UPDATE: Ebola Has Landed in Dallas

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Centers for Disease Control
Transmission electron micrograph of the Ebola virus
UPDATE, 3:44 p.m.: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that a patient at Dallas' Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital is the first case of Ebola confirmed in the United States.

UPDATE, 5:13 p.m.: At a news conference in Atlanta, CDC Director Tom Frieden said federal, local and state health officials will contain any threat that Ebola will spread further locally. "I have no doubt we'll stop this in it's tracks in the U.S.," he said. Doctors' first concern is treating the patient, who traveled from Liberia September 19-20, but didn't start developing symptoms until the 24th.

Ebola patients are not infectious until they show symptoms, and Frieden downplayed any worries that the patient might have infected anyone on board his flight to the United States, where he was visiting family members.

Public health care workers with the CDC and in Texas have already begun the process of identifying anyone who might have come in contact with the man, who is in intensive care. Friedan said the number of potential contacts during the period the man became infectious is likely to be small -- a handful of family members and one to three others. Those who came in contact with the patient after he likely became infectious will be monitored for 21 days.

Patient privacy laws prevent authorities releasing the man's name or any information that might identify him.

ORIGINAL POST: Dallas County Health and Human Services gave an update Tuesday morning on the status of a patient potentially infected with Ebola currently being cared for in isolation at Dallas' Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital and the county's' preparation in the event an Ebola case is confirmed. No details have been given about the patient, other than that he or she is being kept in "strict isolation" and was admitted based on symptoms and "travel history."

"This is not Africa," DCHHS Director Zach Thompson said. "We have a great public health infrastructure to deal with this type of disease."

Christopher Perkins, the medical director for county health services, made it clear the risk for outbreak is low because Ebola cannot be spread through the air. Ebola can only be spread through contact with blood or bodily fluids.

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Vice Went Undercover at a Dallas Crisis Pregnancy Center

Categories: Healthcare

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Youtube via Vice News
This is not an abortion clinic.
Vice magazine posted a video expose of crisis pregnancy centers to its YouTube channel earlier this week. Beyond the standard stuff -- like anti-abortion activists admitting that the best crisis centers are ones that women think are abortion clinics -- the video includes undercover footage from White Rose Women's Center.

The center is on Routh Street, separated from the Routh Street Women's Health Clinic -- an actual abortion provider -- by a fence. As seen in Vice's report, women calling the center asking about abortion are misled. Prices and services provided can only be discussed, a White Rose employee says, if a woman visits White Rose in person.

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Green Oaks Hospital Is Retraining Staff, Presumably to Stop Discharging Recovering Homeless Patients to Boarding Houses

Categories: Healthcare

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Dan Cox
Before Parkland placed a patient named Todd Arko in what the feds described as "immediate jeopardy," nearly costing the hospital its Medicaid funding, there was another, lesser-known hospital that the feds say also placed a patient in immediate jeopardy.

Green Oaks is a private psychiatric hospital that in February 2013 was contracted out by Parkland to "revamp" the county hospital's psychiatric services after federal regulators and The Dallas Morning News uncovered a bunch of horrendous things in Parkland's psych ward. The two hospitals ended the deal in July 2014, but Green Oaks, though private, still receives some Medicaid funding of its own.


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Surprise Bills from Texas Emergency Rooms Enough to Give Even the Insured a Heart Attack

Categories: Healthcare

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Taber Andrew Bain
If you're in the back of an ambulance and have control of your hand, you should probably try to call the hospital and find out if the on-call ER staff are in your network.

What's that? Your arm just fell off? Naturally your first reaction might be something along the lines of, "Thank goodness I'm insured!" Your next reaction might be to scream in agony, but instead you might want to suck it up, save your breath and tell the ambulance driver not to take you to Baylor University Medical Center.

Don't misunderstand -- Baylor doctors will probably patch you up just fine. But according to a new report, even insured patients are more likely to be saddled with horrendous bills after visiting the emergency room at Baylor or dozens of other ERs across the state. On Monday, the Center for Public Policy Priorities outlined "balance billing" problems in Texas. That's the bill insured patients are saddled with after they unknowingly accept care from an out-of-network physician.

The report focused on emergency room care, and cited Baylor as one major in-network hospital that works with the three largest state providers -- Humana, BlueCross BlueShield and United Healthcare -- but does not have any in-network emergency room doctors.

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The Future of Women's Healthcare in Texas Looks Bleak. What's Next?

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Stephen Young
One of two Dallas clinics that will remain open.
Listening to the oral arguments before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday confirmed what advocates for reproductive rights feared upon seeing the three-judge panel selected to hear the Texas' appeal of a lower-court ruling striking down two sections of House Bill 2, the 2013 legislation enacted to restrict access to abortion. Two of the judges, Jerry E. Smith and Jennifer Elrod, seemed ready to rule in favor of the state, as they did in a previous challenge to HB2. They peppered Stephanie Toti, the attorney representing the clinics bringing the challenge, with questions about whether reducing the number of abortion providers in the state to eight would actually pose an "undue burden" to women in the state seeking abortions.

