Illinois Public Media News
The Vermilion County Health Department will continue operations for at least another three months. The Vermilion County Board voted 22 to 1 Tuesday night to extend a loan to the health department, in lieu of overdue state funding.
County Board Chairman Jim McMahon says the extension will let the Vermilion County Health Department continue until May --- but with fewer services. That's because county board members also voted 22-1 to formalize more than 400-thousand dollars in budget cuts, eliminating three state grant-funded programs, and cutting 12 jobs. McMahon says a proposal to cut the remaining grant-funded programs from the budget did not come up last night. But he says if the state of Illinois hasn't paid up some of the money it owes the health department by spring, it will be harder to get the county board to continue the loan without cutting even more from the health department's budget..
"It's a very strong possibility, that if the state of Illinois doesn't start paying the bills of this fiscal year", says McMahon, that 53 employees will be let go in an Aprikl or May decision".
McMahon says that would leave about 20 employees to run basic health services --- restaurant inspections, disease control, and water safety. He says he would never allow the Vermilion County Health Department to be eliminated entirely.
McMahon says the the only solution he can see is for the state to borrow money so it can start paying out the grant money it agreed to.
"It's not fair for producers of programs from the state to have to basically borrow money to continue going", says McMahon. He says Governor Pat Quinn should borrow the money "to cover the expense that the state of Illinois has already approved.
Groups representing Illinois hospitals and doctors are disappointed by an Illinois Supreme Court ruling involving caps on some medical malpractice lawsuit awards, but trial lawyers are hailing the decision.
A divided court ruled Thursday that limiting non-economic damages in malpractice cases violates the principle of separation of powers in the state's Constitution. The court says limits the Legislature adopted in 2005 would infringe on the judicial branch's power. In a partial dissent, Justice Lloyd Karmeier says it's the court that is violating separation of powers by second-guessing the Legislature's attempts to reduce health care costs.
Illinois State Medical Society President James Milam says he fears doctors in high-risk specialties will leave the state if their medical liability insurance rates go up as a result of the ruling.
Maryjane Wurth is president of the Illinois Hospital Association. She says the court's decision highlights the need for President Barack Obama and Congress to embrace meaningful medical liability reform as part of health care legislation.
Illinois Trial Lawyers Association President Peter Flowers applauds the decision and says it's time to focus on meaningful insurance reform.
Health care reform has been a dominant issue when candidates for Illinois' US Senate race talk about the country's older Americans... but it's not the only issue. Seniors voting next week in the primary (including Rantoul's Cheryl Melchi, left) are not only questioning the future of issues like Medicare and Social Security but their candidates' ability to address them. AM 580's Jeff Bossert surveyed some East Central Illinois residents for their thoughts.
Several school districts in Champaign County now have a chance to save more money when issuing bonds for school construction projects. AM 580's Jim Meadows reports.
The chance came last week when the Champaign County Board formally designated the county as a "Recovery Zone", ---- an area experiencing economic distress under terms set by the federal Recovery Act. That clears the way for eligible school districts to issue some of their school construction bonds as Recovery Zone bonds --- with the federal government picking up 45 percent of the interest charge.
Cameron Moore of the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission says he's gotten "strong Indications" from the Champaign, Urbana and Rantoul City school districts that they would probably use the Recovery Zone bonds, as they prepare to issue bonds for construction projects in the next couple of months.
Assistant Superintendent Beth Shepperd of the Champaign Unit Four school district says they plan to use about about $1,300,000 in Recovery Zone Bonds as part of their bond issue next month. She calls the opportunity an exciting one, "because it certainly lessens the amount of money that the taxpayers pay for interest, gives us the lowest interest rate available to governmental entitites right now, and gives us more money to good things for our students in the schools." Shepperd says the rest of Unit Four's bond issue will be issued as Build America bonds. She says they are also subsidized under the federal Recovery Act, but at 35%.
The RPC's Moore says the Fisher and Rantoul Township districts could also use the special bonds. But the bonds can only be issued during 2010. The federal government is making $2,349,000 in Recovery Zone bonds available in Champaign County.
Police in Urbana say a thief who made off with hundreds of old X-rays from Carle Clinic probably wanted them for the value of their silver content.
Urbana Police Sgt. Dan Morgan says that on Jan. 13, a man who is believed to have done the same thing at other hospitals in Illinois showed up at the clinic's storage facility and picked up 1,300 packets of X-rays intended for recycling.
Carle Clinic spokeswoman Jennifer Hendricks says X-rays were from 2005 and earlier, and she does not believe the information included with them would be sufficient for identity theft.
Morgan says that if the thief is successful at recycling the X-rays for their silver content, he'd probably get a few hundred dollars --- enough to make the crime a felony.
Before his removal from office, former Governor Rod Blagojevich made it a priority to extend health care to more lower-income Illinoisans. Today more children, their parents and others are covered under state-supervised programs with names like AllKids, Family Care and Illinois Cares RX. But massive budget pressures may make this year's candidates for governor rethink those expansions. AM 580's Tom Rogers looks into what those programs do - and where health care stands in the minds of potential officeholders.
