Despite all of the reporting, public announcements and warnings from health care professionals, community leaders and elected officials, health care workers IowaWatch spoke with as 2020 drew to a close said many people still don’t understand the severity of suffering that the people hit hardest with COVID-19 have to endure. Unless, that it, they have seen it up close, themselves, with someone they know.
The state’s hospital and nursing leaders in Iowa pleaded Tuesday with Iowans to take safety steps to stop the spread of COVID-19 as the glut of cases continued to tax their ability to help people with the virus. “We have folks new in health care and those who have been around for decades who are astounded by the amount of death and serious morbidity they are dealing with on a daily basis,” Dr. Tammy Chance, medical director of quality initiatives at Boone County Hospital, said.
Gov. Kim Reynolds said Thursday she has approved sending $25 million in CARES money the state received to Iowa hospitals for COVID-19 relief, based on average hospital censuses in September and October. Report includes an IowaWatch podcast on hospital capacity and financing.
This story is part of a nationwide collaboration of Institute for Nonprofit News members examining the effect COVID-19 is having on rural health care. IowaWatch reporting in this project was made possible by support from the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems.
Hurricane Laura drilled Louisiana before moving north in late August, causing widespread destruction and death behind. A few weeks later, so many storms had been reported that the National Hurricane Center ran out of names and had to dip into the Greek alphabet for one striking the Texas coast. A little more than two weeks earlier, a straight-line derecho had pounded several Midwest U.S. states, hitting Iowa particularly hard with property damage, crop destruction and death. A massive storm ripped up portions of southwest Georgia in April.
Quicker planning. Working together as networks. Focused staff deployment. The COVID-19 pandemic is giving hospital administrators and their healthcare providers ample opportunity in real time to learn new best practices to delivering medical care.
The quick fixes they’ve tried since the pandemic broke have included more reliance on telemedicine, communicating frequently with the public and an old standard: getting government money. This story is part of a nationwide collaboration of Institute for Nonprofit News members examining the effect COVID-19 is having on rural health care.
Seventy-seven Iowa hospitals collected $928.3 million in accelerated and advance Medicare payments that were available as a government stimulus to cover expenses in the COVID-19 pandemic’s early days last spring, an IowaWatch analysis of Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services data shows.
ByDean Russell and Jamie Smith Hopkins / Columbia Journalism Investigations and Center for Public Integrity |
In 2019, flooding hit the small Mills County, Iowa, town of Pacific Junction. Recovery is slow, Mayor Andy Young said in August 2020, a year after the waters rose 7 to 11 feet in nearly all homes. Three generations of his family live in “PJ.” The town will not be the same — and neither will the people. Young expects 125 to 135 families who were flooded will go for buyouts that are being offered.
ByJamie Smith Hopkins / Center for Public Integrity |
We heard from more than 200 disaster survivors and people helping them. Here’s what we learned. The Center for Public Integrity, Columbia Journalism Investigations and our partners in newsrooms around the country, including IowaWatch, have been reporting on this for months. We’ve learned a lot by asking experts: people who’ve lived through disasters and the professionals who study this or provide hands-on help. More than 230 shared their experiences in our detailed survey, and we interviewed dozens of additional people.
The Center for Public Integrity and Columbia Journalism Investigations collaborated on this project with newsrooms around the country: IowaWatch, California Health Report, Centro de Periodismo Investigativo, City Limits, InvestigateWest, The Island Packet, The Lens, The Mendocino Voice, Side Effects and The State. We created our survey for disaster survivors and mental-health professionals with guidance and vetting from Sarah Lowe, clinical psychologist and assistant professor at Yale School of Public Health; Elana Newman, professor of psychology at the University of Tulsa and research director for the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia University; Gilbert Reyes, clinical psychologist and chair of the American Psychological Association’s trauma psychology division disaster relief committee; and Jonathan Sury, project director for communications and field operations for the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University. HIDDEN EPIDEMICS: Weather disasters drive a mental health crisis RELATED: Iowa’s Parkersburg tornado survivors offer support, hope after derecho turmoil RELATED: How to heal emotional wounds after disaster
No government agency in the United States regularly tracks the psychological outcomes of disasters. And while academic studies may shed light on specific events, the questionnaire was meant to understand experiences from multiple disasters across the country, furthering on-the-ground reporting. It is not a formal, randomized survey.
Although it’s been around since at least the mid-1990s, telehealth has been slow to catch on before this spring, said Mei Kwong, executive director for the Center for Connected Health Policy. Before COVID, only 19 states’ Medicaid programs covered remote patient visits originating from the home, according to the center’s most recent 50-state survey. Fewer than half covered remote patient monitoring and only 16 reimbursed for store-and-forward care. FIND STATE-BY-STATE PRE-COVID POLICIES
Since March, there have been a flurry of changes to federal and state policies regulating virtual consultations as governors, legislators and insurance commissioners rushed to remove barriers to telehealth. Common changes temporarily expanded the types of providers, services, technologies and locations of telehealth visits covered by state Medicaid rules and eased licensing rules for out-of-state providers during the public health emergency.