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Headlines for Friday, September 3, 2021

Investigation Finds Kansas Overpaid Millions in Medicaid Payments

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) –Auditors at the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services are scrutinizing the state’s Medicaid records after federal investigators found that the state paid millions of dollars in aid to people who had died. Kansas contracts with three private companies to coordinate health care for individuals enrolled in KanCare, the state’s Medicaid program. The companies get paid a flat monthly amount per enrollee. But investigators at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found the KanCare payments sometimes continued after recipients had died. Between 2017 and 2019, Kansas paid its Medicaid operators $18 million in monthly fees for dead people. Investigators have found similar problems in a dozen other states. Kansas has now recouped most of the money and says it is checking records going back to 2013, when the system of monthly payments began.

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U.S. Hospitals Hit with Nurse Staffing Crisis Amid Pandemic

UNDATED, (AP) - The COVID-19 pandemic has created a nurse staffing crisis that is forcing many U.S. hospitals to pay top dollar to get the help they need to handle the crush of patients this summer. The problem, health leaders say, is twofold: Nurses are quitting or retiring, exhausted or demoralized by the crisis. And many are leaving for lucrative temporary jobs with traveling-nurse agencies that can pay $5,000 or more a week. The explosion in salaries has wreaked havoc on hospitals without deep enough pockets.

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With Schools in Session, Doctors Fear New Wave of Child COVID Cases

UNDATED, (AP/KPR) - Children are making up an increasing number of patients filling Missouri hospitals during the summer COVID-19 surge, and some doctors worry that the return to school will lead to more illnesses. In the Kansas City area, Children's Mercy Hospital reached its capacity on Monday. Doctors worry that with thousands of children returning to schools that mostly don't have mask mandates, a new wave of illnesses among children is imminent. St. Louis this week saw a record number of hospitalized children with COVID-19, including 10 who are in ICU.

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Kansas City Hospitals See More Children with 'Long Haul' COVID-19 Symptoms

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KCUR) - The University of Kansas Health System says adults are not the only ones showing up with lingering symptoms from COVID-19. Doctors at KU say they are treating a group of children experiencing long-term effects from the virus. KU has set up a “long-haul” clinic that connects pediatric patients with different treatments depending on their symptoms. Symptoms seen in younger patients are similar to those seen in adults with long-haul syndrome. Those symptoms can include fatigue, headaches, brain fog, dizziness and shortness of breath. The Delta variant of the virus has fueled rising hospitalizations at Kansas City's only pediatric hospital, Children’s Mercy, in recent weeks. Children's Mercy reached a record number of COVID-19 patients earlier this month, exceeding highs seen last winter. Doctors at Children’s Mercy said that the surge of COVID patients and a recent spike in other pediatric illnesses have filled up their capacity.

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Kansas Health Officials: Don't Take Ivermectin for COVID-19

HAYS, Kan. (KNS) - As COVID-19 cases rise across Kansas, the state health department is warning people not to take Ivermectin to try to fight off the disease. The medicine, mostly used in livestock, is already making some Kansans sick. At least seven people have landed in Kansas emergency rooms after taking Ivermectin. And nine more have called the state poison control center. It’s part of a nationwide trend of people believing false claims that the horse and cattle dewormer helps COVID symptoms. But the state health department warns that it hasn’t been proven to fight the virus, and taking it could be deadly. Because the medicine is meant for large animals, it’s highly concentrated and toxic to humans. Symptoms of ivermectin overdose include vomiting, diarrhea, hallucinations and seizures. In a statement, health secretary Lee Norman said the vaccine remains the most effective way to prevent COVID-19. Find a free COVID-19 vaccine near you.

There will be NO update of Kansas COVID-19 statistics on Monday due to the Labor Day holiday. 

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Kansas City Area Hospitals to Require Employee Vaccination

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KNS) -The University of Kansas Health System has announced that it will require all hospital workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by December 1st. KU Medical’s announcement comes after Saint Luke’s Health System and Truman Medical Centers in Kansas City also issued vaccination mandates to their workers. The KU Health System has more than 10,000 employees statewide. Administrators said a majority of its physicians and employees have already been vaccinated.
 
