Abe Aboraya

Health News Florida Reporter

Health News Florida reporter Abe Aboraya works for WMFE in Orlando. He started writing for newspapers in high school. After graduating from the University of Central Florida in 2007, he spent a year traveling and working as a freelance reporter for the Seattle Times and the Seattle Weekly, and working for local news websites in the San Francisco Bay area. Most recently Abe worked as a reporter for the Orlando Business Journal. He comes from a family of health care workers.

Contact Abe at 407-273-2300 x 183 on Twitter @AbeAboraya or by email

The Robinson family

Matthew Robinson loved to have eggs for dinner.  But they were out the evening of November 4, 2010. So the 10-year-old and his brother Mark walked out of their Kissimmee apartment and headed across the street to the Kangaroo convenience store. 

While crossing the street to come home, a city bus made a left turn into the crosswalk and hit the two boys. Mark Robinson grabbed a hold of the bike rack on the front, and crawled out from the bus.

But the back tire crushed Matthew Robinson to death.

Abe Aboraya / Health News Florida

Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald visited Orlando Friday to see the state's newest VA hospital.

While the former Proctor and Gamble executive has made reforming VA bureaucracy his top goal, that message has been drowned out by controversy surrounding comments that he had served in special forces – even though he didn’t.

McDonald spoke with reporters including Health News Florida reporter Abe Aboraya, who explained the visit with WMFE 90.7’s Crystal Chavez.

U.S. Patent Office

Orlando on Monday approved its part of two tax packages to bring 100 jobs to Orlando.

And one seeks to solve an age-old problem: Patients not taking their pills.

  – pronounced Smart X Inc. – could move its headquarters from New York to Orlando. The company is testing a smart pill bottle to tell doctors in real-time if patients have stopped taking a prescription.

SMRxT is pilot testing with Florida Hospital. In total, it’s seeking a $330,000 incentive package from the state to create 55 high-paying jobs.

Megan Milanese / Health News Florida

The Agency for Health Care Administration on Friday announced it will let 22 new nursing homes open across the state, and will allow another 11 existing facilities to expand.

The highly competitive bid process ends Florida’s 14-year ban on new construction.

Orlando Senior Health Network, owner of Orlando Lutheran Towers, was one of the winners. CEO Alicia Labrecque said the companies will be able to build space for 2,600 nursing home beds.

Health First

There’s more legal trouble for a Brevard County hospital this week.

Health First is already facing an antitrust case, and now a similar whistleblower lawsuit was unsealed this week as well. Health News Florida reporter Abe Aboraya spoke with WMFE Host Crystal Chavez about the case.

Chavez: So what’s being alleged here?

Abe Aboraya / Health News Florida

Nursing home beds have been in short supply in Florida for more than a decade.

But the Agency for Health Care Administration on Friday will authorize its top picks to add another 3,100 spots across the state.

The end of this 14-year moratorium can’t come soon enough for Lillian Lara of Orlando.

Her 87-year-old father fell in December and, after a hospital stay, he’s had a bed in the short-term rehabilitation section of The Commons at Orlando Lutheran Towers.

CentralFloridaBehavioral.com

The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration on Tuesday approved a 48-bed expansion for an Central Florida hospital.

Central Florida Behavioral Hospital’s $11.8 million expansion will be used for adult psychiatric patients, and brings the hospital’s total bed count to 174.

The expansion of the facility located in Orlando near Sea World, would add 37,000 square feet of new construction. Company officials expect the beds to open in January 2017 and will create 70 jobs.

Wikimedia Commons

 Two competitors are suing to stop a new psychiatric hospital in Brevard County from being built.

A judge said this week that he wants a hearing on the case by this summer on the 74-bed, $16.4 million hospital approved by the state last December. But Devereux Florida, a nonprofit behavioral healthcare services provider, is asking a judge to reverse that, saying it can provide the care with its 100 beds. 

No one directly involved with the case responded to interview requests.

Florida Senate

State Sen. Aaron Bean said a proposed telemedicine bill is likely to pass this session.

Bean, chairman of the Senate Health Policy committee told a business-friendly health conference in Orlando Monday that a key is incorporating the treatment of patients using Medicaid, the public health insurance program for the poor.