Draft recommendations from an Illinois task force on nursing home safety are drawing both praise and criticism.
Thursday's report recommends increased staffing for nursing homes. Pat Comstock of the state's largest nursing home trade group says that may be impossible. She says it's already difficult to find qualified workers.
Praise for the report comes from Tony Zipple, who heads a Chicago-based nonprofit agency serving people with mental illness.
Zipple gives the task force high marks for recognizing the need for affordable supportive housing. He'd like the state to do more to prevent people with severe mental illnesses from ever having to move into a nursing home.
Illinois ranks highest in the nation in the number of mentally ill adults under age 65 living in nursing homes.
Work could begin this spring on a new Christie Clinic facility in southwest Champaign. The Champaign City Council endorsed the project at its study session Tuesday night. It will be the first development to go up at the I-57 Curtis Road interchange.
Champaign Council members are welcoming the Christie Clinic project, even though it doesn't quite fit the zoning guidelines being developed for the Curtis Road Interchange area --- guidelines meant to avoid the strip-mall look of the North Prospect shopping district. Despite the discrepancy, council members decided that the Christie project is an important one that will get development started in the area.
But Councilman Tom Bruno says he expects the proposed zoning guidelines to still apply to all future development at the Curtis Road Interchange.
"Because a catalyist is a good idea for the area", says Bruno, "I'm willing to go along with these exceptions. But a future developer would be sorely mistaken if he thought my acquiescence to the Christie project would indicate that this is a starting point for somehow chipping away at the concept we have in mind out here."
Another reason the council supports the project --- Christie officials say that once it's built, they can start work on a major renovation to their downtown Champaign clinic.
The new clinic at the Curtis Road Interchange takes the place of Christie's ill-fated Clearview project, which was planned but never built at I-57 and I-74. Phase One will have 60-thousand square feet of floor space --- with future expansions planned up to 200-thousand square feet.
The Champaign City Council will take a final vote on an annexation agreement for the new Christie Clinic site next month.
A Champaign-based agency that provides care for the developmentally disabled in Champaign, Piatt, Ford and Iroquois Counties set its goals high late this year.
The Developmental Services Center set its Tree of Hope campaign goal for 2009 at 100-thousand dollars. It's the group's largest fundraiser of the year. Last year, the goal was set at 75-thousand dollars, and the community contributed 85-thousand.
DSC Development specialist Nikki Kopman admits raising the goal to 100-thousand dollars was a challenge, given the sluggish economy.
But she says the 83-thousand dollars they've received in donations go far --- with about a month left in the campaign --- makes her confident the agency will reach its goal.
"There was definitely thought on both sides of the fence of 'wow that's really high', but 'we really need it'", says Kopman. "The economy's really bad, but this community really rallies around social services and the needs of the community. We see that personally here at DSC. But any time you turn on the news or pick up a newspaper for this area, our community is very good about lifting everyone else
Kopman says costs for the Tree of Hope fundraiser are kept at a minimum. Local sponsors underwrite brochures sent in the mail, billboards, and the lights for the Tree of Hope itself, a live tree located at the corner of North Prospect and Marketview in Champaign, so that almost all of the money donated can go directly to helping people with developmental disabilities.
Each donation between November 1st of this year and January 30th helps the Tree of Lights campaign. Donations can be made online through the Developmental Services Center website, at www.dsc-illinois.org.
A recall of nearly 5-million doses of H1N1 flu mist vaccine is not expected to impact the availability of the vaccine in Champaign-Urbana and Champaign County.
Champaign-Urbana Public Health District Administrator Julie Pryde says the recall -- including around 2-thousand doses in Champaign County --- is not due to any safety issues, but simply pertains to the vaccine's effectiveness if no administered by the end of January. The doses of flu mist are made by one manufacturer, Maryland-based MedImmune, which announced the recall. Pryde says her department still has plenty of other doses left of both the mist and injection forms of the vaccine. She also says anyone who received the recalled vaccine doesn't need to worry about its effectiveness.
Pryde says such recalls shouldn't come as a surprise.
"That's not unheard of, certainly for a live-virus vaccine to do that", says Pryde. "You have to keep it under very specific conditions, which we do. We monitor it constantly. The good thing about this is we have received plenty of vaccine now. If this had happened earlier, it could have really caused a problem, as far as people wanting it and not being able to get the vaccine."
So far, about 45-thousand people have been vaccinated for swine or H1N1 flu so far in Champaign County.
Meanwhile in Indiana, state health officials say about 110-thousand doses of the recalled vaccine were distributed --- but about 70-thousand have already been used. Indiana Health Commissioner Judy Monroe says the recalled vaccine poses no safety problems and children who received only one dose of the two-dose immunization series should complete the second dose.
(Additional reporting by the Associated Press)
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