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Kansas Governor Kelly Announces New COVID Workgroup

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) - A new statewide task force will release a weekly School Safety Report as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Kansas schools. Governor Laura Kelly announced the formation of the Safer Classrooms Workgroup this week in Wichita. The group will include pediatricians, school nurses and other health professionals. The report will include county-level data on youth vaccinations, hospitalizations, and deaths. It also will list schools with active COVID outbreaks. Kansas schools have become a flashpoint in the debate over wearing masks and Kelly says that needs to stop. The Andover, Mulvane, and Arkansas City school boards all adopted mask requirements for students and staff this week.

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Abortion Providers in Kansas, Other States Prepare for Influx of Pregnant Texas Women

UNDATED (AP) - A Texas law that bans most abortions has providers and advocates preparing for an increasing number of women traveling to other states to end their pregnancies. Clinics are gearing up to boost an aid network meant to ensure women can access the procedure even if it is outlawed in their home state. The Texas law that took effect this week bans abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, typically around six weeks. In states like Kansas and Colorado, where abortion is more accessible, providers and aid organizations said they already are seeing more inquiries from Texas women. But traveling out of state is not an option for some.  

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Eudora Man Charged in Deaths of Two People in Reno County

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - A Eudora man is charged with two counts of first-degree murder after the bodies of two men from Hutchinson were found last week in Reno County. Kyle Hardwick made his first court appearance Thursday and is being held on $2 million bond. He was arrested Wednesday in Maize. Authorities found the bodies August 27 in eastern Reno County. The names of the two victims and information about a possible motive have not yet been released. Reno County Sheriff Darrian Campbell said the three men were acquainted and agreed to meet at the rural site, apparently to look at a new gun one of them had purchased.

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Tyson, Perdue Farms Shell Out $36 Million to Settle Antitrust Claims

UNDATED, (HPM) - Tyson and Perdue Farms have agreed to pay a total of $35.75 million to broiler chicken farmers to settle a class action lawsuit. It’s part of a larger antitrust lawsuit involving some of the country’s largest chicken processors, including Pilgrim’s Pride, Sanderson Farms and Koch Foods. Harvest Public Media reports(link is external) that the lawsuit was originally filed in 2017 in the Eastern District of the Oklahoma federal court. Gary Smith Jr., a partner at Hausfeld LLC, a law firm representing the broiler chicken farmers, says the lawsuit alleges the companies conspired to suppress wages by agreeing not to hire a grower from another company, known as a “no poach” policy. “In a competitive market, you would go out, and you would try to attract the best labor you could have,” Smith says. The lawsuit also alleges the chicken companies use Agri Stats, a data website, to share compensation data and suppress wages. Tyson and Perdue Farms have agreed to cooperate in the prosecution of the remaining defendants in the case. Pilgrim’s Pride, Sanderson Farms and Koch (COOK) Foods are still fighting the lawsuit in court.

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Highway Patrol: Salina Man Killed in Western Kansas Crash

COLBY, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Highway Patrol says a Salina man has died in a two-vehicle crash on a western Kansas roadway. The crash happened Wednesday afternoon on Interstate 70 near Colby. Authorities say 75-year-old Frank Herman died at the scene. The driver of the pickup truck, a 27-year-old woman from Breckenridge, Colorado, was seriously injured.

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Governor Sends Kansas National Guard to Help with Hurricane Recovery Efforts in Louisiana

TOPEKA, Kan.(KPR) - Governor Laura Kelly has announced that the Kansas National Guard will be deployed to Louisiana to provide support in and around areas affected by Hurricane Ida. The soldiers and airmen are deploying as part of an Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a multi-state agreement that allows states to send government aid to other states in emergency situations. “In times of crisis, Kansans have always stepped up to help out our fellow Americans – and today is no different,” Kelly said. Approximately 280 Soldiers and Airmen will deploy for this mission, which is expected to last 21 days, including travel. The guardsmen will take engineering equipment such as skid steers, dump trucks, chain saws, and excavators. They will also be taking other equipment which includes generators, light medium tactical vehicles, high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles, and palletized load system trucks.

