dentistry has 180 days to revise and confirm the set of regulations that accompany the act.

The regulations deal with various dental practice issues, including fees for practicing dentists. Board director Brian Bishop says patients will notice little affect from the new regulations.

“From a patient standpoint, you’re probably not going to notice much of anything different, to be honest with you, because we haven’t changed the practice of dentistry,” he says. “We’ve only worked on the kinds of things dentists have to do for licensure and that kind of stuff.”

Several dentists voiced their concerns with the new regulations and fees in a series of meetings earlier this year, and public comments will be taken once more after the 15th. The Board of Dentistry is financed entirely by fees and fines.