Stronger Houston: Houston logging some of nation’s highest HIV diagnoses; health officials hoping for vaccine in near future
The southern part of the U.S. accounts for 51% of new HIV cases each year. This is according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some regions throughout the south also lag in providing HIV prevention services and care.
Houston woman sentenced to federal prison after creating bills for fake patients in $10M Medicare fraud scheme, DOJ says
A 59-year-old Houston woman has been sent to federal prison following her conviction of committing and conspiracy to commit health care fraud, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced.
St. Joseph Medical Center in Houston opens new Latino Health Center for Spanish speaking patients
St. Joseph Medical Center in downtown Houston aims to accommodate the Latino patient population and cut down on a national problem with non-English speaking patients facing higher rates of hospital readmissions.
Monthly subscription service for healthcare? New options for your family medical needs
Health insurance can be costly for families and employers. But did you know you have other options to get covered and avoid paying a tax penalty? Direct primary care is all the special treatment, at a more affordable cost.
KPRC 2 Investigates: Woman denied coverage after paying premiums for 20+ years
You think you are doing the right thing planning long-term for your future. But one Deer Park family is learning that long-term care insurance isn't the safety net they thought it was. KPRC 2 Investigates is helping one viewer looking for answers to why his mom can’t get the help she needs.
‘Obamacare’ survives: Supreme Court dismisses challenge to Affordable Care Act
Though increasingly conservative in makeup, the Supreme Court rejected the latest major Republican-led effort to kill the national health care law known as “Obamacare” on Thursday, preserving insurance coverage for millions of Americans.
Texas Gov. Abbott hosts roundtable discussion, provides COVID-19 update with Houston health care professionals
Greg Abbott held a roundtable discussion and deliver remarks alongside health care professionals on Tuesday at Houston Methodist Hospital. Following the roundtable, Abbott held a brief news conference and provide an update on COVID-19 vaccination efforts. Some Harris County vaccinations were supposed to start today. However, Harris County officials say they were delayed until Wednesday because of logistical issues. Chambers County officials said they have a limited number of vaccines and pre-registration will be required.
Local healthcare workers decide whether or not to get COVID-19 vaccine
HOUSTON – As the country anxiously awaited approval for the COVID-19 vaccine, healthcare workers on the frontlines at the Texas Medical Center were making plans. I directly take care of COVID-19 patients. Considering she works directly with COVID-19 patients, she believes the vaccine is important to get. Hatfield said, for now, she plans to wait on getting vaccinated citing concerns about the speed at which the vaccine was produced along with any possible risks. I’m tired FaceTiming families who can’t come in even people who don’t have COVID-19 can’t have visitors,” Rao said.
The Latest: India's downward trend in new cases continues
(AP Photo/Channi Anand)NEW DELHI — India has reported 48,648 new coronavirus cases, continuing a downward trend in infections even as the country’s caseload has crossed 8 million and is only behind the U.S. The country confirmed 808 new cases on Thursday, bringing the cumulative COVID-19 cases to 100,334, including 712 cases found on a cruise ship earlier this year, according to the ministry figures. About one-third of the cases come from Tokyo, where 221 cases were confirmed Thursday, bringing a prefectural total to 30,677, with 453 deaths. Italy added a record number of new confirmed cases Thursday at more than 26,000. ___LONDON — The World Health Organization says Europe had a record 1.5 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the last week and has reached 10 million of the 44 million global cases.
Unemployed and uninsured? Here are affordable healthcare options for Houstonians in need
HOUSTON – Houston is home to the largest medical complex in the world, with more than 100,000 healthcare workers. But it’s still a struggle for many to find affordable healthcare options because they don’t have insurance. AdBut KPRC 2 found there are options for good healthcare for those without insurance. Legacy offers adult primary care, pediatric care, dental, vision, mental health and OB/GYN care, as well as low-cost prescription drugs. Express Family Clinic has offices in Spring, Conroe and New Caney, and offers low-cost healthcare without insurance.
