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Florida hospitals face a cash crunch from COVID

Florida hospitals face a cash crunch from COVID

During the first week of March in 2020, Sarasota Memorial Hospital was treating a record number of patients, and hospital leaders were trying to figure out where to park the dozens of excess cars. The patient traffic wasn’t COVID-related — it was “just normal hospital visits or health care visits,” recalls David Verinder, president and CEO of Sarasota Memorial Health Care System — but by month’s end, as the COVID-19 pandemic began to sweep through the nation, the campus looked more like a ghost town. “Volumes dropped through the floor,” he says. [Source: Florida Trend]

Coronavirus pandemic takes toll on teen mental health in Florida

When the pandemic shut down Florida schools last year, it was thought to be a short-term precaution to get the spread of the virus under control. So Maya, a 17-year-old student at Sarasota High School, reacted to the closure like a typical teenager. "At first, it was actually kind of fun because it was something we've never done before," she said. But as weeks turned into months, the pandemic has had taken a toll on the mental health of teenagers. And the rise in depression and anxiety comes at a significant age in their development, experts say. [Source: WUSF]

Health advocates in Florida renew call for postpartum Medicaid extension

The Florida Legislature is in the final stages of negotiating a budget to send the governor for the upcoming fiscal year. One sticking point: a House proposal to extend Medicaid for people who give birth. They’d get a full year of coverage, up from 60 days. Jamara Amani is a midwife based in South Florida. She says extending Medicaid coverage would bring down the high maternal mortality rate for Black Floridians. [Source: WMFE]

Florida researchers say marine products show promising future in medical advancements

The beaches of Florida attract visitors from far and wide, making the east and west coasts popular vacation destinations. The surface level beauty of the beach environment is what tends to draw in the masses, but scientists are far more interested in what happens beneath the surface. “Not many people right now are looking in the ocean for new drugs, but more and more are starting to because it is becoming more recognized as a treasure trove for new drugs,” Hendrik Luesch, a professor and chair of the department of medicinal chemistry at the University of Florida, said. [Source: Health News Florida]

Florida House backs more power for physician assistants

The Florida House overwhelmingly approved a bill Wednesday that would broaden the “scope of practice” for physician assistants, authorize them to prescribe 14-day supplies of psychiatric controlled substances for minors and bill insurers for services. The House voted 106-5 to pass the bill (HB 431), after sponsor Bob Rommel, R-Naples, made a change Tuesday that would cap the number of physician assistants a doctor could supervise at one time. Under the bill, doctors would be authorized to supervise up to 10 physician assistants at a time. Current law limits the number of physician assistants a doctor can supervise to four. [Source: News Service of Florida]


› Nursing home group urges lawmakers to keep them a priority in budget conferences
A prominent group representing nursing homes is asking lawmakers to continue investing in the state’s elderly. Nursing home residents were some of the hardest-hit victims of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 11,000 long-term care facility residents have died in Florida, as have 100 staff members. “We understand that there are tough decisions to be made, but nursing center residents need our state leaders to continue making them a priority,” said Florida Health Care Association CEO Emmett Reed.

› New Sanford infusion center aims to keep COVID patients out of hospital
A new antibody-infusion treatment center opens Monday in Sanford, offering hope that Central Florida residents recently diagnosed with COVID-19 can recover quickly and stay out of the hospital. “It’s basically mimicking the body’s natural response to fight off the virus,” said Janelle Dunn, CEO of True Health, which operates seven nonprofit community health clinics in Seminole and Orange counties. “But it does so much more quickly. Many individuals report feeling markedly better within 24 hours.”

› Non-emergency medical transportation bill headed to DeSantis
The Florida House on Wednesday unanimously passed a bill (SB 348) that would require the Medicaid program to pay Medicare deductibles and cost sharing for non-emergency transportation services. The Senate had previously passed the measure, meaning it is now ready to go to Gov. Ron DeSantis. Medicaid is the safety-net program for poor, elderly and disabled residents and is jointly funded by the state and federal governments. It is administered by the state Agency for Health Care Administration.

› University of Florida Health, NVIDIA develop AI model for clinical trials, medical decision-making
Researchers with the University of Florida’s academic health center — UF Health — announced today that they have collaborated with NVIDIA researchers to create GatorTron, an artificial intelligence transformer natural language processing model intended to accelerate research and medical decision-making by extracting insights from massive volumes of clinical data with unprecedented speed and clarity.