Updated April 7 to reflect new data. Some Iowa hospitals ramping up their efforts to treat COVID-19 victims will not survive the pandemic without an infusion of cash, the head of the professional association for those hospitals said. Moreover, an rural-urban split that puts rural hospitals at a disadvantage when attracting resources to treat patients will widen, Iowa Hospital Association President Kirk Norris said in an IowaWatch interview. “We need a transition model for rural health care or – even assuming we get back on our feet, and they say this is the next six or nine months – there will be hospitals that will not recover from this and will close in Iowa,” Norris said. “These community hospitals need cash now.
Grinnell College acted ahead of other colleges and universities in the state when moving students off campus and canceling spring graduation. Now, students are figuring out how to handle that when they return to classes – virtually – from spring break.
ByClaire Hettinger and Pam Dempsey/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
With farmers facing increasing stress and depression, Midwestern states and national farm groups are making more efforts to better provide services to alleviate the high rate of suicide among the agriculture industry. Yet in rural areas, this care is more of a challenge. Rural hospitals — often the primary source of health care services in these areas — are closing or merging. Since 2010, 23 hospitals have closed across the Midwest — a loss of nearly 1,000 beds, according to the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program.
An Institute for Nonprofit News investigation by 12 news outlets across seven states found that rural Midwest hospitals have reduced services or merging with larger health systems in an effort to deal with financial and regulatory pressures. Only two of those Midwestern hospitals were in Illinois, but accessing mental health services in rural communities remains difficult. Some groups have decided to address the situation themselves.
A collaborative project including the Institute for Nonprofit News and INN members IowaWatch, KCUR, Bridge Magazine, Wisconsin Watch, Side Effects Public Media and The Conversation; as well as Iowa Public Radio, Minnesota Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Radio, The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, IA), Iowa Falls Times Citizen and N’west Iowa REVIEW. The project was made possible by support from INN, with additional support from the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems. For more stories visit hospitals.iowawatch.org
For example, the organization GROW sets up meetings over Zoom, a video conferencing app, to help those in rural areas experiencing mental health issues.And more than a dozen farm bureau managers in Illinois have taken mental health first aid classes that help people recognize signs of distress. Harry Brockus — the chief executive officer of Carle Hoopeston and Carle Richland in Central Illinois, a collection of hospitals that serves 41 mostly rural counties — said there is a physician shortage across the country and recruitment to rural areas is an even bigger challenge.
“We do not offer the amenities that physicians are looking for,” he said, “such as shopping, schools and different entertainment venues.”
Other challenges in rural areas, such as transportation, housing and access to healthy food, can make rural healthcare costs inefficient and unaffordable, Brockus said.
This has left rural America in a bind when it comes to care for mental health.
This story about immigrant students was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. IowaWatch is the exclusive Iowa partner. Sign up for the Hechinger newsletter. SIOUX CITY, Iowa — The rolling backpack was grey with bright orange zippers. Made by Totto, a popular South American brand, the backpack had been 13-year-old Cristian Rubio’s hand luggage on his flight from Ecuador to the United States a week earlier.
Fewer than half of the vehicles from the Iowa Department of Public Safety’s two largest law enforcement divisions were equipped to give officers the option of locking up weapons in those vehicles with designated equipment such as locking rifle racks or handgun vaults as recently as May 2019, an IowaWatch investigation revealed. Vehicles purchased since 2017 have locking devices to secure firearms beyond locking a vehicle’s door or trunk. The Department of Public Safety declined for safety reasons to provide updated numbers of vehicles with the capability. “Information regarding security and storage of weapons is a significant officer safety concern,” Catherine Lucas, general counsel of the Iowa Department of Public Safety wrote to IowaWatch in a response to a public records request in late September. Adam DeCamp, Division of Criminal Investigation special agent in charge, said a vehicle is secure when its doors are locked.
Internal firearm policy directives for the Department of Public Safety obtained by IowaWatch did not show any policy for the safe storage of handguns in an unattended vehicle.
Iowa Department of Public Safety vehicles sustained a five-year high of $849,878 worth of damage in 220 incidents in 2018, department officials said. Although only six more incidents were reported in 2018 than in 2017, the total damage reported in 2017 was worth $519,429 — $330,449 less than in 2018. The total damage for the two years combined cost $1.37 million. Lt. Rick Pierce, commander of Iowa State Patrol Fleet and Supply, said the cost of repairs may sound like a lot, but the Department of Public Safety has approximately 650 vehicles.
The most common cause of damage was “act of nature damage,” including at least 59 accidents involving deer reported in both 2017 and 2018, funding requests sent to the Executive Council of Iowa reveal. Hail was the second most common with 36 accidents reported to the council in the same time span, records examined by IowaWatch showed.
Fifty-three years ago, I was a high school kid in southern Iowa who knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life: I wanted to be a journalist. The first step on that journey occurred when I walked into the offices of the Bloomfield Democrat and introduced myself to Gary Spurgeon.
He was the editor. But Gary ended up being my “professor” at the Spurgeon School of Journalism. Working for him my final two years of high school and during vacations when I was in college, I learned lessons from Professor Spurgeon that I am now preaching to others a half century later.
Gary was motivated by a higher purpose as a newspaper editor and publisher. He believed a newspaper is much more than merely a business.
ByChelsea Keenan, IowaWatch; Sara Konrad Baranowski, Iowa Falls Times Citizen; Natalie Krebs, Iowa Public Radio; Mark Mahoney, N’west Iowa REVIEW and Michaela Ramm, The Gazette |
Hospital leaders say a policy fix is needed to ensure the future of rural hospitals in Iowa and across the country that are succumbing to financial pressures and closing their doors. Until that fix comes, though, Iowa’s network of rural community hospitals is making tough choices and smart partnerships to get by, a series of interviews by Iowa news organizations collaborating with IowaWatch revealed. Some have dropped OB-GYN services. Smaller hospitals have turned to larger ones to form partnerships, which can
result in the elimination of services to be more cost-efficient but forces
patients to drive out of town for health care. Other efforts to maintain local
hospital care include shifting to more outpatient care, the interviews show.
IowaWatch honored an outstanding journalist and long-time advocate for newspapers during its seventh annual banquet Thursday night, Sept. 26, at the Des Moines Marriot Downtown. Carol Hunter was given the Stephen Berry Free Press Champion Award for a working journalist, journalism group or journalism educator in Iowa. Margaret Johnson was given the Randy Brubaker Free Press Champion Award for an Iowan who has done significant open records work over several years in a role other than journalism. Hunter has been at the Des Moines Register for nearly 15 years, serving as political editor, news director and now as the executive editor of the state’s largest newspaper.