Mary Shedden

HEALTH NEWS FLORIDA REPORTER

Mary Shedden is news director at WUSF.

Since arriving at WUSF in 2013, she has worked as a reporter and as editor of the Health News Florida journalism collaborative.

In the past 20 years, Shedden has told the stories of retired pro athletes in chronic pain, children poisoned by toxic toys, and seniors who nearly overdosed on prescription drugs. 

Her work at The Tampa Tribune and TBO.com, Florida Today and the Gainesville Sun have been honored by professional organizations including the Society of Professional Journalists, Associated Press Sports Editors, and the Florida Society of News Editors.

A graduate of the University of Florida's College of Journalism and Communications, Shedden has lived in the Tampa Bay area since 1999.

Contact her at 813-974-8636, on Twitter @MaryShedden or by email

Ways to Connect

Attempts to provide a specialized form of medical marijuana in Florida continue to be slowed by legal challenges, the News Service of Florida reports. The Florida Medical Cannabis Association joins two nurseries in saying the Department of Health has improperly created rules to allow the strain called “Charlotte’s Web” to be grown and provided to patients in the Sunshine State, according to the News Service.

Lottie Watts

The Florida Nurses Association is recognizing Health News Florida founder and Editor Carol Gentry for her significant and ongoing role in reporting on the state’s most important health issues.

The 2014 Communications/Media Award is being awarded to Gentry, who for four decades has been reporting on health policy and business, and has been holding industry and government officials accountable.

The Florida Department of Health’s plan for the new “low-THC” medical marijuana industry is likely to be delayed as it deviates too much from what lawmakers intended, the News Service of Florida reports. The DOH’s Office of Compassionate Use was assigned to set up regulations for the industry and has held multiple public hearings. But, as the News Service reports, the proposed framework has been criticized by the Legislature's Joint Administrative Procedures Committee.

Child welfare advocates sense a “night and day” difference in the way the state will protect children at risk for abuse or neglect, the News Service of Florida reports. After a year of blistering criticism from the media and Legislature, the Department of Children and Families is increasing the number of child protection investigators and is implementing rapid response teams for child death cases. Legislators attending the DCF’s Child Protection Summit last week said they hope to make more tweaks to laws that helped institute changes, the News Service reports.

The rules setting up Florida’s medical marijuana industry are being picked apart by a legislative panel, the News Service of Florida reports. The Joint Administrative Procedures Committee told Department of Health leaders that many of the rules it suggests violate the law approved by the Legislature this past spring, the News Service reports.

Floridians who want to smoke pot for fun are using the upcoming medical marijuana vote as subterfuge, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri told the News Service of Florida. As one of the strongest opponents to Amendment 2, the sheriff and attorney says there are medical alternatives providing the THC needed to relieve pain and reduce nausea, the News Service reports.

The operator of a 40-bed substance abuse treatment center in the Panhandle has lost its Department of Juvenile Justice contract, the News Service of Florida reports. Youth Services International, which also runs nine other centers in Florida, failed to correct programs involving safety and security for the teen boys in the program.

Sunday is the final day seniors covered by a now-defunct Medicare Advantage plan can select a different policy.

The state’s Department of Financial Services took over operation of the Physician’s United Plan in early June, when it was more than $13 million in debt and unable to pay many creditors.

  

Mary Shedden/WUSF

This week on Florida Matters (Tuesday, June 30 at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday, July 5 at 7:30 a.m.), we take a look at the physics and engineering of extreme roller coasters -- and what they do to your insides – with Jeff Hornick, Director of Design and Engineering at Busch Gardens and Dr. Michael Longley, medical director at Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel, about how to keep that adrenaline rush safe.

Just hearing the CLICK, CLICK, CLICK of a roller coaster car making its ascent makes some of us on the ground break into a cold, cold, cold sweat.

Florida looks to lose more federal money set aside for Medicaid than any state that has opted out of expanding the health care program for the poor, says a new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute.

WellCare

Tampa-based WellCare Health Plans, Inc. has named Andrew “Drew” Asher as senior vice president, and anticipates he will become Chief Financial Officer in November.

Since 2013, Asher has been CFO of Aetna's Local and Regional Businesses, WellCare said in a statement. Prior to that, Asher also spent 15 years with Coventry Health Care, which was acquired by Aetna, serving as its senior vice president of corporate finance.

Add Attorney General Pam Bondi to the list of supporters challenging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s proposed rule linking e-cigarettes and cigars, the News Service of Florida reports. Her support, on behalf of Ybor City’s historic J.C. Newman Cigar Company, comes the same week dozens of other attorney generals asked that the rules regulating e-cigarettes be even stronger, according to the News Service.

Mary Shedden/WUSF

Florida lags behind the rest of the country in vaccinating children for the human papillomavirus. 

Part of the problem started eight years ago, when the HPV vaccine was introduced as a way to prevent a sexually transmitted infection that researchers knew was a major cause of cervical cancer and other disease.

But the shots are recommended for 11- and 12-year-old children. And talking about a vaccine tied to sexual activity made some parents and pediatricians squirm.