Historic nationwide investigation, with Texas ties, uncovers more than $6B in healthcare fraud, opioid abuse
The investigation alleges more than 100 doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals participated in healthcare fraud and opioid abuse. Therefore, collaboration is critical in our fight against health care fraud. The massive health care fraud investigation was led and coordinated by the Criminal Division, Fraud Section’s Health Care Fraud Unit, in conjunction with its Health Care Fraud and Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid (ARPO) Strike Force program, and its core partners, the U.S. The cases were prosecuted by Health Care Fraud and ARPO Strike Force teams from the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, along with 43 U.S. Here is the full press conference regarding the national health care fraud and opioid takedown:
Top federal health officials visit Baylor College of Medicine for an update on COVID-19 vaccine trial
Two of the country’s top health officials, Eric Hargan, the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and U.S. Four vaccines are now in Phase 3 human trials, including one at Baylor College of Medicine. Health officials said they won’t support a vaccine’s approval unless the trial includes a large and diverse group of volunteers. Getting a safe and effective vaccine across the finish line, from a research point of view, is only step one of the process. They discovered delivering substantial quantities of a vaccine, which health officials said could happen by the end of the year, will logistically be the hardest vaccine distribution in history.
Doctors using baby monitors in fight against COVID-19
HOUSTON – A tool for new parents is now being used by doctors in the fight against the coronavirus. Baby monitors can be a comfort or added stress to new parents. There’s a variety of baby monitors for parents to choose from, such as a monitor that goes on the baby, often the foot, and connect to the wireless cameras and monitors, which will alert the parents if a baby’s breathing is irregular. The hope is that such baby monitors will help parents monitor their children in their sleep and help eliminate Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. It’s another tool that’s been tough to come by during the pandemic but they’re starting to come back.
LIST: Houston-area hospitals are relaxing visitor policies as area positivity rate goes down
HOUSTON – Houston-area hospitals are beginning to relax their strict visitor policies as the positivity rate in the area is on the downturn. Here’s a look at the visitor policies for some of the area’s largest hospital systems as of Monday, Aug. 31:As of Monday, the Memorial Hermann hospital system will allow more visitors inside its hospitals. Now, the hospital will allow one visitor per patient in acute care facilities, TIRR Memorial Hermann and the Memorial Hermann rehabilitation hospital in Katy. Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital will also now allow two adult visitors per day. Nursing facilities, imaging centers, breast care centers, sports medicine and Memorial Hermann medical group clinics will continue to enforce their no-visitor policies.
Texas officials want to cut funding for women’s health services while preserving an anti-abortion program
Texas health officials proposed the cuts while taking great pains to avoid belt-tightening in most other programs that offer direct services in health care. But not all line items in the Texas health and human services budget were preserved. In total, Texas health officials came up with $15 million in direct cuts to programs, with a quarter of those coming from women’s health. Unlike traditional women’s health programs, state law does not require extensive reporting on private contractors that provide anti-abortion counseling. “Every dollar you invest in women’s health, I think you save something like $3 in unintended Medicaid births” covered by the government, she said.
Texas hospitalizations below 7,000 for first time in weeks
AUSTIN, Texas Texas reported fewer than 7,000 hospitalized coronavirus patients for the first time in six weeks Thursday, but that encouraging sign was clouded by questions over testing as schools reopen and college football teams push ahead with playing this fall. Demand has curtailed to the point that in Austin and Dallas, health officials have expanded eligibility for testing, including those who are asymptomatic. Were not having enough people step forward to be tested as we did before.Numbers from Texas health officials this week, however, offered a hazy picture of how much testing has fallen. On Wednesday, the seven-day infection rate average in Texas hit a record 24%, suggesting that roughly one in every four coronavirus tests in Texas was coming back positive. Falling testing demand is also a factor, said Lara Anton, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of State Health Services.
