Illinois Public Media News
Researchers at the University of Illinois are part of an international group of scientists that's decoded the DNA of the domestic pig.
Their research may one day prove useful in finding new treatments for both pigs and people, and perhaps aid in efforts for a new swine flu vaccine for pigs.
Larry Schook is the U of I biomedical science professor who led the project. He says the pig is the ideal animal to look at lifestyle and health issues in the United States. That's because pigs and humans are similar in size and makeup, and swine are often used in human research.
Researchers announced the results of their work today at a meeting in the United Kingdom. Schook says they'll spend the meeting discussing ways to use the new information.
A substance abuse treatment facility in Urbana is about to take clients for the first time in four years.
A federal grant will enable Prairie Center Health Systems to open the doors to its renovated Day Treatment Program, which had been closed in 2005 through cuts in state funds. CEO Bruce Suardini says the $476,000 will provide a year of therapy and related services to 100 clients. He says the money is not only for helping addicts recover but to help them rebuild lives and relationships:
"It affects the whole family. It affects the whole psyche of a person," Suardini said. "So part of the things we try to do is wrap around the other services because it might be finding a job for a person that really starts the catalyst of changing the alcohol abuse or the drug abuse. We look at education, getting people some credentials. We look at employment. We might be looking at housing."
Prairie Center Clinical director Mary Evans says without day treatment, clients for what services the facility could provide wound up on its waiting lists, in the court system, or hospitals.
The Day Treatment Program will open next month when staff has completed its training. Prairie Center will treat its clients five days a week and provide transportation.
A proposed combination of Carle Foundation Hospital and Carle Clinic Association may not settle ongoing tax issues surrounding health care facilities in Illinois - in fact, it may complicate them.
Carle Hospital - a not-for-profit company with tax exemptions - plans to purchase Carle Clinic Association, a separate, for-profit firm. The combination would be considered a not-for-profit company.
A University of Illinois law professor says the move makes good business sense. John Colombo says integrating the two organizations will help improve work flow, cost and the way patients get care. But he wonders what may happen if the combined Carle seeks tax exemptions for clinic buildings after paying taxes on them for years. Colombo says local governments will keep a very close eye on that.
"If I were the county assessor or on the county board of review, at this stage I'd demand a lot of evidence that there is serious charity care work going at these sites (Carle Clinic's facilities), and if couldn't get this evidence from Carle I'd recommend a denial of tax exemption and at this point let Carle litigate the issue, Colombo said.
Colombo says doctors who held an ownership stake in Carle Clinic would lose some autonomy under such a deal, but he says they may also get more job stability in return. Those doctors -- and state regulators -- still have to approve the deal. Carle is not granting interviews on the proposal.
Carle Hospital is challenging the loss of its tax-exempt status for property taxes. State and county officials ruled that Carle was not providing enough charity care to qualify.
A not-for-profit hospital and its sister organization, a for-profit clinic, propose integrating in to one not-for-profit group.
Carle Foundation Hospital and Carle Clinic Association have operated as separate entities, but now the Carle Foundation wants state approval for a 250 million dollar purchase of the clinic by the hospital organization. The deal would also involve Health Alliance Medical Plans, which would remain a for-profit organization.
Carle says in a press release that the merger would reduce costs and increase cooperation between the hospital and clinic. The physicians who have a piece of ownership in Carle Clinic would become Carle Foundation employees. They have yet to approve the merger, as do members of the state's Health Facilities and Services Review Board. They meet November 4th in Urbana to hear comments.
Additional doses of H1N1 or swine flu vaccine have allowed Champaign-Urbana's Public Health District to start turning its attention toward priority groups.
A clinic to treat the youngest of populations starts Tuesday at the district offices. Administrator Julie Pryde says the goal of vaccinating those six months to five years of age first is protecting those who are in day care or some other home care setting, where they're around many other young kids.
The initial doses last week were used to treat health care workers in the area. Pryde says now that those vaccinations are mostly done, pregnant women can get their shots through primary care physicians. And she says those facilities will also be treating those with infants six months or younger, with the goal of treating older children by next Monday.
"We're hoping to get everybody in the preschool population who wants it this week, assuming our vaccine holds out we'll get those done in the next week. Then, hopefully if we get the vaccine in we'll start in the schools. Everything is dependent on the vaccine that comes in," Pryde said.
The Public Health District has received a total of 14,500 doses of the vaccine. Pryde says that amount came in quicker than anticipated. The district has ordered a total of 100,000 doses.
The walk-in clinics for six months to 5 year-olds will run Tuesday through Friday at the CUPHD offices on West Kenyon Road from 10 to 7. Pryde says the district will likely hold one or two clinics for preschool age kids in rural Champaign County as well this week.
For quicker service, parents are advised to print and sign the consent forms available on the district's web site at c-uphd-dot-org.