Lakeland Regional Medical Center

Lakeland Regional Medical Center is embarking on a two-year building spree.

The independent, non-profit hospital will close on $180 million in tax-exempt bonds Thursday to pay for $297 million in construction over the next two years.

The hospital, located off Interstate 4 between Tampa and Orlando, will add a new eight-story women and children’s pavilion, expand its emergency department and build an inpatient rehab center. Since 2000, the city of Lakeland’s population has jumped 25 percent, just shy of 100,000 residents.

Florida is getting closer to allowing doctors to prescribe medical marijuana.

But first, rules for how to grow the non-euphoric strain of the drug have to be hashed out — and that’s what a committee will be discussing over the next two days in Tallahassee.

The Florida Department of Health will have to pick the best five growers for medical marijuana in Florida, but they won’t be using a lottery to pick. A judge threw out the state’s original plan after Winter Park’s Medical Cannabis Association filed suit.

Health First

A massive anti-trust lawsuit against Brevard County's Health First hospital system could go to trial as soon as this summer, on charges it has a ‘vertical monopoly’ on health care.

Health First officials weren’t available to discuss the lawsuit Friday, but the hospital will likely lay out its defense in court filings in the next 30 days. After that, both sides produce evidence. And in July, a possible jury trial.

An anti-trust lawsuit that claims Brevard County’s biggest hospital system has a monopoly cleared its first court hurdle.

U.S. District Judge Roy Dalton’s decision allows Omni Healthcare, a Brevard County physician practice, to continue its lawsuit against Health First.

Abe Aboraya / Health News Florida

Bill Gettle has been on the brink of death from a heroin overdose more than once.

Three years ago he overdosed and had to be revived with a reversal drug called Narcan.

“I didn’t really care,” Gettle said. “I was using amounts I knew I’d seen other people die from. In my early 20s, I lost more than one friend to overdose.”

Gettle is a 44-year-old general contractor in Orlando, and working through a 12-step program now. He’s had two years of sobriety, minus a few slips off the wagon.

An Orlando man is facing 37 charges for taking $1.8 million from investors. Gus Papathanasopoulos, Founder and CEO of Neofat Industries Inc., is in custody in a hospital bed because of an undisclosed health condition.

His company had a patented process to combine vegetable and coconut oils, billed as a health product. Papathanasopoulos sold $1.8 million worth of stock starting in 2002. State officials say Papathanasopoulos loaned himself $1.3 million from the company and then forgave the loans as CEO.

YouTube

It’s a familiar sight for many commuters: a yellow school bus slows to a stop, a red stop sign swings out, and children get on or off the bus.

Passing a school bus that’s stopped could soon get you a reckless driving charge in Florida, according to a new bill proposed this week.

The new bill is called Gabby’s Law for School Bus Stop Safety. It’s named after 12-year-old Gabby Mair, who was hit by a car after getting off the school bus in DeBary in 2010. The next day, she was pronounced brain dead. 

The long-awaited Orlando VA hospital in Lake Nona is 95 percent complete.

That’s according to builder Brasfield & Gorrie, which says parts of the $665 million facility have been turned over the VA.

Orlando VA spokesman Michael Strickler said veterans could start being seen as soon as spring, with summer the target for the hospital to be fully operational.

“We’re almost there, leaning heavily forward, to try and get veterans in the door,” Strickler said.

Abe Aboraya / Health News Florida

Orlando Health will start seeing patients January 26 at a brand new tower.

It boasts more natural light, bigger rooms and more space. But other improvements could help to reduce potentially deadly infections patients can get in hospital.

Vascular surgeon Jon Wesley said the goal is zero infections. He points to all-private rooms with sinks for hand-washing that can help.

Orlando Health

The incoming CEO of Orlando Health will take over an eight-hospital system that’s once again profitable when he starts his new job.

But there are still challenges facing the CEO of Florida’s second-largest hospital system.

David Strong got his start in health care mopping surgery floors in high school.

He’s now president of Rex Healthcare in North Carolina, which was recently named a top-100 hospital by Thompson-Reuters. He also created a fund to spur investments in health care innovation.

Strong says his first job at Orlando Health will be to listen.