The crushing isolation of nursing homes during the pandemic
As the pandemic reached the U.S. and began ravaging nursing homes soon after most states with coronavirus outbreaks closed visitation at long-term care facilities. After the governor allowed businesses to gradually reopen in May and June, infections in nursing homes and assisted living facilities soared. At the end of July, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services started sending devices to nursing homes that can perform antigen tests on-the-spot within minutes; 372 have been allocated so far at Texas more than 1,200 nursing homes. But the new requirement to test all staff weekly could be a Catch-22 for nursing homes: those with no active case arent prioritized to receive those testing devices. Werner and Margie Stalbaum in May 2020, about two months after Texas nursing homes were locked down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
UTMB Health expected to lay off 200 as budget falls short by $174M, officials say in letter
Raimer said there is a $174 million budget shortfall, due in large part to the financial crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. “We anticipate approximately 200 positions, or 1.5% of our workforce, will ultimately be eliminated as we close the budget gap,” Raimer wrote in the letter. “Concurrently, some departmental reorganizations also will be implemented over the next several weeks.”UTMB Health letter on layoffs (KPRC)The hospital system tried to hold off layoffs by having employees take one day off per week, using vacation time for eight weeks. They also tried to hold off on giving upper-level staff bonuses as a cost-cutting measure. UTMB Health has operations in Galveston, League City, Webster and Angleton and clinics across Southeast Texas.
FDA has fast-tracked promising drug to treat COVID-19 patients and it is in trial at Houston Methodist
HOUSTON – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has fast-tracked a promising drug to treat COVID-19 patients and it is in trial at Houston Methodist Hospital. The drug is called RLF-100 and is also known as aviptadil. It has been approved by the FDA for emergency use at multiple clinical sites in patients who are too ill to enter the FDA’s Phase 2/3 trials. According to a press release from the drug maker NeuroRX, independent researchers have reported that aviptadil blocked replication of the SARS coronavirus in human lung cells and monocytes. The drug has been successful in reducing lung inflammation and so the FDA now says any doctor at any hospital can request this treatment to help severely ill COVID-19 patients.
FULL INTERVIEW: Houston-area doctor in viral video touting hydroxychloroquine as virus cure doubles down on claims
When is the last time he put a stethoscope on a patient’s [inaudible] and I’m willing to ask him that. I don’t know why people are getting crazy about this. I have the data, I’m going to publish it, but what would that do? They don’t know it. Joel: I don’t know.
More than 10,000 virus patients remain in Texas hospitals
AUSTIN, Texas Texas continued to report more than 10,000 patients hospitalized with the coronavirus Monday as the state tries containing the spread in what has become one of America's biggest hot zones. Greg Abbott warns that the worst is yet to come in Texas, state health officials reported more than 40 new deaths and 5,600 new cases following what had been the deadliest week of the pandemic in the state. In order to help combat the growing surge of coronavirus cases in the state, a U.S. Army medical task force arrived in Houston Monday. The 85-member task force comprises of medical and support professionals from the Army Reserve who will help local health care efforts. Houston: Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced 1,544 new cases bringing the citys total to 30,965.
Houston doctors on the frontlines of the COVID-19 war tell tales of grueling shifts, death and tragedy
He has watched 15 of his COVID patients die since the middle of March and it is eating at him. Its really hard talking to the rest of that family, every day, and they were so hoping to be hearing good news. All over the country, exhausted medical workers are giving everything they own in their souls to keep fighting this pandemic. The worst day, I was talking to a patient that was my age. Ive seen the worst of the worst and its horrible what this disease can do to people.
Houston hospitals are increasingly turning away new patients as coronavirus overwhelms emergency rooms
The increase in ambulance diversions, coupled with the spike in patients being held indefinitely in emergency rooms, are the latest indicators that Houston hospitals are straining to keep up with a surge of new coronavirus patients. Typically when people arrive at a hospital emergency department, theyre evaluated and treated by the medical staff. Several other Houston area hospitals have reported holding multiple patients in their ERs, including four with more than a dozen. But he warned that theres a limit to what Houston hospitals can do to respond to the crisis. If a patient believes they have a serious medical issue, they still need to come to the emergency department, McCarthy said.
