Bryan Thompson

Bryan is the health reporter for Kansas Public Radio.

The rate of drug overdose deaths in Kansas has more than doubled since 1999, but the rate has gone up even more in many other states.

As a result, Kansas now has the eighth-lowest drug overdose mortality rate in the country, according to a new report from the non-profit Trust for America’s Health.

According to a new report, more than 145,000 women in Kansas were uninsured last year. That’s a little less than 17 percent. But a majority of Hispanic women in Kansas—53.4 percent—have no health insurance. That’s one of the highest rates in the country.

The first-ever statewide report on infections occurring in Kansas hospitals shows progress against two specific types of infections.

Hand-washing is one of the most important precautions to keep from spreading germs to susceptible patients. Hospitals are also trying to use urinary catheters only when there’s no other option. They’re also reducing the use of central lines—IV ports that go into a large blood vessel.

The results from 2011 show that Kansas is well below national averages for usage of those devices, and for the infections that result.

The EPA has proposed new carbon emissions standards for coal and gas-fired power plants built in the future. However, it's unclear whether the rule will apply to the expansion of a coal-fired plant in southwest Kansas.

If the new standards are applied to the expansion of the Sunflower electric generating station, near Holcomb, it could get expensive. The plant would likely have to capture some of the carbon it produces, and store it below ground. Sunflower’s Colorado-based partner has told the EPA the new rule should not apply because they’ve already commenced construction.

The Wolf Creek Nuclear Generating Station, the only nuclear power plant in Kansas, remains shut down due to problems with an air conditioning compressor. The unit is needed to cool safety-related equipment.

Operators shut down the reactor late Wednesday afternoon when they noticed abnormal vibration in the compressor while doing maintenance work.

A nursing home watchdog group says Kansas nursing home residents would benefit from increased requirements for direct care from nurses and nurse-aides in nursing homes. Current regulations require adequate staffing to provide each resident a minimum of two hours of direct care daily.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has taken the only nuclear power plant in Kansas off of its special "watch list" for plants with problems needing closer scrutiny.

The NRC has listed Wolf Creek in the “degraded performance” category for more than a year. That’s the next-to-the-lowest of four ratings. Those problems have been resolved, and the plant has been upgraded to normal status.

Flickr photo by momentimedia

The CDC says nearly seven percent of middle and high school students have tried e-cigarettes, and more than two percent are current users. Erika Sward, of the American Lung Association, says the rapid growth is due in large part to an aggressive marketing campaign.

“We’ve seen glamorized ads on TV. We’ve seen flavors that come in e-cigarettes now of bubble gum and cotton candy. All of the traditional tobacco industry playbook for targeting kids has been used by the e-cigarette industry.”

At least three lawsuits have been filed in Kansas over illnesses caused by cantaloupe tainted with the deadly bacteria known as listeria. The 2011 outbreak infected 147 people in 28 states, 11 of them in Kansas.

Thirty three people died and one pregnant woman miscarried because of the illness. Two lawsuits have been filed in Sedgwick County.

The case filed on behalf of Charyl Rutherford, of Haysville, says she’ll need medical care for the rest of her life. The other case was filed by the family of David Weimer, of Wichita, who died in September of 2011.

A new research brief by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment shows a slight increase in the infant mortality rate last year.

Infant mortality refers to babies who die before their first birthday.

Although the trend has been downward, Kansas has exceeded the national infant mortality rate every year since 2003.

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