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Health roundup: Black Maternal health week; Hampton Roads’ first hospice house; N.C’s struggle to cover expensive weight loss drugs

Midwife Marsha Jackson holds Zohra Marie Weeks after her delivery. Jackson stayed for hours after the birth to monitor mother Tonithia Reid and the baby and make sure they were healthy.
Virginia marked its first official Black maternal health week this month. (Photo by Karen Kasmauski)


Virginia marks its first Black Maternal Health Week

According to a 2023 study from the Virginia Department of Health, Black women consistently have higher rates of natural pregnancy-associated deaths when compared to their White counterparts.

In 2019, the numbers spiked, with Black women being three times more likely to die during childbirth.

The Virginia Department of Health recognized the week and said it brings awareness to maternal health and birth outcomes. 

Read more about Virginia’s first Black Maternal Health Week

Hampton Roads’ first free-standing hospice house opens in Virginia Beach

Until this month, Hampton Roads didn’t have a free-standing hospice house, which provides medical care and other services on site. 

The Dozoretz Hospice House of Hampton Roads celebrated a grand opening April 23 in Virginia Beach after a decade of planning and fundraising.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin said the House felt like being at home.

“Yes, there are 12 private rooms, and there's 24-hour nursing and personal care,” he said at the opening. “But we, most importantly, see rooms for overnight guests, where families can stay with their loved ones.”

Read more about the Dozoretz Hospice House of Hampton Roads 

Virginia Wesleyan University announces new Center for Career Development and Neurodiversity

Starting this summer, Virginia Wesleyan University will operate a new Center for Career Development and Neurodiversity for on-campus students with autism and people with autism who use the university’s workforce development programs.

The center will help students navigate college life and workforce program participants with a range of skills, including interviewing, resume writing and more.

David Black, the Chancellor of Virginia Wesleyan’s Global Campus who helped secure funding for the center, said people seeking help won’t need a formal diagnosis.

Read more about VWU’s Center for Career Development and Neurodiversity

Chesapeake Regional celebrates Magnet status

Chesapeake Regional Medical Center received its Magnet obelisk this month, a special recognition for reaching the “gold standard” of nursing by the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

“Achieving Magnet is the highest national honor an organization can earn for nursing excellence and it provides consumers with the ultimate benchmark for measuring quality of care,” the hospital wrote in a press release.

Magnet status requires hospitals to pay and apply to the program and are then vetted in a lengthy process involving reviewing records, on-site visits, staff interviews and more.

All of Sentara's Hampton Roads hospitals also hold Magnet status.

North Carolina’s state psych hospitals are partially empty because of staffing issues

About 30% of the positions in North Carolina’s state psychiatric facilities are vacant, resulting in more temporary workers and fewer patients getting treatment.

That’s what state health officials told a North Carolina legislative oversight committee earlier this month.

That was weeks before a disability rights group filed a lawsuit in federal court against the state’s Department of Health and Human Services claiming long waits for mental health care violate the civil rights of incarcerated people.

More about the lawsuit from partner station WFAE:

Update on North Carolina psychiatric hospitals

North Carolina lawmakers have a short legislative session where they’re likely to make changes to the state budget, which which could include spending on mental health care.

Read more about mental health care funding in North Carolina

North Carolina state employee health plan cuts, and then tries to negotiate for, weight loss drugs

At the beginning of the month, North Carolina's health insurance plan for state workers stopped covering expensive new weight loss drugs like Wegovy.

State Treasurer Dale Folwell said State Health Plan officials tried to negotiate a deal with manufacturers of the drugs, also called GLP-1s.

He said companies weren't willing to accept proposed solutions to reduce the cost.

“Every single one of those (solutions) was rejected,” he said. “Even the simplest ones, like, let's take the BMI from 28 to 35 so that this drug can be prescribed for the people who most need it.”

Folwell said North Carolina state employees would see their monthly insurance premiums double if their plan continued to cover the drugs.

Now, Folwell’s office is seeking proposals for any idea that would keep these medicines available.

Jason deBruyn from partner station WUNC had this update at the end of the month: 

North Carolina officials look for ways to cover expensive weight loss drugs

Riverside opens new Williamsburg medical office

Riverside Doctors' Hospital Williamsburg opened a new medical office on its existing campus that houses orthopedics, internal medicine, women’s health and outpatient surgical services.

The new 67,725-square-foot building will “strengthen the continuity of care throughout each patient’s health journey,” Riverside wrote in a release.

The main hospital has 33 medical or surgical rooms and seven intensive care rooms and is specially certified for stroke recovery and knee and hip replacements.

Mechelle is News Director at WHRO. She helped launch the newsroom as a reporter in 2020. She's worked in newspapers and nonprofit news in her career. Mechelle lives in Virginia Beach, where she grew up.

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