Health and health care news

The federal government is penalizing six Maine hospitals for their rates of infections and complications, including Maine Medical Center and Eastern Maine Medical Center.

The six in Maine join a list of more than 700 hospitals around the country that will have to ante up $370 million in penalties.

PORTLAND, Maine — Six Maine hospitals are facing penalties from the federal government for having high rates of infections and other patient injuries.

The state of Maine is creating a new online process for certifying medical marijuana patients under the Medical Marijuana Program.

Patty Wight / MPBN

Maine-based international aid nurse Kaci Hickox says the honor bestowed on her and others by Time Magazine is important because it highlights the hard work still being done by thousands of people in West Africa, and elsewhere, to combat the deadly Ebola virus.

Time has collectively honored all Ebola fighters of 2014 as its "Person of the Year."

Hickox - who volunteered as a nurse in Sierra Leone earlier this year - says that while material and financial help are crucial, none of it would work without human volunteers.

Courtesy Barb Deschenes

If you're a woman, there's a 40 percent chance you have what's known as dense breast tissue. The condition makes it harder to detect cancer in mammograms.

PORTLAND, Maine - Maine's number of Lyme disease cases will exceed 1,000 for the fourth straight year.

The Portland Press Herald reports the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention reported 1,231 Lyme infections through November this year. That figure is on track to be the second-highest on record.

State data show the state has exceeded 1,000 cases every year since 2011 and set a record of 1,377 cases in 2013. That figure is more than five times the number reported a decade ago according to the Maine CDC.

Patty Wight / MPBN

An MTV channel targeting college students has named nurse - and Maine resident - Kaci Hickox its 2014 woman of the year. The channel, called mtv-U, made the announcement today.

Hickox defied state-imposed quarantines after returning from West Africa, where she had treated Ebola patients. She said she was acting on behalf of all health care workers who returned from battling Ebola.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine Department of Health and Human Services' chief is urging the state's top attorney to allow the state to move forward with drug testing for some welfare recipients.

Commissioner Mary Mayhew's office says that it is still waiting for Attorney General Janet Mills to sign off on a rule that will require drug tests for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families recipients with prior drug-felony convictions. The rule was sent to Mills for her approval in September.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew has named a new director of the Office of Child and Family Services.

Jim Martin, who has been leading the Office of Aging and Disability Services, will become the director of the child and family services office.

A DHHS spokesman said last month that Director Therese Cahill-Low and Guy Cousins, director of the Office of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, were no longer working for the department. He declined to provide further details, saying it is a personnel matter.

According to federal estimates released this week, Mainers who shop on the online insurance marketplace will, on average, see lower premiums this year compared to last.

The federal Centers for Disease Control says this year's flu season could be severe. That's because this year's flu vaccine doesn't match the dominant strain being found.

Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Sheila Pinette says flu vaccines are prepared the year before.

"Last year in mid-February, when they had come up with the preparation of the vaccine for this coming 2014-2015 season, the World Health Organization did not see a high circulation world-wide, actually, of the strain that we are presently using," Pinette says.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine lawmakers may consider a bill that would require hard-wired carbon monoxide detectors in all homes and hotel rooms in the state.

An incident at an Ogunquit hotel last winter in which 21 guests were sickened by carbon monoxide provided the impetus for the legislative effort, which was expected to be discussed at a news conference on Thursday.

Under current state law, carbon monoxide detectors are required at rental units, newly-purchased homes and hotels and dormitories built or renovated since Aug. 1 2012.

GARDINER, Maine — A new medical marijuana dispensary is set to begin operations in Gardiner.

The Kennebec Journal reports that the Wellness Connection of Maine will open its doors next week in a 103-year-old former train station. The building has been vacant for more than a decade.

LINCOLN, Maine — Starting next spring, the sound of a newborn baby's first cry will be heard a lot less frequently at Penobscot Valley Hospital.

Patty Wight / MPBN

Medical treatment can cure illnesses and save lives. But too much treatment can cause harm, even death.