The owners of a bar in Hoopeston will be the first to pay a fine for violating the Smoke-Free Illinois Act.
Vermilion County Health Department Administrator Steve Laker says there have been several complaints regarding Deano's on Main. But the $100 fine stems from one incident last March, when a health department worker found a customer smoking while on a routine inspection. An administrative law judge upheld the fine late last month.
Laker says it's become easier to seek out fines against bars and restaurants for smoking since March. Now the process is handled by administrative fines, rather than criminal penalties handed out by a state's attorney's office.
And Laker says he expects complaints to pick up. "These places that we've had multiple citations on, we're just going to randomly inspect them - we're not necessarily going to wait for complaints," says Laker. "Now this is the time of year that complaints start coming back in because it's cold outside, it's windy, it's wet. And so they want to smoke inside instead of outside, so we'll start getting more complaints." Illinois' first administrative hearings over violations of the smoking ban were recently held in Champaign. The Hoopeston bar must pay its $100 fine by December, or owners won't be able to renew food service permits.
The advent of a potentially rough flu season means restrictions on visitors at at least one hospital in east-central Illinois.
Provena United Samaritans Medical Center in Danville is forbidding anyone under 18 from visiting patients during the influenza season. Chief nursing executive Molly Nicholson says it's to protect both patients and visitors from seasonal flu or H1N1. As for adult visitors, Nicholson is asking people to exercise their better judgment.
"If they are ill, our preference would certainly be that they not be here as visitors. If they must visit, we will ask them to wear a mask and use proper hand hygiene as they are visiting the facility," Nicholson said.
Nicholson says social isolation is effective at keeping influenza from spreading, particularly among children. Provena United Samaritans is asking parents with appointments to not bring their children along. But Nicholson says the restriction does not extend to children needing treatment.
In Urbana, Provena Covenant Medical Center and Carle Foundation Hospital both say children are still allowed to visit except for certain departments such as the neo-natal unit.
Vermilion County's Health Department won't provide seasonal flu clinics for the first time in over 30 years.
Administrator Steven Laker says it's not receiving enough doses of the vaccine from a distributor to even hold one day of the walk-in clinic, despite being told by a distributor two weeks ago that enough would be available. That will force a few thousand people to get their shots from clinics and retail pharmacies.
Laker contends public health departments are being squeezed for vaccines by those pharmacies. And he says it's not a supply problem, but rather one of distributors meeting federal demands for H1N1, or swine flu vaccine:
"So they had a dual production stream going -- H1N1 and seasonal flu," Laker said. "My conjecture is that the vaccine is manufactured -- they just can't get it packaged and distributed while they're settling their federal contracts."
Laker says the department will get 600 doses of seasonal flu vaccine to fulfill contracts for vaccinating state and county workers. An additional 300 doses of children's vaccine will be available by appointment only while supplies last.
Vermilion County's flu clinics have been held each year since 1976. Laker says another concern is they're a revenue stream -- his department stands to lose about 50-thousand dollars. But he says it's too soon to say what other programs might be affected.
Meanwhile, demand for flu vaccine at the U of I's McKinley Health Center has temporarily suspended shots to faculty, staff, retirees, and state workers. Director Dr. Robert Palinkas says some students may even be turned away as it works with a limited supply. He says it's unclear when additional vaccines will become available.
Proposed rules prompted by the deaths of two Illinois dental patients would increase the training that's required for dentists and their staffs.
The changes are meant to prevent tragedies like the death of a 5-year-old girl who slipped into a coma after being sedated during a routine procedure at a Chicago dentist's office.
That death in 2006 was followed the next year by the death of a 46-year-old Chicago school principal who suffered cardiac arrest while under sedation for a root canal.
The proposals are on the Web site of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. The department is accepting public comments. The rules are subject to review by the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules.
As the national debate over health care ensues, the Illinois Supreme Court is considering a case over a Urbana hospital's tax status. The outcome, claim hospital officials, could lead to reduced medical services and higher prices.
Justices will have to decide if Provena Covenant Medical Center provided enough free or discounted care to poor patients to qualify as tax exempt. The state in 2003 determined the answer was no and forced the Catholic-run hospital to pay property taxes.
Assistant Attorney General Evan Siegel defended the state's action before the court. He says the year before, only 300 of Provena's 110 thousand admissions received charity care, not enough to deserve tax breaks.
"It doesn't matter whether an organization itself is charitable," Siegel told the high court. "What matters is whether its using the property for a charitable purpose."
But Provena's attorney, Patrick Coffey, argues the hospital qualifies because it cared for any and all patients, regardless of their ability to pay.
"It doesn't matter what amount of charity, here free care ... was given," Cofey said. "Free care was given without limit."
The court's decision has widespread ramifications statewide. If nonprofit hospitals have to pay taxes, there's speculation they would increase prices or cut back services. The high court is expected to issue an opinion in coming months.
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