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Longtime Missouri Inmate Will Wait Weeks for New Court Date

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Missouri inmate who has been in prison for more than 40 years for a triple murder many believe he didn't commit will wait several more weeks for a court hearing that could lead to his release. On Thursday, a Jackson County judge set a September 13 court date to hear arguments over motions in 62-year-old Kevin Strickland's case. A date for a hearing during which prosecutors will argue that Strickland should be freed was not set. Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker has said evidence that convicted Strickland in 1979 has been disproved or retracted. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt believes Strickland is guilty and has fought his release.

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K-State Lands $3.68 Million Grant to Continue Research into Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever Vaccine
 
MANHATTAN, Kan. (KPR) — Kansas State University has received a $3.68 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to continue work on tick-borne diseases. Roman Ganta, director of the Center of Excellence for Vector-Borne Diseases in the College of Veterinary Medicine at K-State, says the grant supports research into vaccine development for Rocky Mountain spotted fever. The disease, which has high mortality rates, is primarily caused by the bite of a tick infected with Rickettsia rickettsii. This pathogen infects both dogs and people in the United States and is prevalent in Mexico, Central America and South America. "Unless some of these infections are diagnosed quickly and treated, death can occur within a short timeframe," Ganta said. " Infections are often misdiagnosed as people may not always realize ticks have bitten them. That makes it very important to have vaccines that can be used to prevent infections." Recent vaccine studies under Ganta's direction demonstrated the feasibility of vaccine development preventing severe Rocky Mountain spotted fever. "The NIH grant is a great testimony for our hard work and is also a big boost to our efforts to promote the college's goal of impactful research," Ganta said.

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Ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick Due in Court in Sex Assault Case

BOSTON (AP/KPR) — Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick is due in court to face charges that he sexually assaulted a 16-year-old boy during a wedding reception in Massachusetts nearly 50 years ago. The 91-year-old McCarrick is scheduled to be arraigned in suburban Boston's Dedham District Court more than a month after he was charged. McCarrick is the only current or former U.S. Catholic cardinal ever to be criminally charged with child sex crimes. An attorney for McCarrick had said after the charges came in July that they looked forward to addressing the case in the courtroom. Pope Francis defrocked McCarrick in 2019 after a Vatican investigation. After McCarrick was removed from ministry, he lived in the small western Kansas town of Victoria, near Hays.

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Study: Kansas Has One of the Highest Rates of Registered Sex Offenders of Any State

UNDATED, (KC Star) - Kansas is among the states with the highest rate of registered sex offenders in their populations. That’s according to a new study released by SafeHome.org, a home and personal security company. The Kansas City Star reports that the study, which looked at state sex offender registries across the country and their respective populations, found that Kansas ranked in the top 10 when adjusted for population differences. As of Tuesday, the Kansas registry included the names of 11,071 sex offenders. About a third of the offenders (3,581) are registered at addresses in Sedgwick County. Kansas came in 22nd in the overall number of sex offenders on its registry when compared to other states and the District of Columbia. The SafeHome.org study ranked the state as having the 10th highest rate of registered sex offenders in the country, or 378 per 100,000 residents. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation maintains the searchable sex offender registry in Kansas. The SafeHome.org study also found that Kansas had the same rate of child sex abuse reports as the national average, 83 per 100,000 children. Authorities and victims advocates have long said, however, that actual rates are probably higher across the U.S. because these types of crimes often go unreported.

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Economy Grows at Healthy Pace in Nine Midwest, Plains States

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - A new monthly survey of business leaders suggests the economy keeps operating at a healthy pace in nine Midwest and Plains states, including Kansas, but supply delays and shortages of workers are limiting growth in the region. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss said strong job growth continued but businesses are having trouble finding workers to hire. The monthly survey covers Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Oklahoma and four other states.  

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These area headlines are curated by KPR news staffers, including J. Schafer, Laura Lorson, Kaye McIntyre and Tom Parkinson. Our headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members. Become one today!  

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