Gov. Abbott suspends elective surgeries in most Houston-area counties, several counties around Texas
Greg Abbott suspended elective surgeries at hospitals in all counties within 11 of the 22 Trauma Service Areas in Texas on Thursday, including in most Houston-area counties. Abbott previously suspended elective surgeries at hospitals in eight Texas counties seeing the highest surge of coronavirus cases and Harris County was included in that list. These are the counties included in this expanded proclamation:Trauma Service Area Q: Austin, Colorado, Fort Bend, Matagorda, Montgomery, Walker, Waller, and Wharton counties. About 9,610 lab-confirmed COVID-19 patients are currently seeking treatment in Texas hospitals, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. See a map of Houston-area counties that are included in the proclamation below:All the Texas counties included in the proclamation:All counties within TSA J: Andrews, Brewster, Crane, Ector, Glasscock, Howard, Jeff Davis, Loving, Martin, Midland, Pecos, Presidio, Reeves, Terrell, Upton, Ward, and Winkler counties.
Rise in people dying at home suggests coronavirus deaths in Houston may be higher than reported
But by the time Houston paramedics arrived at her home in northwest Houston, Medelln was dead. As coronavirus cases surge, inundating hospitals and leading to testing shortages, a rapidly growing number of Houston area residents are dying at home, according to an NBC News and ProPublica review of Houston Fire Department data. An increasing number of these at-home deaths have been confirmed to be the result of COVID-19, Harris County medical examiner data shows. These increases also echo those reported during outbreaks in Detroit and Boston, when the number of people dying at home jumped as coronavirus cases surged. In May, among people who had died unexpectedly at home, the county medical examiner attributed just six deaths to COVID-19.
Trust Index: Do hospitals get more money from Medicare for COVID-19 patients?
Is Medicare paying hospitals more for COVID-19 patients? When patients are discharged, hospitals assign them a code on their diagnosis and treatment, and Medicare pays hospitals a set amount based on that code. But when Congress drew up the CARES Act, it created a 20% “add on” for treatment of COVID-19 patients. We rate the claim that hospitals make more money from COVID-19 patients as true. We rate the claim that hospitals are falsely tagging patients with COVID-19 to make money as false.
Doctors explain why mutated strain of coronavirus that is dominant in Houston is more contagious but not more deadly
New research published last week, concluded a mutated strain is more infectious, but local doctors said the strain itself isn’t new to Houston and should not heighten concerns. Doctors: mutated strain in Houston since MarchDoctors in the Texas Medical Center have gathered data from local COVID-19 patients since the area’s first positive cases came to light in March. Long served as one of the lead authors in a preliminary study Houston Methodist published in May. A mutated strain? Beyond those measures, health officials say there is nothing more you can do to protect yourself from the mutated strain of the virus.
Nurses at Humble hospital go on strike to demand more PPE, better work conditions
HUMBLE, Texas About 30 nurses and nurse technicians at an Humble rehabilitation hospital took to the picket line Monday to demand more personal protective equipment, hazard pay and better working conditions. The nurses protested outside Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital as they marched along McKaye Avenue. The nurses claim there are not enough nurses for all the patients and protective gear is not being made available. According to its website, Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital specializes in treatment for stroke, brain injuries, and other complex neurological conditions. The nurses on strike say they are in constant close contact with patients and many patients also come from other facilities.
Texas passes 10,000 confirmed new virus cases in single day
AUSTIN, Texas Texas surpassed 10,000 new coronavirus cases in a single day Tuesday for the first time, crossing a sobering milestone rarely seen since the pandemic first hit the U.S. in March. The Houston-area topped 61,000 cases Tuesday with 39,311 cases in Houston and Harris County alone. Mayor Sylvester Turner tweeted Tuesday that there were more than 1,000 new cases reported Tuesday in the city with five more deaths. pic.twitter.com/gqQOmeL4II Sylvester Turner (@SylvesterTurner) July 7, 2020New York and Florida are the only other states to record more than 10,000 new cases in a single day. Texas also set a new high for deaths in a single day with 60.