As defined in federal case law, a law fails to meet the undue burden standard if it is too restrictive of one's fundamental rights. The standard has also been applied when a law lacks what former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens called a "legitimate, rational justification."

No major medical organization has ever agreed with the contention made by proponents of HB2 and similar laws that its major requirements -- that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and that clinics providing abortions meet the standards for ambulatory surgical centers -- make women safer. In fact, as Dr. Hal Lawrence, the CEO of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said, the full implementation of the law could lead to women seeking out illegal abortions or failing to get necessary prenatal care, endangering themselves in the process.

See also: How Texas' New Abortion Restrictions Have Actually Impacted Access to the Procedure

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Dallas Jury Awards Woman Largest Amount So Far in Vaginal Mesh Lawsuit

Categories: Healthcare

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Hal Samples
Dallas County jurors last week spent about three hours deliberating before they awarded Martha Salazar $73 million, the largest amount of money any plaintiff has received so far in a vaginal mesh lawsuit. Most of the thousands of lawsuits that women have filed against Big Pharma over the devices are stuck in a federal court in West Virginia, but a few suits have escaped that slow system and have ended up in local civil courts, including Salazar's suit against Boston Scientific.

"I have not seen any device that I'm aware of that has a $70 million dollar verdict on a single case," says Tim Goss, one of Salazar's attorneys.


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Everything You Need to Know About Friday's Court Hearing on Texas' Abortion Law

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Stephen Young
Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas' new Dallas Ambulatory Surgical Center
It's September 11, and the harshest restriction in Texas' new abortion law, its requirement that all abortions take place at an ambulatory surgical center, has yet to go into effect.

HB2 was supposed to become the law of Texas on September 1, and the ACS rule would have immediately shuttered all but seven of the state's 22 abortion providers, but on August 29 U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel found the surgical center requirement unconstitutional, giving the clinics a reprieve. How long the reprieve lasts is up to three judges on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, and the immediate future for clinics is not promising.

See also: Planned Parenthood's New HB2-Proofed Clinic Opens in Southern Dallas

As its did in 2013 after Yeakel struck down HB2's requirement that any doctor performing an abortion have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of his or her clinic, the state immediately appealed his latest ruling to the 5th Circuit. Unlike in the first case, the appellate court did not grant an emergency stay allowing the law to go into effect. Instead, it scheduled a hearing Friday over whether to let the law go into effect while appeals wend their way through courts.

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Call to Remove Fluoride from Water Keeps Chugging on Dallas City Council

Categories: Healthcare

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kvitlauk
Future Dallas ISD school picture day. Say cheese!
In the U.S., common knowledge -- that's a polite term for bigoted slander -- says the English have the worst teeth in the world. That's an unkind thing to say, and maybe not even true, as anyone who has traveled parts of the South can attest. So to soothe hurt feelings among our British allies, we offer the following good news: Someday in the future Dallas might replace the U.K. as the capital city of scary smiles if a group of fluoridation opponents have their way and fluoride is removed for the city's drinking water.

If a trend on the City Council continues, they just might.

The anti-fluorites have become a regular appearance at City Hall over the past several months, but at last week's City Council briefing, two council members jumped on board. Sheffie Kadane and Scott Griggs agreed that fluoridation does not do enough good for Dallas teeth to balance the cost.

CLARIFICATION: Griggs contacted us Tuesday morning and said he did not say at the meeting he agreed with Kadane on the benefits and costs of fluoridation -- although that's what Kadane told us. Griggs has said in the past that he's open to studying the issue though, according to reports in The Dallas Morning News.

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Feds Say Parkland Is No Longer Placing Patients in Jeopardy, Still Needs to Fix Discharge Policy

Categories: Healthcare

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Parkland has until November to fix its discharge policy and governing board, or the hospital will lose its Medicare funding, the Texas Department of State Health Services announced today. On the plus side, Parkland isn't placing patients who dare visit the hospital in jeopardy anymore, according to the feds.

"We have determined that while the immediate jeopardy to patient health and safety has been removed," the Texas Department of State Health Services wrote to the hospital today, "Parkland Health and Hospital System remains out of compliance with the following," which are vaguely described as "governing body" and "discharge planning."

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The Financial Cost of Repairing North Texas VA Hospital's Reputation

Categories: Healthcare

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Ildar Sagdejev
The VA Hospital system has a reputation to repair after the scandal this spring. So how much is that going to cost the North Texas VA hospital?

The VA Hospital system has taken a beating in the last several months. Between the Arizona scandal unearthed this spring about veterans dying while waiting for care and continued reports of absurdly long wait times -- this summer, the average veteran in Texas waited 60 days for an appointment, compared to 5 days for citizens -- the VA system is struggling to clean up its reputation.

See also: The Texas Medical Association Wants to Pair Vets with Private Docs in Wake of VA Scandal

Which is likely why the North Texas VA Hospital is increasingly contracting with private physicians to cut down on wait times. But the effort comes at a high cost: Froylan Garza, a spokesman for the North Texas VA Hospital, says the hospital expects it will spend upward of $70 million this fiscal year in contracting with private care physicians.

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