TheFreshStopBus.com

The promise of a new year often comes with a familiar resolution: eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and get healthy.

But for the 23.5 million Americans living without easy access to a grocery store, eating healthy isn’t easy.

One Central Florida nonprofit this week started bringing a mobile farmer's market into neighborhoods that need it.

Orlando Health has chosen a new president and CEO.

David Strong will take over as CEO of the $2.1 billion health care system in April.

Orlando Health Board Chairman Dianna Morgan said they choose Strong out of a dozen candidates because of his focus on patient satisfaction and his reputation with doctors.

“Really creating an environment where it makes it very easy to practice,” Morgan said. “Those are really the things we heard over and over again.”

State officials are meeting in Orlando this week to hash out new rules for a form of medical marijuana that doesn’t get you high.

The so-called Charlotte’s Web bill was passed over summer, and the Florida Department of Health was supposed to have rules in place by January 1 to implement the law.

But now a judge’s ruling on a controversial provision of the regulations is causing a do-over.

Competition to become Florida’s first medical marijuana supplier is fierce.

Orlando Health’s board of directors is about to offer the job of CEO to someone new.

Regardless of who it is, analysts say one thing is for sure: that chief executive will likely earn more than $1 million in salary and benefits to run the state’s second-largest hospital system of eight hospitals and more than 1,700 beds.

www.healthcare.gov

A program that rewards or punishes health care providers for providing better, cheaper care is expanding. The federal government announced 89 new organizations this week, including five in Florida.

Accountable Care Organizations, or ACOs, are groups of doctors and hospitals which agree to coordinate care for Medicare patients.

If they save money, the ACOs then split the savings with the federal government.

  The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services this week announced 89 new ACOs. That brings the total to 424 across the U.S.

Fourteen people have been indicted over their links to a deadly meningitis outbreak – including two Central Floridians.

New England Compounding Pharmacy Inc. was blamed for the 2012 outbreak that sickened 678 people and killed 64, including 25 infections and three deaths in Florida. The charges include racketeering, conspiracy and second degree murder.

Winter Park residents and pharmacy owners Carla and Doug Conigliaro are among the 14 former owners or employees of a Massachusetts pharmacy charged Wednesday by federal prosecutors in Boston.

Abe Aboraya / Health News Florida

George Dawson has the rough hands of a carpenter and a grizzly grey beard. He’s on his hands and knees pulling weeds out of a red mulch flower bed at the Orlando VA Medical Center’s administration building.

“This community service ain’t too bad,” Dawson said. “I joked when I said Becky had me under the lash. It’s not hard. You just gotta do what you’re responsible for.”

Dawson is clean and sober, and a small business owner: He repairs and resells broken pallets. Thirteen months ago, it was a different story.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

A holiday party that sickened 55 office workers in Maitland this week has been reported to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The luncheon put 20 people in the hospital, including a pregnant woman.

If the Maitland outbreak happened in 2013, it would have ranked No. 8 on Food Safety News’ list of top 10 largest outbreaks.

Here’s how foodborne illness lawyer and Food Safety News publisher Bill Marler put it:

Some sexual assault victims in Central Florida will now be able to get low-cost treatment closer to home.

That’s because of an agreement between the local Planned Parenthood and Victim Service Center announced this week. Planned Parenthood’s new Kissimmee clinic is now part of a referral agreement with Victim Service Center, which runs the local 24-hour rape crisis hotline.

Victims of rape and sexual assault will get access to free initial and follow-up screenings for STDs like HIV, as well as reduced-cost emergency contraception.

Taber Andrew Bain, via Flickr Creative Commons

Some Central Florida hospitals are ramping up plans to get patients signed up for insurance - when they come to the emergency room.

Both Florida Hospital in Orlando and Orlando Health are expanding a program that puts federal health care marketplace navigators in the hospital during the open enrollment season under way.

Trained counselors are already in place at five Orlando Health locations, said Tom Yoesle, the chief operating officer of revenue management for Orlando Health.

The former director of Scotland’s National Health Services said the U.S. health care system would benefit from further integration.

Derek Feeley, speaking at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s national forum on quality improvement, said the U.S. should blur the lines between health care and social services.

Feeley imported the U.S. model for patient safety.

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