A federal appeals court has rejected a request to block a West Palm Beach ordinance banning amplified sounds outside health care facilities, the News Service of Florida reports. In 2013, anti-abortion activists filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the ordinance, which bars sounds from loudspeakers and the like from within 100 feet of any health-care facility's property lines, the News Service reports.

An appellate court has ruled that a defendant’s conversation with a hospital psychotherapist cannot be shared by a deputy that overhead it, the News Service of Florida reports. The 4th District Court of Appeal said the man accused of stabbing a dog has a right to get appropriate medical treatment and should not worry about incriminating himself, the News Service reports.

Physicians supportive of gun control plan to appeal a court ruling that keeps them from discussing gun ownership and the risks with patients, the News Service of Florida reports. The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence is helping with the challenge in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Trauma Drama Over

Jul 29, 2014

Legal efforts to close HCA Healthcare-owned trauma centers in Bradenton and Pasco County have been dropped, the News Service of Florida reports. Tampa General Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa and St. Petersburg’s Bayfront Health filed notices that they will drop the years-long dispute over increasing the number of trauma centers across the state.

Wikimedia Commons

Home health aides, medical assistants and other workers with less than a four-year college degree account for nearly half of the health care workforce in Florida and across the country, a new Brookings Institute analysis reports.

Between 2009 and 2011, a total of 3.8 million people in 10 different “pre-baccalaureate” fields worked in the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas, including eight regions in Florida, said Martha Ross, a Brookings fellow and author of the report released today.

The bitter, three-year battle over the expansion of Florida’s hospital trauma centers may have come to a quiet end, the News Service of Florida reports. No appeals were filed by late Monday in the key lawsuit that pitted established, urban trauma centers against newer, suburban facilities wanting to provide specialized emergency services, the News Service reports.

A new payment system for developmentally disabled Floridians needs to be fixed, the News Service of Florida reports. The so-called ‘iBudgets’ system aimed to give people flexibility in the way state money is spent on services, but the 1st District Court of Appeal ruled that the way the Agency for Persons with Disabilities calculated payments violated state law, according to the News Service.

Wikimedia Commons

Health officials say a mosquito-borne illness that had afflicted Floridians who traveled to the Caribbean has now been transmitted within the state.

The Florida Department of Health on Thursday reported the first locally acquired cases of Chikungunya. A 41-year-old woman in Miami-Dade County and a 50-year-old man in Palm Beach County are out of the hospital and recovering from the illness, which is serious but rarely fatal.

A battle over hospital emergency care for undocumented immigrants could cost the state Agency for Health Care Administration two years’ worth of legal fees, according to the News Service of Florida. Though AHCA dropped an appeal about payments to hospitals that provide emergency services to these immigrants, the 1st District Court of Appeal says it’s still responsible for other costs, the News Service reports.

U.S. News and World Report

Florida's largest hospital is also its best, according to the annual U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals ranking announced today.

Florida Hospital in Orlando earned the state's top spot by ranking nationally in 10 of 16 specialties evaluated in the annual report.   With 1,972 beds, the hospital is the largest in Florida and second-largest in the nation, according to Beck's Hospital Review.

Hundreds of child advocates, officials and social workers told a federal panel in Tampa Thursday that Florida’s child death reforms are not enough to protect its children, the News Service of Florida reports. The Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities heard hours of testimony about changes to a system where hundreds of children have died while on the state’s radar, NSF’s Margie Menzel reports.

A lot more Floridians have health coverage compared to a year ago, but the state continues to have one of the nation’s highest uninsured rates, two new studies show.

An estimated 26 percent of working-age Floridians remain uninsured, according to a new Commonwealth Fund survey that looks at enrollment since the Affordable Care Act enrollment launched last October.

Mary Shedden / WUSF

Unpaid claims. Coverage Denied. Liquidation.

These are not words you want associated with your health insurance company.

Tampa General Hospital

Florida’s Department of Health was within its legal right to revamp the state’s system for establishing new hospital trauma centers, an administrative judge ruled late Friday.

The state’s year-long process to create a new formula to approve trauma centers was done carefully and within responsibilities assigned to the DOH, reads the 71-page order by Judge R. Bruce McKibben of the state’s Division of Administrative Hearings.

Florida can do a better job of caring for its elderly and disabled residents and the loved ones who care for them, a new report says.

The state ranked 43rd nationwide in a new AARP scorecard on long-term care released today, which measured criteria from affordability and access to choice of setting and providers. In particular, Florida placed dead last or near the bottom regarding quality of life and quality of care regarding adults with disabilities.

  Lyn Payne has treated countless patients in her eight years at Mease Dunedin Hospital. She says some stand out, like one particularly grumpy and demanding patient.

"This one night, I was working on the floor and she was my patient. And I knew people would be rolling their eyes -- 'Oh no, it's so and so again’ -- calling. And I decided to just go in there and talk to her,” Payne said.

Physicians United Plan logo

Health care providers under contract with the beleaguered Physicians United Plan are being warned to continue treating patients, as they undergo a special enrollment period to join more financially stable plans .

The Department of Financial Services on Friday said it sent a letter to providers after hearing reports of patients being denied coverage after the Medicare Advantage plan was placed under state control earlier this week. 

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