Internal messages reveal crisis at Houston hospitals as coronavirus cases surge
A MD Anderson Cancer Center building in the Texas Medical Center in Houston on June 26, 2020. These internal messages highlight the growing strain that the coronavirus crisis is putting on hospital systems in the Houston region, where the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 has nearly quadrupled since Memorial Day. As of Tuesday, more than 3,000 people were hospitalized for the coronavirus in the region, including nearly 800 in intensive care. Just as New York hospitals did four months ago, some Houston hospitals have posted on traveling nurse websites seeking nurses for crisis response jobs.If they dont have the nursing staff, then you cant place the patient, Pea said. Houstons public hospitals, Ben Taub and Lyndon B. Johnson, dont have those same resources.
ICU total occupancy in Houston-area hospitals could be surpassed as soon as Thursday, data shows
HOUSTON – Intensive Care Units at hospitals throughout the Houston area could surpass total occupancy as soon as Thursday, according to data released by the Texas Medical Center. Data released Wednesday placed the ICU occupancy percentage at 97% of which 27% are COVID-19 patients. The current growth trajectory for coronavirus in the Houston area suggests ICU surge capacity could be exceeded within the next two weeks. After an ICU reaches its capacity, a hospital will use other spaces to house ICU patients. An unsustained surge means a hospital no longer has space in-house for ICU patients, meaning patients could be housed elsewhere.
Some Texas cities revive plans to add hospital bed capacity at convention centers if coronavirus cases climb
In Travis County, authorities have been quietly recruiting dozens of volunteer doctors and nurses to staff a possible 100-bed hospital in the Austin Convention Center. Since June, numerous metrics to gauge the spread and severity of the coronavirus have lurched upwards in Texas, prompting Gov. Chris Van Deusen, a spokesperson for the state health services department, said the agency has not received requests similar to the one from Austin. He said the local health department could best answer questions about their plans. In Dallas, Johnson said Thursday a pop-up hospital in the convention center would not be set up because a local hospital council and the county expects medical facilities can handle an influx of patients.
Director of Houston COVID-19 ward at 65% capacity says he’s worried about possibility of overwhelming spike
HOUSTON – At the United Memorial Medical Center, the COVID-19 surge is not numbers and statistics. That day, doctors and nurses struggled to save an 82-year-old man with a history of heart disease whose heart had stopped. The same scene plays out daily, at this small hospital in a low-income north Houston neighborhood that primarily treats minority patients. I’m a hundred percent sure it’s going to happen.”The increased patient count at this ward shows the spike has already begun. However, the governor insists that even with the surge in cases, Texas has enough hospital beds and ventilators to accommodate the increase of new cases.
Houston Methodist and UnitedHealthcare back in-network after finalizing an agreement
HOUSTON – Houston Methodist and UnitedHealthcare finalized an agreement that will ensure UnitedHealthcare members enrolled in employer-sponsored, individual and Medicare Advantage plans will continue to receive care at Houston Methodist hospitals and its physicians. The new agreement is effective June 1, meaning UnitedHealthcare members are currently in-network with all Houston Methodist hospitals and facilities. BACKGROUND: 100,000 patients could lose access to doctors at Houston Methodist hospitals due to insurance company’s contract dispute“Our top priority throughout this process was ensuring the more than 1 million members we’re honored to serve in Houston have access to quality, affordable health care, and this new agreement accomplishes that goal. We appreciate Houston Methodist’s collaboration in helping achieve this outcome,” UnitedHealthcare wrote on its website. “We are honored to continue supporting the more than 3.9 million people throughout Texas who depend on us for access to quality and affordable health care.”The previous contract expired on Jan. 1 and hundreds of thousands of people were left scrambling to find new doctors as a result of the dispute between the insurance company and the hospital system.
NASA's next Mars rover honors medical teams fighting virus
(NASA/JPL-Caltech via AP)CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. NASAs next Mars rover is honoring all the medical workers on the front lines of the coronavirus battle around the world. With just another month until liftoff, the space agency on Wednesday revealed a commemorative plate attached to the rover, aptly named Perseverance. The rover team calls it the COVID-19 Perseverance plate, designed in the last couple months. If the rover isn't launched by mid-August, it would need to wait until 2022 when Earth and Mars are back in proper alignment. The United Arab Emirates and China also are preparing spacecraft for launch to the red planet by mid-August.
Houston medical schools bringing quality healthcare to neighborhoods that need it most
HOUSTON – Ashley Howard found her dream job as a community health professional, trained by and working for the University of Houston. She spends her days helping people in the same minority community she grew up in live healthier lives. New approach to serving under-served communitiesThe University of Houston’s brand new medical school is aiming to change that through a ground-breaking program. Her entire $100,000 tuition is covered by the school and her goal is to eventually treat people solely in minority communities. Other Houston-area medical schools are focusing on minority communities as well.
UNREAL! This video shows the view from inside one of the Blue Angels’ jets flying over Houston
HOUSTON – The Blue Angels flew over Houston Wednesday afternoon in an awe-inspiring show of strength and smoke to honor the nation’s healthcare workers who have worked 'round the clock during the coronavirus pandemic. The flight over H-Town was part of the team’s America Strong tour and their next flyover salute will be in New Orleans. A flyover is also being organized by The Lone Star Flight Museum on Friday, where people will have the chance to see nearly 30 rare and historic warbirds. Click here to read more about that flyover. RELATED HEADLINES:Watch the full Blue Angels flyoverHoustonians track the Blue Angels’ Houston flyoverPHOTOS: Here are 24 photos of the Blue Angels flying over the Houston area
Local high school seniors donate graduation funds to help feed 150 health care workers
HOUSTON – The Houston Christian high school senior class is stepping up to take care of healthcare workers at Memorial Hermann’s Memorial City Hospital. The seniors donated about $3,000 of their graduation funds to help provide 150 free lunches. Allen Tseng, chief operating officer for Memorial Hermann’s Memorial City Hospital, said the gesture goes a long way. The Houston Christian high school senior class isn’t just stepping up to help healthcare workers though. They plan to donate $10,000 to the Houston Food Bank on Friday to help families in need.
Houston nurse fighting coronavirus pandemic visits her daughter through a window
HOUSTON – Healthcare workers fighting the coronavirus are making tough decisions, even when they are not on the clock. A Houston nurse separated from her daughter for a couple of days got creative during their last meet-up. Marie McSwain, who practices at HCA Houston Healthcare, said she didn't want to risk her daughter getting ill. "I got home from work one day, and so I asked if I could just stop and window talked to her," McSwain said. She said she stood outside a window, while Elizabeth stood on the other side of the window inside of the home.
Houston Methodist Hospital System fights coronavirus pandemic head-on
HOUSTON – The Houston Methodist Hospital System is at 72% occupancy, according to a spokesperson. More than 100 patients have been discharged from Houston Methodist and recovered from coronavirus as Thursday. Coronavirus patients have been doubling every three to four days at Houston Methodist, according to medical director Dr. Faisal Masud. He said the hospital is seeing a surge in coronavirus patients, specifically those who require intensive care. Houston Methodist is hoping to control the spread with innovative approaches.
‘We’re trying to reduce rates:’ Texas Medical Center responds to workers’ concerns about parking fees
HOUSTON – Parking has become an unexpected financial burden for workers at the Texas Medical Center. KPRC 2 Investigates received several emails from medical personnel upset over having to pay to park in the TMC garages. But, parking serves as the primary revenue generator for the medical complex, the Chief Investment and Planning Officer Tatianna Yale said. "It has been a little hard for us, having to pay parking driving down here because you don't want to take the METRO," she said. Rice University and Methodist collaborated to open up a new free lot Thursday morning in the football stadium's parking lot.
HCA Houston Healthcare shares tips on how to get heart healthy
HOUSTON – February is American Heart Month, and HCA Houston Healthcare is helping us start our journeys to better heart health through education and lifestyle changes. Their network has 13 hospitals, nine outpatient surgery centers, 11 free standing emergency centers and numerous diagnostic imaging centers located across the greater Houston area. Everyone should know the classic symptoms of a heart attack, but not all chest pain feels the same. HCA cardiologist Dr. Pranav Loyalka shared a few tips if you or someone you know experiences symptoms. Start your journey to better heart health by checking in with a health care professional at HCA Houston Healthcare today.